Blog Entry

Another tough call for Rivers

Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.

Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.

This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?

“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.

Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.

Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.

Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.

But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.

Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?

Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.

The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.

His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.

Since: May 4, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 6:07 pm

Another tough call for Rivers

I really feel for Doc. I believe deep down in his heart he knew the trade of Perkins was not the right thing to do especially the timing of it. However he is a "company" man and based on his class within the organization he supported Ainge 100% percent. The biggest issue with the departure of Perkins is the effect it has had on the chemistry of the ball club. Green and Kristic just do not fit in. Green has some talent however he does not appear to be comfortable receiving passes in transition. He looks to be more of a spot shooter. Now Kristic on the other hand is just plain bad. He really has no versatility and is terrible on the boards. I mean it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how much confidence Doc has in this guy he does not trust him on the floor. Not sure if he's seen any time against the Heat. So what are the other options? Big Baby? Appears to me he has regressed from last year. He needs to drop 20-30 pounds and become more nimble under the hoop. If the C's are going to extend the series it's up ti the big three to step up again!!!!

Since: Mar 10, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:39 pm

Another tough call for Rivers

I hope his son Austin is better than Jeremiah, because J was clearly over-rated. Not sure J ends up at gtown or indiana if his last name wasn't Rivers!!

Since: Oct 29, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:20 pm

Another tough call for Rivers

It's still funny as hell.  Paul didn't know his GM was going to trade their starting center and that their PG would be playing with one arm but it is what it is.  Lebron is still a tool and everyone outside of Miami knows it.  They had better win it all this year or next because once Dwight Howard signs with a contender it will be tough for anyone to beat that squad.

Since: Apr 28, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:23 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:17 am

Another tough call for Rivers

The Celtics need to worry about tonight's game, and not on whether Doc will retire. The Celtics chances at winning this series are admittedly minimal, but you have to start one game at a time. Their goal needs to be - "Lets bring it back to Boston". When the Red Sox came back on the Yankees in 2004, being down 3-0, I did not allow myself to hope for a comeback. The goal was"Lets not get swept",then "Lets make the Yankees pop the champagne back in NY", then "Lets just make it to a Game 7", and then finally "Lets win it!!!"

Since: Jul 18, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:14 am

Another tough call for Rivers

The tragic death of len bias crippled the celtics for years, followed by the tragic death of reggie lewis.

Since: Jan 26, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:39 am

Another tough call for Rivers

I would hate to see Doc leave, but I think he will and as Doc does everything, he will do it with class.  Doc has done a lot for this franchise and it would suck to see him go but who could blame him?  His son is the #1 high school player in the country and he's going to Duke.  What father wouldn't want to watch that?  The Big 3 in Boston is over with as we know it and its time to rebuild.  Way too old, and with the 2 expiring contracts of Garnett and Allen, trade them away, free up some cap space and go after Dwight Howard.  It would suck to break this team up but its a business and Boston can't go through another rebuilding phase like it did when the original Big 3 left.  It crippled the Celtics for years.

Since: Dec 4, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:23 am

Another tough call for Rivers

Couldn't agree with you more!!  Thanks for the great run Doc. If injuries didn't happen last year or to Garnett the second year who knows, maybe 2 championships maybe 3? Hard to say but I would have liked to see their chances if they were healthy. 2008 was a special season that will always be remembered by this group. I just hope it doesn't take as long again for the Celtics to get back to championship level. Danny Ainge screwed their last chance with this group, he had better get to work fast and rebuild this team!

Since: Apr 3, 2008
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:16 am

Another tough call for Rivers

The dynamics of the situation are all in line.  Doc Rivers will ride off into the Celtics sunset with his head held high.  After playing 14 years in the NBA and averaging 14 points per game and 7.5 assists per game he retired in 1996.  He began his head coaching career in 1999 an took an abismal Orlando Magic team to the playoffs.  Doc then took the Celtics to the promised land winning an NBA title and coming close two other times. 

He says he wants time to watch his son play at Duke.  He deserves that.  After his one and done son leaves Duke Doc will return to coach in the NBA to face new challenges.  Maybe the Knicks?   Doc turns 50 in October.  In coaching standard's he is young.  After he takes a year off he will return to the coaching ranks at age 51.  See ya soon Doc.

Since: Aug 17, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2011 7:59 am

Another tough call for Rivers

I think Doc is gone no matter what! He wants to spend time with his family and watch his son play ball. There's nothing wrong with that!

As far as the Celtics coming back in this series, its highly unlikely! We'll see how they play tonight but if the keep settling for outside jump shots and refuse to go inside the paint this series will be over in short order! Its pretty simple the Heat have outplayed the Celtics in this series!

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