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A Conversation with Steve Bulpett
A Conversation with Steve Bulpett
Published by Swampy Meadows
04-09-2015
A Conversation with Steve Bulpett

AUBURN HILLS (MI) -– “From the Swamp” is coming to you from The Palace of Auburn Hills, where the Detroit Pistons are about to face the Boston Celtics. No, the old dude didn’t forget that former Flyer Chris Johnson is no longer with the Green and now plays for the Utah Stars. What brings me here is not an NBA player but the preeminent NBA Insider, a guy who also happens to be a very proud UD alum. As a matter of fact, he has been the Celtics beat writer for The Boston Herald for over 30 years and is considered the dean of NBA writers.

Ladies and gentlemen, Steve Bulpett

I met up with Steve in the media room at The Palace of Auburn Hills and we had about 5 minutes to get acquainted before he had to split to talk first to Stan Van Gundy of the Pistons, then Brad Stevens of the Celts and finally hit the locker rooms. Steve remarked that if there is anything he has learned in 30 years on the NBA beat it is this:

“Before you can misquote someone, you have to talk to them first.”

Steve’s brief bio on The Boston Herald website says:

The native of Lynn and Swampscott is a graduate of the University of Dayton, where he pursued dreams of playing basketball and becoming a lawyer. Reality intervened on the court, but he found a way to stay involved in the game. He left UD with an intramural hoop championship (teammates with sportscaster Dan Patrick) and a journalism degree.

Steve tweets often about UD during the college hoops season and you can follow him here: https://twitter.com/SteveBHoop

After Steve completed his pre-game duties, we opened the conversation with Bulpett explaining how a kid from Swampscott, MA ended up at UD:

SB: Originally I was going to attend one of those snooty East Coast schools. I didn’t know a whole lot about Dayton. The first time I saw the school was when I bought a ’66 Chevy station wagon and drove out to start school in 1975. Drove all night…never seen the school...had no idea. I wanted to be a lawyer and I wanted to play basketball and I knew they had a good basketball program. That was it. I had no idea how many ways Dayton was going to be good for me that I never knew before.

We then talked about the perils of having a thick Boston accent in the Midwest:

SB: When I left home I had a very thick Boston accent. It basically constituted a speech impediment. Just by being around people from New Jersey, Chicago, Kentucky, Pittsburgh and all these different places, listening to how different things sound, I basically learned how to speak.

Our conversation was interrupted by a loud, booming proclamation:

Rick Mahorn, kiss your mama!

The voice was that of former Celtic great turned broadcaster Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell. I’ll let Max pick up the story from here:

CM: We were playing the Pistons in Hartford and Ricky was a rookie at the time. He was from Hartford and so they were giving him like a celebration because Ricky was in the NBA. So the Mayor of Hartford comes out with Rick’s mom and all the players are there and the Mayor says “Ricky Mahorn is here with his mama. Kiss your mama, Rick; kiss your mama!” Every time we saw Rick, that’s what we said “Kiss your mama, Rick!”

SB: And it wasn’t just on the basketball court. A couple of weeks ago the Pistons were playing the Celtics in Boston (Mahorn is a Detroit broadcaster) and Ricky walks into the press room and…

We then turned our attention to Flyer great Johnny Davis:

SB: Johnny’s junior year, which was his last year, was my freshman year. I always tell people that he ruined my career. In workouts, I was a skinny point guard and I’d look at him and say ‘I think it’s time to go back and hit the books.’ Great guy. Whenever the Celtics play whatever team he is working for at the time – he’s basically a ward of the league now, he’s worked everywhere – we try to get a chance pre-game to sit down and check in. We keep in touch with different people and we compare notes.

Next up, Jimmy Paxson:

SB: Pax was my year – we were classmates and born two days apart. We’re still in touch. When he came to the Celtics, when they would play a game in Cleveland or Indianapolis his dad would drive to the game and bring us each two subs from Milano’s – the old one, before they changed the grease. Jim is living in Arizona in Scottsdale and he does some pro scouting and stuff for the Bulls.

What UD means to him:

SB: I’m one of those weird alums. One of the things I like most about the University of Dayton – and its athletic programs - is that the kids go to class. I’d rather have you lose 5 more games, but don’t embarrass the institution. The only time I’ll communicate with the coaches or the AD is when the graduation rates come out and they’ve done well, I’ll send them a note. Seasons come and go; wins happen; I’m watching every game I can on TV or on my laptop and I want them to win…but not that bad. Do it with class and I think they have done it with class, which is to their everlasting credit. One of my classmates Ricky Chamberlin is now the head football coach. Last season they had 38 newcomers to the program and 15 of them were in the National Honor Society. When a Dayton coach uses the term “student athlete” he doesn’t have to blush. I used to enjoy when Dayton beat Cincinnati I’d go up to friends that played at Cincinnati like Kenyon Martin or Danny Fortson and say ‘Wait a minute, let me get this straight: your school lost to a bunch of guys who actually have to go to class?’ That’s what I like most about our athletic program.

