Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly chat, and the hosts asked him about his coaching style, how he deals with different players and whether he would go for the win or the tie if he was down by two points. (Click here  for complete audio interview.)
Coaches have been in the news lately. As a jumping-off point, do you consider yourself a player’s coach?
Rivers: I’ve heard that for years — what’s a player’s coach? I don’t know if there is such a thing, honestly. There’s coaches who have great relationships with their players, there are those who don’t, but I don’t think that’s what makes them a player’s coach or not. I think the respect factor is huge. If you have respect in the locker room with your players and vice versa then I guess that makes you a player’s coach.
Do you ever toss a table, break a chalkboard or scream bloody murder?
I scream bloody murder. I’ve never been a chalkboard puncher, but I’ve done things where I’ve lost my temper. But I don’t think those are things you can do very often because eventually it will not work. But you have to be demanding. You have to demand a standard, which is what we call it in our locker room. We set a standard. I demand that standard. That’s the part you have to get your players to buy into.
What are the things you live by to set that standard?
The number one thing with me is you have to remain agenda free. It has to be about team and it has to be about winning. If you have those two things and they believe that and it has to be true then they will follow you. It’s not about a star. It’s not about anything else but winning, and you tell them that up front. That doesn’t mean the decisions you make are always right. When you make a decision and it’s always about what’s good for the team then it’s very difficult for someone to question you on that.
That doesn’t mean that we can’t do something different and that may be true. I tell my players all the time, I’m not going to do right all the time, but I know if you do right all the time it will still work.
Which coach got the most out of you and why?
The best for me was probably Pat Riley . I had terrific coaching. My high school coach is still one of the legendary coaches in the country and he would probably be the second one, Glenn Whittteburg. Pat Riley was a great motivator and he made you believe that he was it in for one reason –to win it. And he would do anything it took to win. That taught me a lot as a player and it taught me a lot as a coach. When you have a guy in the locker room where all he cares about is winning, that’s it. You’ll run through a wall for him.
Did you ever have a good coach that you just didn’t like?
Not really. Mike Fratello and I had our ups and downs early on, but I never disliked a coach. We grew up in a different era. We thought when we grew up that respect was given immediately if your last name was ‘Coach.’ I think that’s changed some. I think you have to earn it and keep it with players and that is different then when we played.
I have a different set of rules for all the players in some ways. What I’m saying is I don;’t think you can have a blanket rule. There are some things like being on time and stuff like that. But I understand the Paul Pierce’s of the world and the Kevin Garnett’s have more pressures and more things demanded of them. So you give them leeway in certain things.
With guys like JR, you’re on them more, not because they’re not stars but because they have a chance to be stars and they haven’t achieved that yet. At the end of the day the team rules are the team rules.
If Paul Pierce came to you and said he needed a mental break, A) would you consider doing that and B) would J.R. Giddens get the same latitude?
No. If Paul came to me, you have to consider the source. That’s why I say you can’t have the same rules for everybody. You have a Paul Pierce, who practices virtually all the time ask you for a day off, then you give him a day off. And if Lester Hudson  or J.R. came to you, then you say if you reach Paul’s ability level then maybe we can make a deal.
The Kansas football coach, Mark Mangino, is under a lot of fire for his methods (calling out players in personal terms). Is that the exception in coaching or are there a lot of guys like that?
I would hope not. I’ve never had a coach like that and that’s awful. I’ve had players tell me things that you wouldn’t believe. With families, even a player in Orlando who told me about sexual abuse when he was a kid. These are things that forever stay between you and that player. You do bend over backwards to try to help that player and do whatever you can to help them. I really believe in that. There’s a life after sports and if I can help a player be a better person, I would go that route.
How do you handle players that are experiencing failure?
You don’t let them off the hook as far as their obligation to the team, but you also have compassion for them if it’s something off the court. If it’s something on the court, as long as they’re playing hard and doing their best, you live with it and you keep working with them to try to get them out of it. If their attitude is holding them back that’s when you get a little tougher. That’s when you push them, whether it’s practice whatever it takes, you have to do it to get their attitude right.
I can live with a player playing poorly. That happens. That’s human nature. When I struggle with a player it’s when they’re playing poorly because of their attitude and that makes a big difference.
How difficult is it to stay out of your kids games when they’re playing?
It’s tough. It really is. I don’t say a word. Maybe it’s because I’m a coach and maybe it’s because I did play and I lived through it. My daughter Callie was probably the worst in some ways because their high school team never lost a game in three years. All the write-ups about her every night, the overrated chants, it’s abusive sometimes with these kids. You just have to sit there and take it as a parent, as support your child. That’s what I try to do.
Sometimes I think parents are more embarrassed for themselves then they are for their kid when their kid isn’t playing well. That’s a lesson a lot of parents need to learn.
How did you react to the fourth-and-2?
I was watching it in the living room on the phone with my brother and I told my brother, ‘I think they’re going to go for it.” He said, ‘No way.’ They did and honestly I look at it in so many different ways. My first thought was if you don’t get it you’re telling your defense I trust that you can stop them.
Do you have it set in your mind of you’re down two points to go for a 3-pointer or a two to try and tie it?
Nine of out 10 times you go for the two in our game. But there is that one time if you feel great about your team, or if you don’t feel good about your team. You say, we’re going for the win. The averages say you should never do that but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it tomorrow. It’s all that moment and that feel.
Mikki Moore  made some comments that he had some communication problems with you. Does that surprise you?
It surprises me a little bit, but always consider the source, so in some ways that doesn’t. I thought Mikki was a very sensitive kid. One of the things I preach is being a team and not being a locker room lawyer and things like that.