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What did the Boston sports scene look like the week Tom Brady made his NFL debut?

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 3/20/2020 Matthew Porter
a baseball player wearing a red shirt: The Boston sports landscape looked very different when Tom Brady arrived for Patriots rookie minicamp in 2000. © GREENHOUSE, Pat GLOBE STAFF The Boston sports landscape looked very different when Tom Brady arrived for Patriots rookie minicamp in 2000.

The Lions weren’t worried about the Patriots. They were the Patsies, after all, and Drew Bledsoe’s injured right thumb meant the Lions probably would feast that Thanksgiving day in Detroit.

The sixth-round rookie quarterback New England had on the sidelines wasn’t going to scare anyone — even if some of the locals knew about him from his college days in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The rookie, Tom Brady, said before the game he didn’t expect to play.

“[Bledsoe] goes out and gives it all he’s got every day,” Brady told the Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “It can be tough gripping the ball, especially as the weather gets colder. He will play as long as and as hard as he can.

"It’s obvious he wants to be out there, because he could have turned it in a long time ago. He has the respect of his teammates, and that is important because everyone gets hurt out there.”

After Bledsoe threw a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions against the Lions, Brady came in for one series in the final minutes of a 34-9 Patriots loss on Nov. 23, 2000, at the Pontiac Silverdome. The Patriots fell to 3-9.

It hardly seemed like the dawn of an unparalleled era of Boston sports dominance.

Or so we thought.

That game marked the NFL debut for Brady, who had been drafted the previous spring. Here’s a look back at what was happening on the Boston sports scene that week:

Celtics

The Rick Pitino Era was a dark one for the Celtics, and it would soon end.

The big story of Thanksgiving week was the third-year team president/coach ripping into the Celtics after they fell to 4-6 with a sluggish 114-90 loss in Philadelphia on Monday. Pitino told them he would recommend owner Paul Gaston find a new coach if the team didn’t play better and specifically defend harder.

They bucked up Wednesday, beating the Rockets, 96-81, but Pitino was on his way to losing the team.

“Sometimes, change is good,” point guard Kenny Anderson said before the Rockets game.

Anderson, then on injured reserve with a broken jaw, was clashing with Pitino. In the NBA, Anderson said, “20 to 30 percent of it is the coach.”

Pitino, seen as a franchise savior when he took over in May 1997, was zero percent of the solution. A Bob Ryan column suggested that Pitino return to college, “where some lucky school will be a Final Four team in waiting the minute it gets his name on a contract.”

Pitino resigned six weeks later, and turned up at Louisville in March. He made it to three Final Fours before he was done in by, among other issues, a lack of oversight in a sex scandal involving recruits, which led to the 2013 national championship being vacated.

Assistant Jim O’Brien, promoted to head coach, leaned on cocaptains Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. The supporting cast — Bryant Stith, Anderson, Vitaly “The Ukraine Train” Potapenko, Randy Brown, Eric Williams, Tony Battie — couldn’t help pull the Celtics above .500. They finished 36-46 and missed the playoffs for the sixth year in a row.

O’Brien’s team came together in 2001-02, with Pierce (26.1 points per game) and Walker (22.1) leading a refreshed squad to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to Jason Kidd and the Nets.

2008 would be their year.

Bruins

The Bruins were reeling in their first full season after the Ray Bourque trade.

After opening the season 3-0-1, they lost four in a row and general manager Harry Sinden fired coach Pat Burns. Mercurial replacement “Iron Mike” Keenan presided over a ninth-place finish and a playoff DNQ.

The Bruins watched Bourque lift the Cup in Colorado that year, then cycled through Robbie Ftorek, Mike O'Connell, Mike Sullivan and Dave Lewis in the next five years before settling on Claude Julien, who would bring home the first Stanley Cup in 39 years in 2011.

When Brady took his first snaps, the Bruins were in tough shape in goal. Well-traveled (and recently signed) backup Peter Skudra and 20-year-old Andrew Raycroft were filling in for an injured Byron Dafoe (knee). Skudra took a 3-1 loss to Carolina and the Black and Gold sat 7-11-2-2 (the NHL, for the second year, awarded one point for an overtime loss).

