The Celtics will go ahead with their planned ceremony to honor Reggie Lewis by retiring his No. 35, despite more stories in recent days alleging cocaine use by the late Celtics captain. Celtics GM M.L. Carr, who said the team never considered delaying the ceremony, "chose to focus his thoughts on the work Lewis did in the community and the leadership he gave the team as captain in 1992-93." During the halftime ceremony, Carr, Larry Bird, Celtics President Red Auerbach, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Dee Brown will speak along with Lewis' widow, Donna Harris-Lewis (Michael Holley, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). Attending a telethon for the Reggie Lewis Foundation last night, Bird said of his former teammate: "He played very hard, and he worked very hard. This other stuff I've heard about him, I just don't believe" (Michael Holley, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). AND NOW, THE BAD NEWS: Yesterday, the GLOBE and the BOSTON HERALD both had front-page stories on Lewis' alleged cocaine use. The GLOBE piece cited friend and former college teammate Derrick Lewis (no relation), who confirmed what he had previously told the WALL STREET JOURNAL about Lewis' "social use" of cocaine. Derrick Lewis added that he, Reggie Lewis, Len Bias and an unidentified fourth person used cocaine together during basketball camp in 1985. Derrick Lewis also said that he and Lewis did cocaine in 1993, less than a week before Reggie Lewis collapsed in a playoff game (Jackie MacMullan, BOSTON GLOBE, 3/21). The HERALD cited a "self-professed former drug dealer" who said he sold cocaine to Lewis on two occassions in the summer of 1988 (Flynn & Buckley, BOSTON HERALD, 3/21). TODAY'S HEADLINES: Today's HERALD has two more front-page stories. One cites a "medical source close to his case" who said that Lewis "was a regular, heavy user of cocaine -- and continued to use it even after collapsing during his final NBA game. Lewis admitted to at least one of his doctors that he used cocaine prior to every home game as a 'performance enhancer.'" According to the source, Lewis "would not -- or could not --stop, even after he was warned following the collapse that continued use would kill him." Celtics Exec VP Jan Volk: "This is an incredibly bold statement to be made under the claok of an unnamed source and an obvious violation of medical ethics. I have absolutely no knowledge of the conduct suggested" (Michael Lasalandra, BOSTON HERALD, 3/22). The other piece alleges that cocaine use "was common" among the Celtics during the 1980s. The article cites "Laura," a Boston woman who regularly partied with the teame, and includes confirmation from Robert Long, a former member of the State Police Narcotics Unit. Long said alleged use among the Celtics and other Boston-area athletes was "common knowledge," but never probed because the violations never went beyond recreational use (Ralph Ranalli, BOSTON HERALD, 3/22). BACKING OFF HIS STORY: Last night, ESPN's Keith Olbermann said that Derrick Lewis had called ESPN Tuesday night and "said he never saw Reggie Lewis or Len Bias use cocaine" ("SportsCenter," 3/21). The GLOBE stands by its story, and reports that Derrick Lewis called MacMullan and told her: "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I just can't take the heat. Everybody down here is saying that I'm the guy that sold out my buddy, so I'm taking it all back" MacMullan says she has the original 2 1/2 hour interview with Derrick Lewis is on tape (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22). Donna Harris-Lewis responded to Derrick Lewis' original statement: "Consider the source. What is Derrick Lewis doing? Where is he in his life? He's desperate! ... I hold firm: My husband was not a user, and he did not do cocaine" (WCVB-TV, 3/20). DRUG POLICY UNDER FIRE: In his column this morning, Will McDonough writes, "The drug policies in pro sports are a farce, but the NBA's is the most hypocritical. A player is tested only when he comes into the league. So players are told by their agents to be clean for the test, then get a free ticket for their whole career. ... When it comes to drugs, the Celtics don't want to see a thing. Isn't it now hard to believe that the front office people, his coaches and his teammates could be around Reggie for all those years and not know he was using?" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/22).
The ECHL Charlotte Checkers are refusing an offer to move to the AHL. Team President Carl Scheer said yesterday the team has removed its AHL application and will remain in the ECHL. Scheer said the team had "made remarkable progress in the ECHL" and felt that "with our current business plan we can help the ECHL grow into a first-class minor league." ECHL Commissioner Pat Kelley announced that the Richmond team will also stay in the league, with Hampton Roads and South Carolina also "a very good possibility to stay" (Cliff Mehrtens, CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/22).
