Kevin McHale, an NBA basketball player in the 1980s and 1990s recalls one time Boston Celtics veteran Robert Parish erupted at a practice.
Kevin McHale recalls the 1 time that Robert Parish “erupted” at a Boston Celtics practice. The incident occurred in 1995 when Parish was on the court, and McHale was playing for the New York Knicks.
The term “The Chief” was given to Robert Parish for a purpose. Cedric Maxwell, a former Boston Celtics player, gave him the nickname because he was quiet and reminded him of Chief Bromden from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Parish’s teammate Kevin McHale recalls one session when the Hall of Fame center exploded following a confrontation with head coach Bill Fitch.
The Boston Celtics acquired Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in the same season.
During a late-1980s NBA game at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, Robert Parish of the Boston Celtics makes a jump jumper over Rick Mahorn of the Detroit Pistons. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport
After a year with the Celtics, Larry Bird was named Rookie of the Year. Boston finished 29-53 the year before Bird arrived. The Celtics improved by 32 victories, finishing 61-21, after averaging 21.3 points and 10.4 rebounds in 1979-80.
Red Auerbach, the Celtics’ architect, transformed them into a dynasty the following year.
The Celtics possessed the first overall choice in the 1980 NBA Draft, but Auerbach negotiated a trade with the Golden State Warriors that altered the franchise’s trajectory. In exchange for Robert Parish and Golden State’s choice in the 1980 draft, he traded that pick and another first-rounder. The Warriors were given the third selection. The Celtics picked McHale with that pick.
That transaction paid off right away. That season, the Celtics won 62 games and advanced to the NBA Finals. They defeated the Houston Rockets in six games there.
Bird, Parish, and McHale would go on to create perhaps the greatest frontcourt in NBA history. In 1984 and 1986, they also won titles. The Celtics reached the finals four times in a row, losing in 1985 and 1987 to their archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kevin McHale recalls the single time Robert Parish lost his temper during practice.
Parish was taken aback when he came over from the Warriors. He said he was out of shape his first year with the Celtics.
Parish noted on The Cedric Maxwell Podcast in 2020 that “Coach Fitch created the attitude throughout training camp.” “This is the most difficult training camp I’ve ever attended.” I was out of shape, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it was due to my lack of preparation. Oh, that was torturous. “I’m not going to lie to you.”
Parish finally became a valuable member of the Celtics under Fitch’s leadership.
During a 2021 episode of The Cedric Maxwell Podcast, McHale recalled Parish losing his cool during a practice session with Fitch. Fitch was harsh on the players, according to McHale, and Parish had had enough one day.
“Having Bill Fitch in your a** when it was your turn was not a nice moment,” McHale added. “He’d be on you for a few days in a row.” I’d be overjoyed if he began shouting at you. ‘Thank God,’ I’d say. ‘He’s gone.’
“I’ll never forget it was Chief’s time.” ‘That’s it,’ Chief declares abruptly. That is all there is to it. ‘That’s motherf***ing ridiculous.’ And all he kept repeating was, “That’s it.” Oh s***, I thought. It seemed as though a volcano was about to erupt. And every time, Robert would say, ‘That’s it.’ You know how quiet he was. ‘That’s motherf***ing it,’ says the narrator. Oh man, I thought to myself.
“He took off. We were at the TD Garden in Boston. Because Robert had just gone off, I recall it. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Bill and he proceeded to the stands to watch the game. He didn’t jump on Robert nearly as much after that. When Robert became enraged, I thought to myself, “I’ve never seen the big guy look like this.”
During the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Parish similarly lost his cool.
Parish’s emotions got the better of him during the rivalry with the Detroit Pistons. Boston’s big man lost his cool during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Parish had had enough of Pistons center Bill Laimbeer’s antics in this rough and contentious matchup. In Game 3, Laimbeer had knocked Bird down with a hard foul, causing the benches to clear and Bird to be ejected. Parish was the one who brought down Laimbeer this time.
Parish landed a pair of strikes on Laimbeer as the two centers were in the paint, putting Detroit’s big man to the floor. Although no foul was called, it was evident that Parish had thrown a couple blows.
“It was the first time I had lost control of my emotions and my fury in the heat of combat,” Parish told Maxwell. “There had been a few unpleasantries exchanged, as well as a few elbows.” I couldn’t believe I’d lost my cool so quickly. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
Few others came over to assist Laimbeer. There was no foul.
“However, no one assisted him,” Parish said, “so I’m not sure what sort of message they were trying to convey him.” “I suppose they’d had enough of his shenanigans.” “I’m not sure what it was about.”
RELATED: Cedric Maxwell and Kevin McHale Explained Why Larry Bird and Robert Parish Were Their ‘Arch-Enemies’
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