The day before, the Bruins beat the powerful Red Wings, 5-4, despite a Sergei Fedorov hat trick. Boston scored three goals in the first five minutes and held on as Detroit pumped Skudra with 46 shots.

There was reason to hope. Joe Thornton, 21, was blossoming as a star (37 goals, 71 points), along with 22-year-old Sergei Samsonov (75 points). New captain Jason Allison, 25, was on his way to a 36-goal, 95-point season, but he was often hurt.

Thornton was wearing an ‘A’ with young defenseman Kyle McLaren sidelined with a knee injury, but coach Mike Keenan gave it to newcomer Bill Guerin, who arrived from Edmonton the week before. “I think Billy is quite a leader,” Thornton said.

Guerin would score 41 goals the following season.

The back line was in rough shape, but veteran Don Sweeney, 34, was still logging 19-20 dependable minutes a night. The Bruins hoped 39-year-0ld Paul Coffey, wearing No. 74, would be a steady presence, but that experiment ended quietly.

In the pre-salary cap era, some fans were still bitter that owner Jeremy Jacobs wouldn’t spend the money needed to build around Bourque, Cam Neely and Adam Oates in the years before. That week, Forbes magazine released its third-annual list of NHL franchise values. The Bruins ranked fourth, worth $217 million, up 10 percent from the previous year, with $77.6 million in revenue.

They were fifth on last year’s Forbes list, worth $1 billion, up eight percent, with $228 million in revenue. Jacobs bought the team for $10 million in 1975.

Random trivia: among the forgettable names on that 2000-01 team was defenseman Patrick Traverse, the first Bruins player to wear No. 63.

Red Sox

After missing out on a wild card berth with a 16-16 September — despite another thrilling season by Pedro Martinez (18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 strikeouts that season) — the Red Sox were desperate for more arms in the rotation.

They were trying to woo free agent pitcher Mike Mussina, the former Orioles star, but fell short to the Evil Empire. The Yankees signed Mussina to a six-year deal worth $88.5 million, placing him alongside Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez in the Bronx. While the Sox whiffed there, they did land Manny Ramirez that offseason, luring the free agent slugger to Boston with an eight-year, $160 million contract offer.

They had more pain ahead, but ended the 86-year curse in 2004, sandwiched between repeat Super Bowl victories from Brady and the Pats. So good, indeed.

Elsewhere that week

The NBA fined Jazz forward Karl Malone $7,500 and suspended him one game without pay for backhanding Christian Laettener of the Mavericks in the face. First-year Mavs owner Mark Cuban was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing and publicly criticizing officials. It was the third time in eight days the dot-com billionaire was tagged for doing so. His previous fines were $5,000 and $15,000. ... The best golfer on the planet, Tiger Woods, went eagle-eagle on a par-5 18th hole to beat Vijay Singh in a playoff at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Poipu Beach, Hawaii. “I’ve never done something like this before — with everything on the line,” said Woods. ... The City of Pittsburgh approved Penguins owner Mario Lemeiux’s bid to buy the former St. Francis Hospital, next to the 68-year-old Mellon Arena, for $8 million. Consol Energy Center, now PPG Paints Arena, wouldn’t open until 2010. ... The Rangers, tops on the Forbes list, were worth $263 million dollars. They are still No. 1, worth $1.65 billion. ... Savio Prep, East Boston and Durfee won their Thanksgiving games to secure Super Bowl berths. ... Thanksgiving weekend marked the unofficial start of ski and snowboard season, though slopes had been open for several weeks. Killington had 40 trails ready to go, and its highest-priced weekend tickets were $59. They are now $130. ... Fun with names: The Kings recalled winger Brad Chartrand from Lowell of the AHL. ... The front-page news was the 2000 Presidential election, which was held up by the hanging chads and dimpled ballots in South Florida a full 17 days after Election Day. Democratic candidate Al Gore said he would not concede, despite the Florida Supreme Court saying it would refuse to force Miami-Dade County to resume its hand count of ballots. Republican George W. Bush served two terms as President.

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