Those of us who make it our business to make judgments on athletes have long revered the good locker room guy. He is the one who fills our notebooks with quotes and anecdotes and in turn is rewarded with dozens of points in the imaginary box scores in our mind under the heading "intangibles."
Keyon Dooling was that guy last year for the Celtics. He saw it as his duty to talk to the press because he genuinely enjoyed the give and take, and also because he knew that his more famous teammates did so more out of obligation than desire. It was his way of contributing to the cause and if it lifted some of the burden off Rajon Rondo, for example, then so much the better.
In that way, Dooling was providing something tangible to the Celtics' success. Not as much as his Red Bull-fueled defensive pressure, but something nonetheless. He had the rare gift of being accommodating with the media without being political. That is to say, he could hold court without being held up to suspicion by his teammates.
There's a simple reason for that. Dooling rarely, if ever, talked about himself. It wasn't until after the conference finals were over that he acknowledged that he had spent the second half of the season bulking up to guard Dwyane Wade and that a bout with the spring flu had robbed him of the extra pounds. There were things we were meant to know and others that were kept secret. As it turned out, Dooling kept secrets better than most.
There's a myth in the press rooms across this great land that we somehow know jack shit about the people we cover because we get five minutes with them after a game on their way out the door, or loiter in their locker room for 40 minutes before the opening tip. Oh sure, there are insights to be had if one is willing to work for them and observation is a more powerful reporting tool than any tape-recorder, but really, what we don't know could fill volumes.
What we didn't know until recently about Dooling is that he was molested as a child. His story is powerful, disturbing and way too familiar to far too many people. He's telling us now because he wants something good to come of it and he wants to help. This is his curse, but it's also his gift.
Dooling may be retired from basketball, but he's staying with the Celtics as a player development coordinator. It's a nebulous job that will allow him to stay in contact with the league, mentor other players and absorb as much knowledge as he can from Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge. He's been called a future coach so often he sometimes had to remind people that he was still a player, but now he has more important work to do.
I don't know much about Keyon Dooling, but I defy anyone to watch these videos of his appearance on the Katie Couric show and not see a man in full.