Now that the NBA season is over and the Celtics finished the year without an NBA Championship, there are many questions that Boston has to answer. Not only can Paul Pierce opt out of his contract, but there could be many new faces in Boston. The Celtics leading assistant, Tom Thibodeau, is off to Chicago to take their head coaching gig, Ray Allen is a free agent and could bolt Beantown, and the man at the center of all of it is Doc Rivers. Rivers has turned into one of the top coaches in the NBA in recent years and has been at the center of the Celtics success recently, but he is thinking about taking a little leave of absence to spend time with his family. Nobody wants him to leave and you can understand why.
Not only is he a very good coach, but he is also very good at motivating his players and teaching the team concept. I thought this year though was by far his best job. Many people want to take away his accolades because of the team that he gets to coach, but when everyone was writing off the Celtics, when everyone was talking about how old they were, and when everyone was saying that they were too banged up to make a deep postseason run, Doc Rivers never lost faith in his group of guys and took them to game seven of the NBA Finals. The Celtics goal was an NBA Championship and they fell short of that, but if you would’ve told me in March that the NBA Finals would’ve come down to a game seven between Los Angeles and Boston, I along with many people would’ve told you that you were crazy. And that’s a credit to the job Doc did this year as head coach.
Doc Rivers joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan to talk about whether or not he has made his decision on his future in Boston, what factors will ultimately lead him to his decision, and recaps game seven of the NBA Finals.
You could look us in the eye, if we were face to face, and say you haven’t made a decision yet?
“Yeah, I could. I could do that and could do it honestly. I am not going to say which way I am leaning — and I am one way — but I could look you in the eye and say that I have not made a decision. We have only had a small conversation and we are going to do that in the next week or so.”
We have made a list of reasons you should stay or should not. But of all the reasons to go, watching your kids play their sports seems really compelling to me.
“Well they are, there is no doubt about that and the only reason you stay is the love for the guys you coach and the organization. Danny [Ainge] and the guys you work for, knowing that if you do leave that you’re not going to ever get that back. You can get a coaching job back and there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t think I will ever get the situation that I have here in Boston back, so that will be difficult to leave. The other side is so strong as well with the family and it is going to be an interesting decision and I don’t know what it is yet.”
Do you feel guilty when you miss things at home?
“Yes. Very. Every father, mother, parent does. Anything involving your family if you’re not there, anytime your wife has to make a decision when you are not there that’s a difficult one, you feel guilty.”
Have you looked at the tape from Game 7?
“I’ve looked at some of it. I couldn’t watch it, a lot of it. It’s very difficult.”
What do you regret most? Were there one or two decisions that may have reversed the outcome?
“Yeah, it always is as you watch it as a coach. You look at things you look back on and I think I should have given [Rajon] Rondo another blow. I thought he was tired. I thought he played that way in the fourth [quarter] and that was a tough one because he was starting to play well at that middle of the third [quarter] and it was tough to pull him out. So that is easy to say now, obviously.
We did call some post plays and the ball never ended up there. Having said that, watching the game again in the fourth, watching Kevin [Garnett] and Rasheed [Wallace] running up and down the floor, I don’t know what we would have gotten out of the post. But I just thought that was the area that we stopped attacking and we probably should have continued doing it back there.”
What was the difference for the Lakers in that game? Was it Kobe? Was it Ron Artest?
“It was [Ron] Artest. It was clearly Artest. We didn’t defend him the way we should have defended him. We were helping off of him more than we were supposed to and he made shots. You have to give him credit, he made shots and he was aggressive. I thought Ron Artest was the difference in that game. Kobe, you know when you go into a Game 7, you have to account for Kobe being Kobe, [Pau] Gasol being Gasol, but you got to shut down all their other guys. You can’t let one of their other guys get into the teens or the 20s, and that was what Artest did.
Getting offensive rebounds just destroyed us. I thought the stretch early in the game gave them life. It was the first-quarter rebounds. I just thought it gave them a sense that they could pound us on the glass all night and that’s basically what they did.”
Are Paul Pierce and Ray Allen talking to you? Are these guys working on you?
“Yeah. There is no doubt about that. I am getting a lot of texts from them and calls from them right now, so that makes you feel good, I’ll tell you that. You have a group of guys that want to go to battle with you and that makes you feel great.”
Why was this a difficult season?
“It was just difficult. It was a difficult season with the injuries. We got out to such a great start and had such great promise, and then when all the injuries went down and different guys had to step up and then getting guys back into their roles, you know, that’s not easy. Playing guys injured and playing them as THE player when you know they are not ready, but you understand that the only way we are going to get our timing back for the playoffs is by doing that and when the other guys were thinking, ‘hey, I could do that right now,’ and they were right. In trying to sell that to your team, it’s tough. It was just one of those types of years.
I thought my staff — [Tom Thibodeau] and Armond [Hill] and Kevin [Eastman] and Mike [Longabardi], all the guys, I thought they did a good job of not only keeping the guys focused but me focused on the big picture. We talked about it all the time: Every decision that is made is made for the best of the team for the whole season, not for an individual game. I wrote that at the beginning of the season and I thought my staff did a terrific job of reminding me of that statement. And I thought that was really key for us to get through that whole stretch.”