CONNOR IS BOSTON’S TRUE CELT

He’s the second-generation Celt at the heart of the Boston Celtics but John Connor reckons he’s had the luck of the Irish to get a gig that’s tour all over with the NBA’s most famous team.

Not just North America too. Rome, Madrid and tonight, back to London, where the other green and white giants will take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the league’s annual British stop.

Back to his roots, a short hop from where the equipment manager’s parents grew up before setting sail for the States.

Connor said: “My mother was from just outside Dublin. My Dad was from Blackburn. My son is in Ireland now, seeing everything that his grandmother experienced and knowing where she came from. And I feel at home here too.”

For 21 years, it’s been the New Yorker’s job to make the Celtics stars make their homes from home, wherever they go, running the team behind the team that allows the multi-millionaires on the floor to soar through the air like dunking machines.

He’s seen some of the greats come through the doors – Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett to name a few of the All Stars who’ve sported the shamrock on their chest since JJ arrived.

He’s seen them laugh and seen them cry and has a championship ring of his own as his share of the spoils.

It’s a 24/7 job that’s part-roadie, part-concierge and part-priest when present head coach Brad Stevens needs something fast or the players need a trusted ear to sound off to.

And Connor said: “There’s a lot of that. It’s baby-sitting. And we have a great group here. Coach Stevens is awesome.

“I play a lot of golf with our team president Danny Ainge and if this trip had a little warmer weather, we’d both have been out there playing.

“But you have to deal with the hotels, the travel, there’s always something. Not everything always goes to plane. There’s the human element and you just have to do your best.

“In 21 years, I had one player – Antoine Walker – who was with us for about eight years. He was just an unbelievable guy to be around.

“I had a rivalry with Paul Pierce where we’d have three-point shooting match-ups and I would beat him and it would drive him nuts. He’d come into my office and have his soup.

“But now we have Kyrie Irving, who I’m getting to know. It’s fun. I try to keep it crazy and not make things too serious.”

The date at The 02 Arena’s one of the few where he hasn’t stashed his golf clubs in the back of the Celtics private plane in case there’s a few hours to spare.

Maybe my love for my other game’s down to my Celtic roots, he says.

“We had a British guy on our coaching staff – Jamie Smith – and he was always telling me I had to play St. Andrews and I’ve never had the chance.

“I was asking this week how long it would take to get there – and of course it’s too far to go at this point.

“But I’m such a fan of Monty and any time The Open is in Scotland, I’ve been up at 4am to watch. I’ve pictures of him in the Ryder Cup on my phone because those teams, you can’t beat them.”

But the 2018 Celtics are becoming almost as tough to beat as the near namesakes at Parkhead, owning one of the NBA’s best records and moving into the ranks of title contenders.

We might need a little luck to bag a championship, Connor admits. But there’s enough talent in the prime of their careers to make me believe it’s on the cards, he grins.

“They’ve no right to be as good as they are already with so many guys still cutting their teeth. This is all gravy.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen until a few years down the road so it’s going to get better and better.”

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