Why Tracy McGrady didn’t want to be drafted by the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Getty Images
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Getty Images /

Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady reveals the one reason why he didn’t want to be Drafted by the Boston Celtics in the 1997 NBA Draft.

The Boston Celtics acquired two top-10 picks in the 1997 Draft, and passed on Tracy McGrady, not once, but twice. Boston selected Chauncey Billips at No. 3 and Ron Mercer at No. 6 — two players that were traded by the Celtics years later.

The choice left fans wondering how Boston could pass on his level of talent.

McGrady is considered one of the most iconic basketball players of the early 2000s. The Hall of Famer recently admitted the real reason why he did not wish to be drafted by the Boston Celtics. In a recent episode of the Ryan Russillo Podcast, McGrady admitted it all came down to one factor, Rick Pitino.

The fellow Mount Zion Christian Academy product admitted that his “decisions were influenced from the top” when it came to the NBA Draft. McGrady also revealed his feelings about the Head Coach, and why he didn’t do well in his Boston Celtics interview.

“I just remember in college, I was being recruited by Kentucky, and I just knew how hard and how tough Rick Pitino was — it was that time, where Rick Pitino left the Kentucky Wildcats, to coach the Boston Celtics,” Mcgrady prefaced before saying, “I don’t know if I want to play for Rick Pitino— my workout was my hardest pre-draft workout ever, out of all the teams. I wouldn’t mind playing for Boston, I just didn’t want to play for Rick Pitino.”

Tracy later revealed that his interview with the Boston Celtics could have gone better.

“It was just finding a way to hurt myself and get them not to draft me, by not talking—I did fine in my interviews with everyone else— Boston, not so much.”

Rick Pitino has endured both success and scrutiny, in four decades as head coach. He is one of the toughest, yet best coaches in NCAA history. Pitino, a 2x NCAA Tournament Champion, has a long list of coaching accolades. He has seven Final Four appearances, in which the 2013 Louisville Championship, was vacated by the NCAA.

Since 1974, Pitino has coached several NCAA Programs, including Boston University, Providence, Kentucky, Louisville, Iona, and was most recently named Head Coach of St Johns. In the midst of his collegiate career, Pitino was an assistant with the New York Knicks, under Coach Hubie Brown, and spent four years as the Boston Celtics Head Coach, from 1997-2001.  In his tenure with Boston, he compiled a 102-146 record. During that time, the Celtics never made the Post Season, and Pitino resigned in 2001.

Tracy McGrady is a major what-if for Boston Celtics fans

A 7x NBA All-Star, McGrady was selected 9th overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 1997 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, McGrady was a 2x All-NBA First Teamer and played for the Toronto Raptors (1997-2000), Orlando Magic (2000-2004), Houston Rockets (2004-2010), New York Knicks (2010), Detroit Pistons (2010-2011), Atlanta Hawks (2011-2012), and the San Antonio Spurs (2013).  McGrady played 16 NBA seasons, had nine playoff appearances, and averaged a career 19.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 4.4 APG. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2017. 

McGrady went on to have a stellar career and was best known for his highlight dunks slams, and toughness. Though he never played for Boston, Celtics fans often wonder what the franchise would look like, if he didn’t self-sabotage himself 26 years ago.

After all, Boston Celtics legend Paul Pierce was drafted the next year.