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Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘I just thought it was time to show’ loyalty

05.16.11 at 10:37 am ET

Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning, three days after agreeing to a five-year contract extension to remain with the team.

Rivers said that rumors he was contemplating whether to take a sabbatical from coaching so that he could spend more time with his family weren’t accurate ‘€” at least not this year.

“Last year, they were probably more right,” he said. “Last year I was absolutely leaning that way. This year I really never was. After last year’s summer and going through the decision that we went through, I was pretty sure I was coming back and I was pretty sure I wanted to come back here.

“This is a special place. And I’ve said that before. You can’t get a lot of these jobs where you coach teams like the Celtics, or the Red Sox, or the Yankees, and I have one of them. I work with a great GM in Danny Ainge and I have good ownership. So, why change?”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Doc, if you don’t mind revealing this, whose idea was it for the longterm contract? Was it you that wanted the extra years, or did Danny want to lock you up for the extra years? Whose idea was it?

Danny brought it up to me. When he first brought it up, I was surprised by it. This was a while ago that he brought it up. I think actually he brought up even more years to start.

I never thought of it in those terms. Because we kept doing these one-year or two-year deals, and I never thought of it. Danny walked in my office and said, “Listen, I want you to be here with me for a long time. And I want to make this something where we’re together for a long time.” And so he brought up the number of years.

You’ve got to process that when you commit to something for that long. We did, and we thought it was the right thing to do.

We all assumed that there was a sabbatical in your future at some point because of your kids, because you’re so good at TV, that you’d take a year, do TV, watch your kids and then come back and have everybody knocking on your door. Where did that idea come from? Why were we all assuming you were going to do that?

I don’t know where the “going somewhere else” came from. That was all over, especially of late. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do this. I hear the rumors just like you guys, with all these different teams. My thing is, I have a special team, and I have a special group of players. Why change?

I look at the Utah situation and Jerry Sloan. And I look at the situation in San Antonio. Danny and I were talking ‘€” those are the two more stable franchises, because they’ve had the same coach and the same GM and the same ownership. They’ve been able to draft well, scout well, pick the right players for the system because they’ve known the system. When we talked about it, that’s what we want to do.

Here’s the other thing ‘€” at least I assumed about you, Doc ‘€” is you wanted to compete for a title every year. You obviously had a taste for it with this team and you didn’t want to go back to the Orlando days of rebuilding. Well, isn’t a five-year deal, isn’t it inevitable that you’re going to be overseeing or you’re going to be coaching a rebuilding team. And are you looking forward to that?

Well, I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to that, but I’m willing to do that. I had a group that has been very loyal to me. I think it would have been very easy for me to just run and go somewhere else and chase something else.

Who says that we still can’t [reload] with free agency and adding the right pieces? While our Big Three are getting older, we have to add the right supporting cast to them. In that transition, hopefully we can still chase what we want.

It would have been easier to do it the other way; I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Coaches talk about loyalty and team all the time. I just thought it was time to show it. And that’s what I did.

On the subject of doing the right thing and it being the right thing to do: Can you imagine ‘€” before you signed this contract ‘€” a scenario where you might have taken a year off, would you, could you have coached the Los Angeles Lakers?

I don’t know that. Once you take a year off, you pretty much can coach anywhere. But that would have been strange.

Ethically, would you have a problem with that, them being the Celtics’ archenemy?

I did have a problem with that if I had, let’s say, did it this year. I had a philosophical, a big problem with that. If I had said, ‘You know what, I’m going to let my contract expire at the end of this year,’ and then go take actually any other team. But especially them and a couple of other teams. I couldn’t do it. I told my agent that. That’s something I can’t do. I don’t function that way. And I just thought it would be a very difficult thing for me to do.

Last week, Danny said the Big Three have a lot of basketball left in them. I would guess that you probably agree with that. But my question is, Doc, under what circumstances will the Big Three have a lot of basketball in them that will put them in a position to win championship banner No. 18 next year?

Well, we have to give them a better supporting cast. We have to get the right pieces around them. We have to play them in a different way ‘€” not all of them, but some of them. Even if their minutes are the same ‘€” which I hope they’re not ‘€” but if they are, you have to even do that differently.

For example.

Kevin Garnett, for example. Instead of playing him two stints in a half, which is equal to 32 minutes, you have to play him five-minute increments to let him play with his pure power, give him a rest, bring him back in. I think substituting him that way will keep him fresher longer. I thought the longer minutes, even six, seven, eight minutes in a row, over the year caught up to him. So, I want to change that.

So, there’s a lot of things we can do. But the key thing we have to do is add the right pieces around them.

Will you think abut bringing Paul Pierce off the bench?

I think about bringing anyone off the bench. I think Danny was using that more as an example than the guy. Of the three, he’s probably the one you wouldn’t. But you would think about it. If we can get Jeff Green back, there’s a scenario that we would do that.

