Boston Celtics

Rick Carlisle recalls story of Bill Walton assisting him on first date

Walton's assist worked, as Carlisle would later marry the girl from the date.

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Before Rick Carlisle became an NBA head coach, he had a five-year career as a player including three years with the Boston Celtics. Alongside NBA legend Bill Walton in 1986, Carlisle and the Celtics achieved the ultimate feat -- becoming NBA champions.

Carlisle, now coaching the Indiana Pacers against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, took some time ahead of Game 4 -- where his team will try to avoid getting swept by Boston -- to speak on a fond memory he shared with Walton, who passed away Monday at 71.

"I just wanted to mention with the passing of Walton today, how much he meant to me and so many people that I'm close to," Carlisle said. "I've been on a text message thread with our [Celtics] '86 team, and some of the memories are just beyond priceless."

Other members of the 1986 Celtics team already have offered tributes for their former teammate -- including franchise legend Larry Bird -- but Carlisle wanted to emphasize how Walton had always stayed in touch with him, and even texted some of his players recently to help them through being down 0-3 in a playoff series.

"He has stayed in touch with me, he's been texting me a lot throughout our playoffs," Carlisle added. "I read some of his text messages to our players during our prep session before we went out on the court, just so they could realize the impact they were having on people all around basketball. Bill really likes our team, liked the way we played, and I have him to thank, probably, also for me being married to my wife, Donna."

Carlisle detailed how Walton helped him have a successful first date with his now-wife, Donna. Wanting to take her to a show he didn't have tickets for, Carlisle mentioned he called Walton for help.

"[Walton] said, 'Just go to the back door, ask for Dennis McNally, tell him you're Rick Carlisle from the Boston Celtics, and everything will be just fine,'" Carlisle recalled of Walton's advice, with a smile.

Carlisle listened to Walton. He pulled up to the back of the venue with Donna, told her to wait there -- which caused her to question if he even had tickets -- reassured her that everything was going to work out, and went to find McNally. They ended up with two VIP tickets in Walton's name.

"It was an unbelievable night, and obviously it's a good first date, so I'm thankful to him," Carlisle added. "I know there's been a lot of talk today about what he meant to the whole world -- to me, he was a living, breathing, event in history just walking around...He defiantly competed for every moment in life to be the greatest it could possibly be -- that's the best way to describe it."

As for Walton's family, Carlisle confirmed that he talked to Walton's son -- also a former NBA player and coach, Luke Walton -- and they are doing OK.

"What an amazing man; there will never be another," Carlisle said of his friend, Walton.

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