Celtics  coach Doc Rivers  joined the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about the upcoming season. Rivers discussed a number of topics, including the early odds that he wouldn’t be back in Boston after last season, and how the new additions will help the team.
“The last three years have been a joy,” Rivers said. “I’ve been allowed to coach. I’ve been allowed to tell them to do things. They’ve done them, and so when you get a group like that you want to extend that group. Now we’ve added some more guys; Shaq, Jermaine, and I’m hoping they’re the same way, and I think they will be.”
Odds were that you wouldn’t be back as coach after last season. What changed in the offseason that made you want to come back?
Well, I just delayed it for a year. Honestly guys, I had shipped my car home, most of my clothes home, so at that point, you were right. The reason I kept saying I can’t a decision doing this in the year, is because it’s too emotional, number one, you’re too close to it. Getting away was good for me, it was good for my family.
We’re sitting around, and the two kids are in high school, and the first thing they said was, ‘Listen, this is not on us, number one. And you’re a coach, that’s what you do.’ My young one was the best, he actually said it. He said, ‘I can’t imagine you leaving the group that you have.’ He said I would feel awful about that if you left Kevin Garnett  and that group.
And my wife thought the same thing, so that part of it was easy. And then the second part for me, was do you want to come back and do it? I love what I do, I love the guys that I coach, and you guys have been around this longer than me I’m going to say. You don’t get special groups a lot when you’re a coach, and you should try to extend it as long as you can.
The way Danny [Ainge] has lined things up, it seems players have been signed for two years for the most part. You’re just talking about one year.
Yeah, you know, I told Danny and them, I didn’t want to go through the extension and walk away. I said let’s just do it year to year. That’s what it’s going to be anyway. The risk is on me, really. It’s not them. You know, Wyc [Grousbeck] and the owners, they offered a long deal, and it wasn’t anything that I didn’t like, it was great. I just thought it would be right by them to not walk out of a deal. I thought it would be better to just do a year-to-year deal.
What’s the process for you personally to get over a seventh game loss in the NBA Finals ? Is it days? Weeks? Never?
I would say never, or ever. I don’t know if you get over it; I mean you get by it, you get passed it, but there will always be days you think about it. I think it was three or four weeks ago I actually flew my entire staff in so we could watch it again, because I hadn’t watched it. That wasn’t a good day.
You saw some things that you didn’t notice. You know, Paul [Pierce ]‘s injury in the third quarter. I knew it was short, so you didn’t think it was such a big deal, but to me, that was the turning point of the game. The game went from 12 to four by the time he got back in, and once he got in, and once it was a four-point game, and you had the entire fourth quarter, it was a game.
But no, I don’t think you ever get over it. I was joking, I haven’t even gotten over game seven of Atlanta Hawks-Celtics yet. I still dislike Larry Bird  for that moment.
What if [Kendrick] Perkins  hadn’t been hurt?
I don’t know, you know and that’s one of the things, you know… first of all I was joking around with John Thompson, and you know that guy. But I said, ‘Boy, I’d love to have had him.’ I never said we’d have won with him, but I’d have loved to have him.
Perk is so underrated in my opinion. I think he’s always been that way, because he does what he does for our team. And who knows what would have happened with him. I do know this: we would have been a better rebounding team in that series and in that game. For us to win this year we have to be a better rebounding team.
You told some people that last year was the most difficult year. Why was that?
Yeah, it was a difficult year, because you just felt like after the start, the start was terrific. We got off to an amazing start. But once we went down that injury road, from that point on, it was just very difficult to get everybody to think in the right direction. I thought it took a lot of meetings, a lot of teeth pulling, and it was fine, because that’s what we do. That’s our job. But it was difficult. It was a taxing year.
Even after a bumpy regular season, everything aligned up perfectly in the postseason. Does that make you think that this is a team built for the postseason?
No, I think it makes me know that the regular season is more important now in some ways. Listen, we are built for the playoffs, that’s what our team is. We’re a bunch of veterans; we’re old, we’re all that stuff. Having said that, you know, we could have won six more games and Game Seven would have been at home. So the regular season does matter.
My biggest concern going into this year is that our guys think they can do what they did last year and get away with it. We got away with it. I don’t think it’s something you should build your team to do.
So you think that about 1,000 things need to line themselves up properly for you to get back to game seven of the finals again?
Well I think we have to be playing well, and playing well all year. We have a different group this year, to say the least. We’ve added the O’Neal brothers, and Delonte [West ]. Nate [Robinson ]‘s here for a whole year to drive me crazy instead of just two months. So we have a lot of personalities. I think we’re more talented than we’ve been.
Has a conversation between you and Shaquille O’Neal  taken place like, ‘Listen big fella, I need you to hit the ground running at the beginning of the year. I don’t care if you coast a little bit in the middle, but we need you hard again at the end of the season?’
Well, I don’t know him yet. I know him off the court, and I don’t know Jermaine [O’Neal ] yet. So I hope that doesn’t happen, but if it has to happen for us to win, I’m going to do whatever to be the best at the end. I just don’t know what he has to give, him or Jermaine, so I think that’s what we have to wait and see.
Chuck Daly once said, ‘If you’re lucky, they will allow you to coach them.’ It seems like you have that veteran team. Are you hoping they allow you to coach them this year?
Yeah, and you know listen, that’s why I came back. Because the last three years have been a joy. I’ve been allowed to coach. I’ve been allowed to tell them to do things. They’ve done them, and so when you get a group like that you want to extend that group. Now we’ve added some more guys; Shaq and Jermaine, and I’m hoping they’re the same way, and I think they will be.