Watching the NBA Finals, much of the focus has been on the players of both the Celtics and the Lakers. There has even been a tremendous amount time spent on Phil Jackson. What about the Celtics coach?
He deserves a tremendous amount of credit for steering the Celtics through the NBA Playoffs and into the Finals, but already stories are surfacing that Doc Rivers could be leaving the Celtics after this season, in favor of going home to Orlando. I certainly wouldn't blame someone for wanting to spend more time with their family. Regardless of the result of the NBA Finals, and whether or not Rivers actually does decide to retire after this season, I don't think enough credit has come his way for the team's success.
When Doc Rivers came to the Celtics in 2004, the team was a disaster, and he managed a nice job coaching a team with limited talent. In the year before the Big Three, 2006-07, the Celtics had one of their second-worst record in team history (24-58). But Doc Rivers still had that team playing hard. They were terrible, but it was not a team that quit. It was clear that if Rivers ever had talent, the Celtics could really do some damage.
Well Doc Rivers got that talent the next season, and he got three superstars to buy into the team concept of basketball. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had to put their egos aside, no easy task. And Rivers also got these superstars to buy into playing defense. In 2008, it was the Celtics' defense took them to a title. With the talent now in place for the Celtics, Doc Rivers coached his team to a Championship.
Now let's look at this season. The Celtics had a sub par regular season, but Rivers got them into position to still compete in the playoffs. Look at the coaches he has beat on the way to the Finals. There's no question he out-coached Mike Brown. Brown got fired. Then he faced off against Stan Van Gundy. The tactical move he made by playing one-on-one with Dwight Howard was fantastic. By not double teaming Howard, the Celtics were able to play better defense on the three-point shooters. Doc Rivers was basically saying to Dwight Howard, "show me you can beat me." Howard failed miserably. Van Gundy did make adjustments, but so did Rivers. It was a chess match that Rivers won.
Now look at Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers. Up to this point, Doc has done a much better job. Jackson is playing his starters way too much. They are tiring out in the fourth quarter and in the Series. Look at what Doc Rivers has done. He let his bench play key minutes in this series, especially Nate Robinson and Glenn Davis. Time and time again Rivers is making quality decisions managing his team.
Whether the Celtics win this title or not, besides Red Auerbach, he is best coach in Celtics history. You need talent to win, but someone needs to harness that ability and work in a team concept. The current coach of the Celtics has done a masterful job and deserves more credit than he is getting. Doc Rivers is on the top of his game.