It’s a simple rule for those attending Game 6 of the Atlanta-Boston playoff series Thursday with tickets from members of the Hawks’ athletic performance team.
Four members of the Hawks’ APT attended or worked at Boston’s Northeastern University. Art Horne, KeKe Lyles, Mike Roncarati and Zach Markowitz were once Celtics fans, to some degree, while in the city before eventually joining the Hawks this season. As you might expect, they have been inundated with requests to attend playoff games in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
For those lucky enough to get those tickets, they must come to the game properly attired. Even if they will be in the extreme minority in a hostile home environment of Boston’s TD Garden.
“Don’t wear green,” said Head Athletic Trainer Horne, who helped two Northeastern basketball coaches attend Thursday’s game. “I’m made that very clear. This is a Hawks event.”
The three other members of the training staff issued the exact same advice to their guests. The four were reunited with the Hawks under coach Mike Budenholzer.
“Coach Bud gave us all the opportunity to come here and work together,” Lyles said. “It was a no-brainer.”
Horne was the Director of Sports Performance at Northeastern after obtaining his Master’s degree from Boston University. While there, Horne mentored Lyles and Roncarti, both Northeastern graduates. The two went on to work in the NBA, most recently with the Warriors before joining the Hawks. Lyles is the Executive Director of Player Performance and Roncarati is the Director of Rehabilitation. Roncarati was born and raised in Rhode Island.
“Growing up, I did (follow the Celtics), Roncarati said. “That ’08 (NBA Championship) year was great. I was too young for the (Larry) Bird years but hearing my dad talking about that, my uncles and family all talking about it. I was a huge Celtics fan growing up. During college, we used to get tickets all the time. Big Celtics fan until I started working in the NBA.”
Markowitz, an Athletic Performance Assistant, worked under Horne at Northeastern. He grew up in Connecticut and estimated that 90 percent of his friends are Celtics fan. The experience of being part of the playoff series – even working for the foe – has been welcomed.
This is where we would come to see games,” Markowitz said of TD Garden. “So to be here, on the court and in the tunnel, is really cool.”
Horne, originally from Toronto, said it was easy to be a part of the sports scene while in Boston.
“When they have the Big Three it was really exciting to go and watch them play,” Horne said. “Boston is a city where it’s really tough not to get caught up in the sports scene. You become a Red Sox fan, a Patriots fan. … Boston consumes you in sports.”
Well, not anymore.