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The Case For Extending Doc Rivers

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doc1.jpgI’ve gone on record as saying that I don’t think extending Doc Rivers is a good idea.  The reasons for that are well chronicled on this site.  With that said, I am willing to admit that sometimes it is not so cut and dry.  Sometimes you have to look at a situation from every angle and appreciate that it is more complex than you might initially perceive.  So for that purpose (ok, and maybe to be a little contrarian), I’d like to lay out some of the reasons why it might not be that bad to have Doc Rivers back as the coach next year.  (Waiting for the Bill Simmons flame email in 3, 2, 1, …)

Two Words: Jim O’Brien

I’m convinced that one of the biggest reasons Danny has stood by Doc so consistently is because of the experience he had with Jim O’Brien.  Danny tried hard to make things work out with O’Brien, even going so far as to give him a contract extension.  But he could never get his coach to buy into the plan.  Coaches are born and bred to do whatever it takes to win every game.  Forget tomorrow, the win today supersedes everything else.  Taking a step back would be torture for O’Brien, so he walked.

Doc, on the other hand, has been in lock step with Ainge from day one.  He took on the challenge of coaching Davis, Blount, Payton, and Walker.  Just getting that group to the playoffs must have been like herding hyperactive cats into a vaccum cleaner store.  When Ainge gave Doc a roster of Pierce, Wally and a bunch of kids, he didn’t throw up his hands and gripe about the management putting him in a terrible situation.  He played along, took the abuse, and got the team to follow suit (they didn’t turn on him or on Ainge either).

Bottom line is that Jim O’Brien quit on Ainge and the Celtics.  Ainge knows that he can count on Rivers to be on his side and stay loyal.  In theory, you might be able to get that with another coach, but you just never know.  Which brings us to the next point:

The Devil You Know…

Paul Silas is sited as a coach that the Celtics could have looked at this offseason.  He’s got the Celtic pedigree and he had a pretty good run in Charlotte.  On the other hand, he is known for being a kind of guy that doesn’t go along with the system if it doesn’t suit him.  In other words, he’s the anti-Doc in that respect.

Rick Carlisle is also sited as a candidate for many open positions.  He’s certainly an accomplished, well-admired coach.  However, he’s twice worn out his welcome (Detroit, Indiana) with the players because he’s too controlling and micromanaging.

My pet pick Rick Adelman had some talented teams that he took to the playoffs year after year, but never seemed to be able to win the big one.  He has been criticized as being too hands off, in particular in terms of defense.

The moral of this story is that there is no perfect coach.  Each one has his faults and you never know how the team would react to a new face.  We do reasonably know how the team feels about Doc and that is a big point in his favor.  I think this is what Ainge was alluding to when he made his “X’s and O’s are slightly overrated” remark.  Doc has a good handle on the locker room, and that is important.

Getting There Is Half The Fun

I’ve found that it takes a certain kind of person to take a small business and build it up from nothing.  It takes a different kind of person to take a business from small-but-growing to big time force.  It is just a different skill set.  I think the same principle can be applied to coaching.  While one type of coach is needed to get a bunch of kids to grow up and make the playoffs, a different sort of coach might be needed to take that group to the next level.

All that is prologue to this point:  We aren’t there yet.  We haven’t made it to the playoffs so it is a little silly to start wringing our hands over what Doc will do with his game management and substitutions patterns.  Right now we are just trying to get in the door.  The one time he had a decent (if dysfunctional) roster, Doc was able to get the team to the playoffs.  If the team is healthy and Danny can upgrade the roster in other ways this offseason, then I think he can get us there again.  At that point, you can evaluate the job Doc does and make a decision on how equipped he is to lead them further into the playoffs in years to come.

Hey, It’s Only Another Year

At the end of the day, even if you think Doc is the worst coach that ever walked a sideline, you can only get just so worked up about one more year.  Perhaps more than any other coach next season, Doc is going to have to deliver the goods.  He gets no more excuses.   The players are too experienced at this point to keep using the “young” excuse and you can reasonably expect (knock on wood) that the team will be healthier.  Either he gets the team to perform, or he’s out of a job.  It’s as simple as that.

Is that enough reason to give Doc a contract extension?  Maybe, maybe not.  I’m just trying to make the case that it isn’t the worst thing that could ever happen.