Pacers coach Rick Carlisle shares memories of late former teammate Bill Walton: 'There will never be another'

Walton and Carlisle were teammates with the Celtics
May 7, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; NBA former player Bill Walton (left) chats with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry before game three of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; NBA former player Bill Walton (left) chats with Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry before game three of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle remembers meeting NBA legend Bill Walton for the first time.

Carlisle was entering his second season with the Boston Celtics as a player when Walton became a member of the franchise. At the time, Carlisle thought his new teammate was a vegetarian. Yet when the two met, Walton was eating a roast beef sandwich.

"That's a vivid image. When he came to Boston, our guys were merciless. Just with jokes in a fun kind of way but in a very competitive kind of way," Carlisle recalled. "When he arrived in Boston, it changed our team."

That is, among many things, how Carlisle remembers his former teammate — someone who made things fun yet was a terrific talent on the court. In their first season together, the Celtics won a championship.

Walton and Carlisle ended up being teammates for Walton's final two NBA seasons. Both campaigns ended with a trip to the NBA Finals. Walton won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award in his first season with the Celtics.

This week, the NBA announced that Walton passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer. Carlisle, who was coaching the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals earlier this week, told stories about his former teammate during his pregame media availability on Monday night.

"I just wanted to mention, with the passing of Bill Walton today, just how much he meant to me and so many people that I'm close to, that I've been on a text message thread with our '86 team. Some of the memories are beyond priceless. He has stayed in touch with me, he's been texting me a lot throughout our playoffs. 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 that they're having on people all around basketball," Carlisle said. Then, he told a great story about how Walton impacted his life.

"Bill really liked our team, liked the way we played. I have him to thank for me being married to my wife, Donna. Our first date was to a [Grateful Dead ] show in Washington, D.C. I called Bill and I said — this is 1987 — 'I got a date with a girl that I think is pretty cool. I'd love to go to the [Grateful Dead] show at Capital Center. I don't have any tickets. Can you help?' And he said, 'just go to the back door. Ask for Dennis. Tell him you're Rick Carlisle from the Boston Celtics. And everything will be just fine.' And I said' really?' And he said, 'Oh, yeah.'

"So I drove up to the loading dock. And so Donna was with me, we hadn't known each other that long. I said, 'just wait here a second.' She's like 'what?' She said, 'Do you have tickets?' I said, 'just give me a couple minutes here.' So I walked down, and I knocked on the door. The whole thing ended up working out. I walked back up the loading dock ramp with two all access laminants. One said Bill Walton and one said Susie Walton. So we were set up for the show, and we were actually on stage watching the show," Carlisle shared with a smile.

"During the break, we just kind of wandered into the back and just opened up a door and ended up sitting down with Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart for about 15 minutes. It was an unbelievable night. Obviously it's a good first date. So I'm thankful to him.

"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 was involved in so many events in pop culture and sports. He played drums for the Grateful Dead in the pyramids in Egypt. He's the guy that did everything. There's been a lot of talk today about how he speaks in hyperbole so much, but he defiantly competed for every moment in life to be the greatest it could possibly be. That's the best way to describe it," Carlisle finished. He then discussed Walton's family.

"I talked to Luke [Walton] today for a few minutes," Carlisle said. Luke is Bill's son. "They're doing okay, but it'sthis has been tough, obviously. And it'll continue to be tough. But what an amazing man. There will never be another."

You can watch Carlisle's comments below.

Carlisle has a sharp memory and loves to share memories of those he cherished. His moment discussing Bill Walton Monday was wonderful.


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Tony East

TONY EAST

Tony East is the Publisher of AllPacers. He has previously written for Forbes Sports, the West Indianapolis Community News, WTHR, and more while hosting the Locked On Pacers podcast.