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Doc Zen

I'm starting to think that one of Doc Rivers' greatest qualities is his ability to handle people. Similar in some respects to the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson. We don't run a triangle offense, but it is a step up from the "stand 'n gun" offense of Jim O'Brien. I realize that Doc has to work on a number of things before we can put him in the category of great coaches, but for a moment, lets look at what seems to be his strength.

First you've got pampered Paul Pierce. I love Paul, but he was definitely spoiled with Jim O'Brien. Doc has had to play the role of a teacher trying to work with a child that is used to getting everything he wants from his parents. The bench is his only discipline tool and Doc has done a wonderful job not taking Paul's outbursts personally. He understands that Paul is an emotional creature and takes it all in stride without letting it effect his decision making.

How about Gary Payton? Coach Karl loved him and they had daily fights. He came to Boston kicking and screaming and seething at the Lakers. Gary's going to be a stand up guy regardless, but you have to give Coach Doc some credit for providing him with the environment and freedom to play the role of mentor to the "kids." He was so happy that he chose coming back here (for slightly higher pay) over going to the Suns (who fit the bill perfectly for his much ballyhooed Western Contender).

Notice how long it took for me to bring up Ricky Davis? Steve Bulpett writes an excellent piece on Davis today in the Herald. Doc mentions that he got calls from people in the league warning him about Davis. Yet all we've seen of Ricky is a fun-loving guy that plays hard and accepts a role on the second unit without complaint. Credit Doc for letting Ricky be Ricky.

I could go on about getting Raef back in the swing of things after being out so long, about tossing a humbled Walker right in the fire to great success, or even handling Mark Blount. Is anyone else shocked that Blount hasn't ripped a reporter's head off yet? Doc obviously hasn't found the button to push to make Mark step up his game on a consistent basis, but I'm sure he's trying.

Lastly, I'll submit the Young Guns. Doc's second biggest achievement, in my mind, is the development of the younger players. All have been given the opportunity to succeed. They have taken advantage of their opportunities with varied success, but Doc has been encouraging and teaching them all along.

So while Doc has his faults (that I'm sure hagrid could point out to you if you asked), I wanted to recognize his strengths. I don't think he'll be buying each player books on far East theology or doing yoga in the morning. But give him credit, he's handling his troops. As any leader will tell you, that's one of the hardest things to do well.

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