While Antoine Walker realizes the doubters and skeptics will heavily outweigh those willing to listen, the former Celtic insists he wants to be an NBA head coach and said he was “serious” after he tweeted three times Monday morning that he was interested in the Celtics job.
Walker, 36, a former All-Star more recently known for his well-chronicled financial issues and an unsavory and premature end to his career, said Monday night that he wants to work in the NBA and has head-coaching aspirations.
“I want to coach, I want to be back in the game, I love the game and am a student of the game,” he said. “I want to stress seriously that I do want to become a coach. Guys like Jason Kidd and Mark Jackson, they’re not the only ex-players, but even Monty Williams and Jacque Vaughn, there’s a lot of guys starting to get opportunities and so the league is getting younger coaches, so why not try to put myself in that position? Obviously I’m lacking in experience, but we’ve all got to start from somewhere.”
Teaming with Paul Pierce for five years, Walker helped the Celtics to the 2002 Eastern Conference finals and was considered a franchise cornerstone, averaging 20 or more points in five of seven seasons. But after clashing with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, he was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks in October 2003 and then bounced around the league, going to Atlanta, back to the Celtics, and then Miami, and finally finishing with Minnesota in 2008.
After his playing career, Walker struggled financially, blowing all of the estimated $108 million he earned in his career because of gambling debts and poor investments, filing for bankruptcy in 2010. Walker said he has reached settlements with his debtors, is financially “OK,” and he said he understands his financial issues will serve as a major roadblock to returning to the NBA.
“People want to know how serious you are and what you want to do,” he said. “It’s hard. I think I left the game with a black cloud over me, not necessarily on the basketball court but to my bankruptcy and dealing with things off the court kind of left a lot of NBA executives with a negative taste about me.
“I didn’t commit a crime or anything like that, it was something personal that went on so I’ve had a black cloud over me a little bit, so when I go to teams I have to be able to express myself and let people know that I’ve moved on from that phase of my life.”
At the NBA draft combine in his native Chicago, Walker sat with former Celtics coach M.L. Carr to watch prospects. It can be a difficult endeavor for former players with no NBA ties after their careers to get back into the league, especially those with checkered pasts.
“Hopefully one of these organizations will give me an opportunity to get back in in some type of capacity,” Walker said. “I’ve reached out to everybody. I’ve reached out to different GMs. Yes, I have reached out to [Ainge] and hopefully one day he’ll pick up the phone and give me an opportunity.”
Walker said he is willing to start from the beginning. He coached one of the teams of draft prospects at the Portsmouth Invitational in April. But when he saw that Doc Rivers was leaving the Celtics, he said he couldn’t help but express his desire to return to his original team.
“The day they drafted me was unbelievable,” Walker said. “At my draft workout to have Larry Bird, M.L. Carr, K.C. Jones there, it’s just a tradition of history. The fans showed me a lot of love, they really embraced me. I feel like it’s a second home for me. It’s a great organization to be a part of and I would love to be a part of it. I would love to be part of the rebuilding stage to get back to the glory days.”
Cavaliers interested in Pierce
The Cavaliers are interested in Celtics forward Paul Pierce, a league source confirmed. Multiple reports said the Cavaliers have discussed offering multiple second-round draft picks in exchange for him.
However, the source said any talks are very much in the preliminary stages. That said, Ainge no doubt would be interested in acquiring assets such as draft picks that could help rebuild the Celtics.
League sources have indicated that there is better-than-average interest for Pierce on the trade market, specifically from teams on the cusp of making the playoffs or looking to make a deeper postseason push.
To those teams, the sources said, Pierce’s postseason experience and scoring are valuable, even though he’ll be 36 by the time the 2013-14 season begins.
The Cavaliers, who hold the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, were 24-58 last season, 13th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics have less than a week to make a decision about Pierce’s future; by midnight on June 30, the team must decide if it wants to buy out his contract for $5 million. If the Celtics don’t, then Pierce’s $15.3 million contract for next season is guaranteed.
Pierce, who entered the league in 1998, has spent his entire career with the Celtics and averaged 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists last season.