Pacers’ Rick Carlisle recalled Bill Walton getting him into a Grateful Dead show for a date with his now wife

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Rick Carlisle could have stuck to basketball in his pregame press conference before Game 4 of the Indiana Pacers‘ Eastern Conference finals matchup with the Boston Celtics. Down 3–0 to Boston, Indiana faces playoff elimination and is without star guard Tyrese Haliburton for the second consecutive game.

However, Carlisle mostly wanted to talk about his friend Bill Walton, who died Monday at the age of 71. The Pacers coach and the late Hall of Famer were teammates on the Celtics for two seasons from 1986-88.

“I wanted to mention, with the passing of Bill Walton today, how much he meant to me and so many people I’m close to,” said Carlisle, who revealed that the two of them were on a text chain with others from the 1986 Celtics. “Some of the memories are beyond priceless.”

Carlisle mentioned that he and Walton have exchanged texts throughout the Pacers’ playoff run, and read some of them to his players on Monday to show them how much of an impact they’re having throughout basketball.

Carlisle had a far more personal story to share about Walton and the role that he played in the coach’s life. Well known for his love of the Grateful Dead, Walton’s connections with the band helped Carlisle out for a first date with the woman who eventually became his wife.

“I have him to thank probably for being married to my wife, Donna,” said Carlisle. “Our first date was to a Dead show in Washington, D.C. I called Bill and, this is 1987, I said ‘Look, I got a date with a girl who I think is pretty cool. I’d love to go to the Dead show at Capital Centre. I don’t have any tickets. Can you help?”

Walton told him to go to the arena’s back door, ask for a certain person and tell him, “You’re Rick Carlisle from the Boston Celtics. You’ll be just fine.” On the night of the show, Carlisle drove up to the loading dock and came back with laminated passes for Bill Walton and Susie Walton. Later on, the pair got to meet Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart backstage.

“I’m thankful to him. I know there’s been a lot of talk today about what he meant to the whole world,” Carlisle added. “To me, he was a living, breathing event in history just walking around… There will never be another.”

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