BOSTON — When Boston Celtics public address announcer Eddie Palladino and legendary player Paul Pierce caught up at the TD Garden before the Celtics and Lakers tipped off Nov. 8, it was a meeting of two old friends.
“We have a relationship that’s gone beyond the basketball court,” Palladino said.
Pierce’s number 34 is set for ascension to the rafters on Feb. 11, 2018. Palladino said he and Pierce, who was working on the ESPN broadcast, talked about who will cry first at the ceremony.
“Definitely he is,” Palladino said. “But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get through my script that night — it’ll be an emotional ride.”
Palladino’s baritone is one of the most iconic sounds on today’s Boston sports landscape. He said his two favorite calls from his 14-year career as the team’s live announcer both involve Pierce.
“Paul Pierce for three!” he said at countless games.
“At the other forward, 6-7 from Kansas, the captain and the Truth number 34, Paul Pierce!” he said during the starting lineups.
He got to do it one last time when Pierce returned to Boston for his final appearance as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce nailed a shot from beyond the arc to end the game, allowing Palladino to make a call like he would when Pierce donned the Celtic green and white.
“It was crazy then, but Feb. 11 will be a night I’ll never forget,” Palladino said.
Joey Argenazio, a Celtics usher who spent nine years working at the Garden, said Palladino’s ability to get the crowd going won over fans.
“He is very professional and is an excellent host — it’s so easy for him to get the crowd excited,” Argenazio said. “You get goosebumps when he announces the Celtics starters.”
Equipped with the quintessential Boston accent, Palladino relished the position before even getting the job.
“The Celtics were looking for a voice to be the voice of the Celtics,” Palladino said. “And I found my opportunity to live the dream.”
Lifelong love of sports
Palladino said he was always interested in broadcasting, spanning from radio disc jockeying to sports announcing.
“I would be watching games in my room with the door closed and the volume down, and I’d be the one doing the announcing,” Palladino said.
He said basketball is his true love.
“When I got to Dominic Savio College Preparatory High School I played freshman ball but was also doing varsity games on the microphone,” Palladino said.
After being cut from the program his sophomore year, Palladino continued to do PA announcing for both junior varsity and high school varsity games.
“I just kept doing it, even for the four years I was in college,” Palladino said. “Everyone expected me to be there, and that’s where this career started 46 years ago.”
The East Boston native graduated from Emerson College with a bachelor’s in communications after two years at Graham Junior College.
Palladino became a Celtics season ticket holder in 1977 along with his friends. At the time, the team was in the midst of one of its most disappointing eras.
“It was one of the worst Celtics seasons ever,” Palladino said. “Later that year is when Red Auerbach pulled a rabbit out of his hat and said he was going to draft a kid from Indiana State.”
That kid was future Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
“We got to see some of the best basketball ever,” Palladino said.
Palladino had his own radio show at Graham Junior College during the afternoon commute hours. He also DJ’d and appeared on the local radio station.
“The radio station had the power of a 30-watt light bulb,” he joked. “It wasn’t like I was broadcasting to the world, I was broadcasting to Kenmore Square.”
Although few listeners tuned in, it did not deter him from pursuing his career in sports media. What did was a growing interest in politics.
Palladino worked nearly four years as chief of staff at the Massachusetts House of Representatives, almost 24 years as chief of staff at the Massachusetts State Auditor’s Office and currently works at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
For a while, he ditched his sports announcing career.
“The announcing thing had sort of fallen right off the radar,” he said.
“I got a communications internship at City Hall, which sort of diverted my interest from communications to politics, but I still loved basketball.”
His main income and day job involve politics, but his love of the Celtics eventually led him to a night job as public address announcer for the team.
While working for the state auditor, a job ad in the Boston Herald caught Palladino’s eye. The Celtics, who used a conglomerate of announcers for the job, wanted a singular voice.
“There was never that identity as the voice of the Garden,” Palladino said. “So I took a shot and finally heard back that I had been chosen as one of the final 10 that they were going to give live auditions to.”
The team held auditions in Boston College’s Conte Forum, a large sports arena. Palladino took the microphone, and he announced a fictional practice game before a silent and empty gym. He said he told no one, including his boss, about the audition and why he was missing a morning at work.
“I didn’t tell my wife, my kids or my parents,” he said. “I just took the morning off and said ‘let’s take a shot, this is my opportunity.’”
The final push
The team selected Palladino for a final audition at one of three preseason games. His audition was in Manchester, N.H., when the Celtics played the Indiana Pacers.
When he walked in, one of the first people he saw was his hero, Larry Bird.
“Oh God, here we go,” Palladino recalled thinking to himself. “I’ve got to walk in and do a game with my basketball idol in the building.
“I’m screwed now, I’m going to be babbling like an idiot.”
After what Palladino described as a decent performance, the Celtics told him they’d be in touch. Later that week they called to ask him to do the third preseason game on a Friday night.
The Celtics told him they’d make a final decision over the weekend. Tuesday morning came around, and he hadn’t heard back.
“I thought they gave it to someone else,” Palladino said.
He and his co-workers had gathered to eat lunch when his phone rang.
“The secretary told me I had a call from the Celtics,” Palladino said. “Then at 12:38 p.m. they asked me, ‘How would you like to be the voice of the Boston Celtics?’
“I let out a scream, my boss let out a scream, and from then on, I’ve been the voice of the Celtics.”
Willie Maye, Palladino’s longtime friend and former in-game host for the Celtics, said he has fond memories of working with him.
“Eddie is the voice of the team,” said Maye, who works in public relations for the Celtics. “We’ve had such a great relationship for a long time.”
Palladino said his Celtics career highlight was the 2008 championship when the Celtics topped the Lakers. He called it “the pinnacle.”
That night, he stayed inside TD Garden until 6 a.m. celebrating with the team.
“It’s something you’re never, ever, going to forget,” he said.
Palladino even got a seat on one of the championship parade duckboats. He’s an integral part of the Celtics community.
“His family is my family, and my family is his family,” Maye said. “We have such a respect for each other.”
Palladino worked his first game on Oct. 29, 2003. The Celtics trounced the Miami Heat 98-75. Pierce, then in his fifth of 15 seasons in Boston, led the way with 23 points.
Palladino has been the only voice of the Celtics ever since.
“When the Celtics created momentum or made a nice play, he would turn up more, which led to a crazier atmosphere,” Argenazio said. “His voice is strong and powerful and you know he represented the Celtics well.”
Palladino has been willing to change his routine. For example, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens eliminated announcing the heights and positions of the starters.
“They’re all interchangeable parts to Brad,” Palladino said. “They asked me if I minded, and I said, ‘Are you kidding? It’s his team and whatever he asks me to do, I’ll do it.’”
Palladino said he has no intention of putting down the microphone.
“People ask me about retirement, and I tell them I have no plans to retire,” he said. “It’s been an unbelievable ride.”
Greg Levinsky of Portland is a 2016 Deering High School graduate who is majoring in journalism at Boston University.
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