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Irish Coffee: Chris Herren’s fall and rise

03.29.11 at 1:22 pm ET

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

As a junior at Boston University, I remember attending a Celtics game during the 2000-01 season and hearing a fan scream, “Hey, Chris Heroin!” He was, of course, referring to Chris Herren, the kid I’d read about years before in Bill Reynolds’ book, “Fall River Dreams.”

It was a sad commentary on how far the former Durfee High standout had fallen since being named a McDonald’s All-American in 1994. Now, 10 years later, at the age of 35, Herren is the subject of another Reynolds project, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir.”

After almost three years of sobriety from the substances that destroyed his career, Herren has been on the anti-drug speaking circuit at high schools around New England, detailing the poor decisions that led to his expulsion from Boston College, exile from the NBA and near-death experience after tours of basketball duty everywhere from China to Iran.

Here are two of those decisions Herren has been sharing with high school athletes:

As a 14- or 15-year-old Durfee High freshman, Herren attended a party, where he and four friends took down a few drinks on a Friday night. When his curfew came calling, his head said to call his mother for a ride home, but his self esteem let his best friend drive him.

“I didn’t have the courage, I didn’t have the self-esteem to say, ‘You know what, guys? This drinking and driving isn’t cool, and I’m not going to be a part of it,'” said Herren. “I jumped in the back seat, got dropped off, and six or seven minutes later my best friend was dead.”

A few years after he failed to prevent his drunken best friend from getting behind a wheel and colliding with a telephone pole, Herren had become a Boston College-bound high school senior and one of 22 players selected to the McDonald’s All-American Game (along with three other former Celtics: Antoine Walker, Raef LaFrentz and Danny Fortson).

“I walked into that dorm room at 18 years old and saw these two girls sitting at my desk with my roommate, and I saw cocaine for the first time,” said Herren. “Once again, I wanted to turn around and walk out. Once again, I didn’t have the courage.”

Two days later, he failed a drug test — and then another and another. After a redemption tour that led him from BC to Fresno State, the Nuggets and the Celtics, Herren suffered a rotator cuff injury in 2000 and became addicted to Oxycontin while a member of the C’s.

That addiction translated into a heroin habit that stuck with him through a basketball career that sent him to six foreign countries and culminated in a December 2004 arrest for allegedy falling asleep in a Rhode Island Dunkin’ Donuts drive through with heroin in the car.

Since that arrest, he entered rehab, sobered up in 2008 and a year later launched the Hoop Dreams with Chris Herrren training and mentoring program for youth basketball players.

In May, you can read Herren’s story as told to Reynolds, and then watch it in an ESPN documentary scheduled for this fall. And hopefully we can say goodbye, once and for all, to Chris Heroin, welcoming the Fall River kid with a bright future back into the fold.


After the Celtics’ third pathetic loss in their last four games — this time to the Pacers — Kevin Garnett boiled everything that’s wrong with the Celtics down to two succinct sentences: “We became a great team because we were known to do it for 48 minutes. We seem to be missing that right now.”

However, each of the Big Four — the guys who will decide whether or not the Celtics return to the NBA Finals — has been on the positive side in plus/minus in all four games of this most recent horrid stretch, with the exception of Paul Pierce against the Bobcats (-5).

Over the last four games, Garnett is plus-26, Ray Allen is plus-14, Pierce is plus-13 and Rajon Rondo is plus-9. That — along with the Bulls’ 97-85 loss to the 76ers on Monday — is the silver lining to a week that destroyed what the C’s had worked for all regular-season long.

As long as we’re looking on the bright side of things, the Celtics have two days off before playing a severely undermanned Spurs team that’s expected to be without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker when the two teams meet on Thursday.


Finally, after you read a nice piece that Dan Shaughnessy wrote for Sports Illustrated on UConn head coach Jim Calhoun‘s ties to the Boston area, check out Austin Rivers competing in the McDonald’s All-American Game dunk contest while paying homage to his father — Celtics head coach Doc Rivers — by sporting a No. 25 Hawks jersey …

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Austin Rivers, Boston Celtics, Chris Herren, Kevin Garnett
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