Doc Rivers is one of the best coaches in basketball. I wanted to start with that comment and go from there because I've seen a lot of fans turn on him (or simply become more vocal in their displeasure) lately. This is my retort to those critics. Take it for what you will.
Winning makes any coach look good and losing makes him look bad. That's the results-oriented nature of the business. However, sometimes a guy is a good coach regardless of the record. Sometimes he isn't given the right pieces and sometimes those pieces fall apart on him. Obviously the latter happened to Doc and you could make a case that the former was in play as well. So making him a scapegoat for the team's frustrations seems short sighted to me.
Doc is a magnificent manager of personalities. He's a players coach without being soft on guys. He's brilliant with his out of bounds calls and he stresses the right things (ball movement and defense). But don't just take my word for it. Listen to some other people who know the game pretty well.
For one thing, Danny Ainge has (and as always had) Doc's back. Even through the leanest years of watching for lottery balls, Ainge stuck with Doc and it paid off bigtime. He's sticking with him still. Even giving him whatever space and time he needs to make a decision on his future.
Rivers said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is well aware of his need for a little time before making a firm decision. "I do every year," said Rivers. "It’s not anything. I’m not leaning that way of not coming back, I can tell you that. If I told you right now, I’m coming back, but like I just said, I immerse myself and I need to just detox, and we’ll find that out."
Hopefully he'll stick to the plan that he talked about last summer after signing a 5 year extension. He wants to be part of the legacy here in Boston and he is aware that doing so means he'll be in charge of a rebuilding program of some sort (sooner or later).
How about a take from Jackie MacMullan - hands down one of my favorite NBA writers ever.
Of course, Doc has done a fine job of building his résumé all on his own by requiring professionalism and accountability from his players without ever embarrassing them, a trait he and old pal Terry Francona both mastered. Not only has Doc endeared himself to the members of his own roster, but he has managed to maintain a congenial relationship with opposing players as well, a handy benefit when it comes time to troll for free agents. Doc is a proven players' coach, a bona fide draw in a market that has never been able to attract free agents. Jason Terry, in fact, said Rivers was the primary reason he chose Boston over other suitors.
Players want to play for him. That's an amazing testimony as well. I'll take it another step and point out that coaches (former head coaches even) want to work for him as assistants. Also, his assistants tend to go on to bigger and better things anyway. He's developing a coaching tree and has more high quality assistants being developed around him as we speak.
How about one of his famously biggest critics? Bill Simmons called for Doc's head in '07 and was critical of him on numerous occasions before that.
I wasn't always a Doc fan. This is an understatement. I don't take back anything I wrote — not a single thing. But I also believe in Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory, and the fact is, Doc Rivers has coached nearly 1,200 NBA games at this point. He's really, really good at coaching now. Any of my old issues with him (the big three: playing too many guys, not having a plan for defending high screens, not developing young players) were fixed years and years ago just by trial and error. The best four coaches in basketball are Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Erik Spoelstra and Doc Rivers in some order. He's also an adopted Boston guy, someone who just gets it — gets the city, gets what the Celtics mean, gets everything.
So what's there not to like? The Celtics are a better team with Doc Rivers walking the sidelines and we've been lucky (spoiled even) to have him here as long as we have.
Here's hoping he takes a week or so off, gathers himself, enjoys some time off with his family, and realizes that he still has that coaching bug and wants to come back to Boston year after year.