To use a sports term, it seems many Americans are currently playing out of position, working different jobs, or learning new skills after their previous lives and careers were upended by the pandemic or other extenuating circumstances.

Appropriately, a good place to look for inspiration is basketball.

Today, the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics will host the team they unseated for that distinction last spring: the 2021 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks.

While most will be fixated on “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, his is not the most fascinating story on the Bucks’ bench. That distinction belongs to former Celtic and New England Native Vin Baker.

The former All-Star is an assistant coach for the visitors. While it is not unusual for ex-players to transition to coaching, few, if any, took the same path as the former Hartford standout.

After a trade to the Celtics in 2002, expectations were high for Baker – that he might be the post presence they’d sought since the retirements of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. After just a few minutes of play in an exhibition game in Manchester, New Hampshire, in which Baker quickly fouled out, my Dad turned to me and said, “I’m not sure Vin’s gonna work out…”

That was an understatement. Baker wound up missing much of that season when it emerged that he had struggled with substance abuse, including alcoholism, leading to a lengthy suspension. After a brief return to form the following year, Baker relapsed, ending his tenure with the Celtics.

Baker bounced around the league, played for a bit in China…then, it was over. Having lost much of his wealth but wanting to work, the 6’11” power forward learned a new position: barista.

With help from his connections with Starbucks founder and former Seattle SuperSonics owner Howard Schultz, Baker was able to enter the chain’s management training program, according to CNBC.

After successfully managing a store in his native Connecticut, Baker published a book about his story, “God and Starbucks” in 2017. It wasn’t long after that Baker earned a job as a broadcaster for his first NBA team, the Bucks.

In 2019, Baker was named an assistant coach, according to his LinkedIn, and in 2021, the team won Milwaukee’s first NBA title in 40 years.

And so, on Christmas, a former All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist, one-time bust, and former barista will all sit courtside in the form of Vin Baker, clad with an NBA Championship ring.

Fans such as yours truly will be on hand to smile, collectively offering an apology much larger than 6'11" for writing off a man who just wanted to work.

One that earned the pride of Saybrook, Connecticut a Hollywood ending.

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