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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

We've seen this tangled web before

It would be easy to poke fun at the Bruins right now. They've become our local sports piñata and yesterday's introduction of the no doubt eminently-qualified Peter Chiarelli as general manager served only to make them a bigger target.

Franchises get lost sometimes and the Bruins at this hour are deep in the dark forest with no light in sight. After a train wreck of a season they fired their GM, then waited two months to announce the hiring of Chiarelli, only to make it clear he'll remain assistant GM of the division-rival Ottawa Senators until likely July 15. That means he'll be working for the Senators -- competing against the Bruins -- in these crucial weeks that include the NHL draft and the beginning of free agency. No one knows what this means for coach Mike Sullivan, but Chiarelli admitted that any interviews for Bruins coach must be conducted in Ottawa.

Poor Chiarelli. Talk about conflicts. Put a New York Rangers cap on him and he'll be serving as many families as the guy on HBO's ``Big Love." Even veteran Bruins president Harry Sinden admitted he could not remember a situation like this.

Fortunately here at the 17 percent Globe we know a lot about conflicts, and it didn't take much research to come up with several examples of leaders who simultaneously served competing entities.

Who can forget these days in history?

Jan. 27, 2000 -- The New England Patriots today hired former New York Jets assistant head coach Bill Belichick as the 14th head coach in franchise history. At his introductory press conference, Belichick reminded the New England media that he was still technically ``HC of the NYJs" and would continue to serve the Jets until the completion of the 2000 NFL draft and free agency signing period.

``I don't see what the big deal is," Belichick deadpanned when asked about the apparent conflict. ``It is what it is. I went to Wesleyan. I'm a smart guy. I've dealt with conflict before. The league has stipulated that this is the way it's going to be, so we're going along with it. I look forward to interviewing candidates for my New England staff while I'm in my office at Hofstra."

Jan. 25, 1993 -- CBS president Laurence Tisch announced today that NBC late-night talent David Letterman will move to the CBS network later this year. In a surprise statement, Tisch also indicated that Letterman will host late shows for both networks for a period of approximately six weeks beginning in August.

``We really don't have a problem with it," said Tisch. ``Dave is a versatile guy and he can tape their program, then go on live with us around the country at 11:30. We've never felt threatened by other networks, and frankly it's hard to understand why folks think this is such a big deal. Dave's fully capable of doing a good job for both shows."

Nov. 2, 1978 -- Chrysler today announced that it will hire former Ford president Lee A. Iacocca. Chrysler Corporation CEO John Riccardo said Iacocca was welcome to work for Ford and Chrysler simultaneously. ``It shouldn't be much of a problem," said Riccardo. ``Some people might say that Ford and Chrysler are in direct competition, but we've never really seen it that way. We have no problem with Lee working for Ford and Chrysler at the same time. It's only going to be six weeks. It's not like he's going to know the secrets of both organizations. A K-car is a K-car. I used to talk to Detroit Lions assistant coach Bill Belichick and I think he had it right when he said, `It is what it is.' " April 11, 1951 -- President Harry S Truman today stripped General Douglas MacArthur of his commands in the Far East, replacing the legendary leader with Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway . The president indicated that MacArthur would stay on in Korea for a six-week transition period.

``Old soldiers never die," said MacArthur. ``Sometimes they even get to stick around and continue working at their old job after they've been ordered to leave. It's not complicated, really. Like the Midshipmen used to tell us at the Army-Navy game, `It is what it is.' "

April 27, 1950 -- Owner Walter Brown today named Tri-Cities Blackhawks coach Arnold ``Red" Auerbach coach of the Boston Celtics. Brown indicated that Auerbach would continue to make all player-personnel decisions for the Blackhawks for a period of six weeks, but all parties agreed it would have no negative impact on the future of either team.

Referencing the upcoming draft, the 32-year-old Auerbach said, ``I've got my eye on this kid Cousy coming out of Holy Cross. I'm just not sure if I'll take him for the Blackhawks or recommend the Celtics draft him. I know people have some concerns about me working for two teams at once, but I really don't think it will be a problem. Folks up in Boston maybe don't want to build a statue of me, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still working for the Celtics 56 years from now." There you have it. Historical precedent. ``Big Love" Chiarelli can get the job done in both houses. It's not like there's some kind of competition going on. Don't make a big deal out of it. The Bruins know what they're doing.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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