In a one-on-one interview with the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, new Bucs Owner Malcolm Glazer's oldest son, Bryan spoke on the family's plan for the team. On the lowering of ticket prices, Glazer said their "intention was do things that was different from other teams in the league. ... Some teams will be left behind in the era of the salary cap and the labor agreement, some of the old-style teams that have not adapted to this change. And I think you already are starting to see that." Glazer added that they would have liked to change their uniforms for '95, but were not allowed by NFL Properties. Glazer: "We were disappointed that we must wait a year, because you could come in there with a whole new image" (Don Banks, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/22).
In an "emotional address at McNichols Arena," Rocky Mountain Entertainment President Tim Leiweke resigned after two months as head of the Nuggets' "off-court operation." Leiweke had been with the Nuggets for four years, "turning around" the team's "flagging business and marketing operation." Leiweke cited the stress of 12-hour days and the building of a new arena and "courtship" of the NHL as the main reasons for his departure. Leiweke: "I don't want to die before I turn 40. ... The stress and tension, especially the last few weeks, I quite frankly have not handled as well as I would like to. ... I really was not happy with what I was turning into." But the "timing of his announcement, coming one month after an organizational shakeup that stripped him of his title as President of the Nuggets, was hard to overlook." During the restructuring, the perception in Denver was that Leiweke "was being kicked aside" to make room for new President Bernie Bickerstaff's "ever increasing profile." Charlie Lyons, President of Comsat, the owner of the Nuggets, said such talk didn't make Leiweke "feel any better about his job. ... You could see it in his eyes." Leiweke will work as a consultant to Comsat, but his role remains undefined. Gary Hunter, Nuggets VP of Business Operations, will take over Leiweke's job, but the position of President of Rocky Mountain Entertainment will remain vacant (Dave Krieger, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/22).
The Padres have selected Di Zinno Thompson Integrated Marketing Solutions to handle their advertising for the '95 season. Di Zinno Thompson plans on a multi-tiered campaign that will feature two phases: one for the current situation and one for when the strike is settled. New Padres CEO Larry Lucchino: "This is a challenging assignment. ... To be sure, our Padres fans have endured a period of frustration and disappointment. Our hope is that Di Zinno Thompson will communicate our basic message, 'We are committed to these fans, and we want them back.'" Di Zinno Thompson's strategy will include print, TV, radio, outdoor billboards, direct mail and database marketing (Padres/Di Zinno Thompson)
Dana Warg, who runs the Target Center for Ogden Corp., will meet NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to inform the NHL that the deal between the arena and the city of Minneapolis is complete and to "give parameters on what would take place if an NHL team came here," according to this morning's ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. There has been increased speculation the Jets will move to Minneapolis if their arena deal is not complete by May 1. Ward said that T-Wolves Owner Glen Taylor has first rights to purchase the team and "bring it here," but that he had two other interested investors. The "consensus seems to be that, if the Jets do move, it will be to Minnesota," writes Tom Powers. If the Jets move, the NHL would like to see them go to MN, rather than taking away profitable expansion fees. Powers adds that "the league owes Minnesota" after the Stars left for Dallas (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/22). PIONEER-PRESS Columnist Charley Walters, noting reports that Jets owner Barry Shenkarow figures he can sell the team for $75M to MN interests, writes that Taylor would be interested, "but not at anything near that price." Wolves President Rob Moor, said $75M is "not a number we'd be leaping at" -- after "he finished laughing." Taylor will pay all property taxes on the Target Center and any other party interested in putting an NHL team there would have to negotiate with him. But Walters writes "that wouldn't preclude anyone else from buying and operating a NHL club in Minneapolis" (ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS, 3/21). The Manitoba Entertainment Complex is attempting to buy 64% of Shenkarow's stake in the Jets for C$32M, but their ability to come up with the money is uncertain. Taylor "would have no trouble raising" the $32M, which is "preferable to bidding" for a team on the open market (Lance Hornsby, TORONTO SUN, 3/22).