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Celtics to be saluted at White House

By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / September 19, 2008
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The Celtics have been working on arranging a visit to the White House since shortly after winning the NBA championship in June.

Three months later, the trip has been finalized and the team will meet President George W. Bush this afternoon.

The Celtics' contingent will number about 50, including co-owners Bob Epstein, Irving and Wyc Grousbeck, and Steve Pagliuca, plus general manager Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers.

"Wyc received a call from President Bush after the Finals," team president Rich Gotham said at a reception in the Connecticut State Capitol building in Hartford yesterday. "And about a month later, we received a letter inviting us to the White House. Of course, we said we would be honored to come, but it was a question of finding a date. We were mostly working around the president's schedule, and the office that sets these things up was very helpful.

"We had to do a lot to get ready, and in the last week, the intensity has picked up."

Three members of the organization - Ainge, massage therapist Vlad Schulman, and public relations director Jeff Twiss - made White House appearances after the 1984 and '86 championships. Those visits were arranged soon after the final game, the team honored in the Rose Garden by presidents Ronald Reagan ('84) and George H.W. Bush ('86) in near 100-degree temperatures.

The team's charter flight is expected to land around noon. Then the Celtics will take a White House tour and the players will meet Bush in the Blue Room. At about 3 p.m., Bush will address the team and guests, who will include members of the Massachusetts legislative delegation, in the East Room. The Celtics plan to announce a donation for Hurricane Ike relief and will present Bush with a team jersey and autographed ball.

They will be the second Boston team to visit the White House this year, the Red Sox having been honored in February.

"We have some high-powered guys in the organization, but this is a novelty for most of them," Gotham said. "We are all excited and honored to be going down. For the bulk of us, it's a first.

"This is our first one, so it will always be special. Hopefully, we will win more. [Rivers] said after we celebrate we have to get back down to business, and we are all on the same page across the organization. We don't want to forget what it took to get there and we are staying hungry across the board."

"The timing of this is great because we are rolling right into the season."

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