Tuesday, June 10, 2008

L.A. woman makes right move... to Celtics 

Posted by Sasha at 8:54 PM ET

By Laura Crimaldi
The Boston Herald
Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Growing up in Los Angeles during the Lakers’ “Showtime” era, Marina Ortega dreamed of becoming a Laker girl.

But when Ortega, 33, walks into the Staples Center tonight for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, she’ll be wearing green as the first ever director of the Celtics Dancers.

“When I walk into Staples Center and I see ‘Showtime’ and Magic Johnson and all those great players that I grew up with - I still have a love for that era and that time,” said Ortega last week at the Celtics’ executive offices on Causeway Street.

“That time is the reason why I love basketball so much. But in 2006-2007 I had an opportunity of a lifetime to create for the Celtics. I jumped on it and I haven’t looked back since.”

The troupe of 20 dancers, ages 18 to 25, which performs at all home games debuted in November 2006 as the last NBA team to introduce a dance squad. The Celtics had long eschewed adding entertainers to their lineup because Red Auerbach abhorred the idea of giving dancers the parquet floor.

“I think a lot of people thought we were going to flop and we didn’t,” said Ortega, who has been choreographing for NBA dance squads, including the Laker Girls, for 15 years.

Despite the troupe’s success, Ortega said Boston has been a tough crowd to please, especially given how the no-frills gospel of Auerbach echoes so loudly within the Garden walls.

“I’ve had traditionalists come up to me and say that you know they are from the Larry Bird days, the Red Auerbach days and they never thought it was made for the court. And then I’ve also had traditionalists come up to me and say, ‘I have been a traditionalist my whole life but you have done such a wonderful job with the girls, they’re great,’ ” said Ortega.

While the Celtics Dancers are not slated to perform at the Staples Center, the team booked a trip to Los Angeles to go sightseeing and support the team.

The trip marks a personal and professional milestone for Ortega, who begged her mom, Martha Fierro, to take her to cheerleading at age 10 with her twin sister, Mina, who coaches the University of Southern California dance squad.

And then, of course, she has been putting up with some ribbing from her family over her Celtics allegiance.

“My reply to my family is going to be a picture of a championship ring on my finger,” she said.

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