On Archie and BG:

SB: He respects the program and the institution. Brian Gregory was amazing in that way I think. When we went to school there we came into something that was bigger than us as students. To recognize that there is an institutional standard is great. There are some coaches that are there for themselves, to further their own career and respecting the institution is something I’ll always love Brian for…and Archie now.

How about the Big East:

SB: Dayton does well where it’s at now and maybe has a chance to move on to the Big East. When you look at Dayton and what it has to offer, the program top to bottom and not just basketball – the size of the school, it’s not that large but it’s the largest private school in Ohio. It’s all about TV markets. People look at the Dayton, Ohio market not realizing that if Dayton is in your conference you’re going to have TVs in Cleveland that are going to be turned on. Being a Catholic school it’s got a great reach. TV wants to know whose going to be watching on a Tuesday in February and Dayton has that because the reach of its alumni is strong. I’ll put it this way: It’s being communicated to people right now.

On rumors that Xavier is blocking UD getting into the Big East:

SB: I’ve heard that but I don’t know it to be fact. I don’t understand if that’s the case. My response would be: the best rivalry in college basketball is separated by 14 miles. I think it would be great for Xavier to have a rival that close and great for the league to have Dayton, Xavier, Butler. We’re talking about private schools that are on reasonable budgets. Having schools that close together saves you money that can go to academics.

How about Hank Finkel:

SB: I still see Hank Finkel occasionally. He reveres Coach Donoher. That’s clearly a relationship that is still important to him. He settled in the Boston area.

How much fun it was to have Chris Johnson on the Celtics:

SB: It was fun and it was financially beneficial because I had bet Jared Sullinger that Chris Johnson was going to be in the league. He remembered Chris as this skinny guy from Columbus Brookhaven. That was enriching. I was even happier than you would think.

On Brian Roberts:

SB: He’s an NBA player. Once you have established that you are an NBA player, unless you are one of the major stars, it’s about finding the place where you fit and finding a coach that understands what you can do. That’s kinda how it works. They want guys they can count on. When you put Brian Roberts in the game, you know what you are going to get. High quality offense; he’s not going to mess things up.

What’s the word on DMO:

SB: I think Devin Oliver is going to come back and have an NBA career. He did well with the Celtics in Summer League this year. He’ll build his game, he’ll build his shot. I’ve had more than a couple assistant coaches talk about him. I think he’ll have a good opportunity.

Other subjects:

-- On playing intramural hoops with Dan Patrick, Steve said that Dan had a 3:1 assist ratio: three years for every one assist. The name of their intramural team was “The Walton Gang” as Patrick was a total Bill Walton freak. Years later, Steve was covering the Celtics (with Walton as backup center) in the 1986 NBA Finals, as was Dan for CNN Sports. “The whole thing just kinda came full circle for us.”

-- Steve had absolutely no plans to be a journalist. A friend was a writer for The Flyer News and was on deadline. Steve was looking over his shoulder and kept making suggestions on how to improve the article. His friend finally told him “Why don’t you write your own &%$#@ story?” So he did. And the rest, as the French say, est histoire.

-- Steve lives on a little island called Nahant, off the coast of Lynn. I mentioned that I had worked for CNN for 10 years and Steve said he had once gotten a job offer from Turner Sports that would have required him to move to Atlanta full-time. He ended up turning them down and they asked him why. Steve said it was because if he had moved there he felt that his job would be who he was; whereas, on Nahant his friends are guys he has known all his life, he can just be himself and not be defined by his occupation. Clearly, Steve enjoys what he is doing and where he is doing it.

Remembering Bulpett’s line earlier about being misquoted, we parted company with a promise that he wouldn’t be. The iPhone voice recorder ap is my friend.

Thanks for your time Steve and for being such a great ambassador for the University of Dayton to the NBA and to college basketball.

That’s it “From the Swamp.”
You can email me at: swampy@udpride.com
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  #1  
By Glen Clark on 04-09-2015, 06:34 PM
Great read - thanks, Swampy.

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  #2  
By bobber on 04-10-2015, 12:44 AM
What he said!
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