Celtics

Sam Cassell explains why winning a championship in Boston would be ‘life-changing’ for Jayson Tatum

"It would be life-changing," Cassell said. "His life is great now. These guys' lives are great. But, if you win a championship in Boston, it can get better. "

Sam Cassell Courtesy of Zenni Optical

Sam Cassell knows how it feels to win a title both in Boston and elsewhere.

His first two championships came with the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995, and he won one with the Celtics in his final season as a player in 2008.

“It was special, man,” Cassell told Boston.com in an interview promoting The Sam Cassell Collection, his exclusive eyewear line through a partnership with Zenni Optical. “Winning a championship in Boston was real, real special. They came out in Houston, but they really came out in Boston. To win a championship in Boston, with that tradition, that alone is huge.”

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“Winning in Houston was great because it was the first one that the city ever had,” Cassell continued. “I will never forget it. But, the Boston one was like ‘wow’. Maybe because I was so young that I didn’t really realize what a championship was all about the first two years. Then I went 12 years without winning another one. Winning another one with the tradition here was wild.”

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who is still chasing his first championship, recently said he didn’t understand how special of a place Boston was until he got here.

He told Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner during a recent episode of the Point-Forward podcast that he’s feeling the love from Boston fans, but imagines that his relationship with the city will be on another level if he’s able to bring home Banner 18.

“They love their sports teams, they love their guys,” Tatum said. “And I feel like I’ve been embraced, I feel like they’ve accepted me as one of their guys. There’s a sense of pride, there’s an edge you have to have to play here. I can only imagine the love. I know how much love I get now. I can only imagine the love, the reception, if you hung one of those banners up.”

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Cassell doesn’t have to imagine what winning here is like. He said it would be a game changer for Tatum.

“It would be life-changing,” Cassell said. “His life is great now. These guys’ lives are great. But, if you win a championship in Boston, it can get better. It can get a little bit better, trust it. There’s nothing wrong with winning a championship in Boston.”

Cassell only played in 17 games with the Celtics during the 2008 season. He was 38 at the time, and he used that season to prepare for his future coaching career.

“I was preparing myself for my next gig when I stopped playing. I would sit in on the coach’s meetings sometimes. Halftime of the game, I would always walk up the tunnel and into the hallway with Doc [Rivers]. He’d always tell me the message to give the team in the locker room before he came to give his speech.”

“I had the right to call guys out because I wasn’t playing that much and it was fine,” Cassell added. “But I still remained a big part of that team. I could call guys out, especially the Big Three.”

Cassell said he’ll never forget the characters from the 2008 team, and that he keeps in touch with them regularly.

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“We’re always in a group chat, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, our birthdays, we always get a message from each other,” Cassell said. “Sometimes if a big basketball game is on and we know everybody is watching it we’ll make a comment on it. When you win a championship with guys, you’re always keeping in contact.”

“I’m always keeping in contact with Vernon Maxwell, Kenny Smith, Mario Elie, and Robert Horry,” Cassell said. “Just like I keep in contact with Eddie House, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon [Rondo], Tony Allen. When we see each other, it’s nothing but love, nothing but hugs. With the Celtics guys we always say Ubuntu. With the Rockets guys we say Clutch City.”

Cassell said his goal is to become a head coach one day. It was an easy decision to return to Boston when Joe Mazzulla called him after the Celtics beat the Sixers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year, he said.

“That’s my goal, and it’s going to come. It’s going to come one day,” Cassell said. “I know it’s going to come. It ain’t my turn yet. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and people say ‘you’re up next, you’re up next.’ Well, when God says I’m up, I’ll be up.”

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