To Doc Rivers, the one true Celtic is not a seven-footer, nor does he swish threes, wear a jersey on game days or have a page on Basketball-Reference.com.
Rivers once loathed this one true Celtic, not due to anything the man did — at the time, still during his playing days, Rivers had never completed a single conversation with him and knew nothing about his character — but because of a shallow dislike for the man who always stood near the tunnel of the old Boston Garden.
Last night Jeff Twiss, the Celtics’ vice president of media and alumni relations, won the Bobby Vines Outstanding Service Award, named after a longtime Celtics account executive who passed away two years ago. For a long time Twiss’ job has been to make the lives of players, coaches and media members easier. But many years ago, and for no real reason, Rivers held serious animosity for the man who would one day make his life simpler on a daily basis.
“For six years, I thought Jeff was Jan Volk (a former Celtics general manager),” the Celtics coach explained. “No, it’s true, because when we played them, he would stand in the tunnel; Jeff used to stand in the tunnel at the old Garden. And he had this pompous, arrogant look. Honest to God, I couldn’t stand him. I had never met him. I had never spoken one word to him. I hated him. Because they beat us, and you would turn and go through the tunnel. And Jeff is trying to get people organized, but he would stand there with that face.”
Rivers told his teammates they would wipe that face off one day, told them they would make Jan Volk stop looking so cocksure. When Rivers became the Celtics head coach year later, to his surprise, in strolled the man he spent so long despising.
“When I took the job and he walked in, you know, the hair — and all of a sudden he said, ‘Jeff Twiss, PR’ — and I had to let it go. But that’s a true story,” said Rivers.
Inside the Celtics locker room after last night’s game, Twiss spoke on the phone with the already-departed Rajon Rondo. Rondo had left his iPod at the TD Garden; Twiss grabbed it, handed it to Marquis Daniels, and Daniels told him he would deliver it to Rondo (quipping that he would charge $500 for the hand-off). It was just a small gesture, but in going outside his job description, Twiss was able to help make someone else’s life less stressful.
In 31 years with the Celtics, that’s what Twiss has done. He can’t really get away from the job because, as Scott Souza of the MetroWest Daily News noted, “It’s not a 9-to-5 job. There is no five-day work week. Any free time is a breaking news story away from being snatched from you. When those calls come, you are not allowed to let them go to voice mail.”
Said Twiss to Souza, “I’ve had some great people to work with (as players, coaches, administrators and owners). You try to figure out what they like to do, and don’t like to do, so it becomes a happy marriage. That way they understand the pressures I go through, and I understand what they like to do and don’t like to do, and when they do and don’t like to do things. That’s the key to get a two-way conversation going between everybody.”
Attitudes evolve with time, and so Rivers has come to understand Twiss’ character, what he means to the organization, what he has meant during his 31 years with the team.
“Jeff should get every award that can be given to a Celtic,” Rivers said. “Honest to God. He should get the Red Auerbach Award every year. He is the true Celtic. He really is.”