You mean start Green and bring Pierce off the bench?


We rehashed Game 5 for a couple of days and we were wondering: Did you think at all that you stayed with [Rajon] Rondo too long? Because eventually you got him out of there, because he was so limited. And what about [Nenad] Krstic? Did you think maybe you could have gone to him sooner, given him a chance sooner than Game 5?

Yeah, I mean, you always re-think that. Obviously, he played so well. A couple of things with Krstic: He had been struggling going into the playoffs. Even in the short stint that played in the first two rounds, he hadn’t played great. But he had played pretty well in the first couple of Miami games. So, that gave us more confidence in him.

He can play. He can shoot. He’s not going to be a dominant defender. He does things differently then a [Kendrick Perkins]. But he can help your basketball team. I think we’ll get him back and he’ll help us in the future.

Was there an injury we did not know about with Kevin Garnett in Game 5 that saw him play so well and so effectively in the first quarter and then accomplish nothing, at least offensively, in the final three quarters? Was he hurt that we don’t know about?

No, he wasn’t. I thought Kevin gave so much in Game 3. I never thought he could ever get that energy back. You could see it. And there was not a lot we could do about it. But we needed him on the floor, obviously.

A lot of things in that game ‘€” not having Rondo on the floor, using Paul more as our facilitator, that hurt Paul’s scoring in some ways. And that hurt Ray [Allen], because Ray couldn’t get the ball in the spots that he wanted to get the ball in.

The easy assessment after Game 5, and I’ve read it a lot of places and I’ve heard it a lot of places: Well, the Celtics are old and tired. And I looked down at my notes from the game, when Krstic put you guys up 87-81, and what transpired after that was not much offensively. And I’m wondering, does old and tired have anything to do with Ray Allen missing that wide-open 3, or Paul Pierce issuing the drive, or Green missing the drive, or Green fumbling the ball out of bounds. That doesn’t seem like old and tired to me. Does it to you, Doc?

No, it didn’t. And I’ve actually watched the game already, which is strange. You usually walk away from games like that. But when you go on a 16-0 run against you, you tend to watch it as a coach.

What I said at the press conference was more accurate than I knew. It’s a make-miss league. We missed good shots, and they literally made bad shots. There’s not a lot you can do about that. I would love the shots that we had back.

It’s funny, I was telling Ray later, the next day I said, ‘I wish you would have stepped in.’ He was wide open behind the 3, but there was pressure. Remember, he had to pump-fake to get that shot. I said, ‘I wish you would have taken a step in and taken at the two.’ Especially when it’s late game and fatigue does ‘€” all of our shots were front rim, which could be fatigue. But they were great shots.

We missed three layups. Those are the ones that killed us.

Doc, are you at liberty to definitively discuss and address how the Perkins trade affected your team? Because we’ve heard a number of your locker room speeches that are on tape and certainly your on-court speeches. And it’s less about execution and it’s more about trusting each other. You’ve used that word a million times with this group ‘€” trust, and the ubuntu thing and all of that. Not because anybody was a bad guy or a good guy, but did some of the trust go away when all the new faces came to this new place and Perkins left?

Well, it was more not that the trust went away, the know-how went away. The continuity went away. That’s what the trade affected more than anything. Obviously, Perk was great to our team and all that. But it was more that you have new guys playing different positions and you had a guy who could literally reach back into a playbook and throw out something that was three or four years old and they all knew it, when Perk was there.

When you lose Perk, you take that one guy out of that starting lineup, now there’s the fifth guy who doesn’t know your offense three years ago; he only knows what he knows since he’s been there. And that limited our group.

With Rondo, because the way teams guard him, you need a massive playbook. That took more away from it than we thought.

I asked you a month ago if you could make the trade over again would you still do it, and you said, “Well, let’s wait and see.” So, now we’ve wait and see, would you do it if you had to do it over again?

Well, I would wait until after the year is over. I’ll put it that way. I do think Jeff Green has a chance to be a starter for us in the future and a hell of a basketball player. And Krstic can help. But making that trade at the time we made that trade, that made it very tough for us. And not only that, we added other pieces as well that we tried to fit in.

It was just a lot of moving parts to a team that the advantage that we had was that we had continuity, everybody else was new. Chicago was new and the Heat were new. They couldn’t fall back on what we could fall back on with our starting five. Once we made that trade, we took that advantage away.

Didn’t Shaq step right in at the beginning of the year and fit right in?

Yeah, we were what ‘€¦

Thirty-three and 10 in the first 43 with Shaq.

Even more with Shaq, I think it was like 24-4 when he played 20-plus minutes. That gave us the confidence to do it. When we made the trade, Shaq’s injuries looked minor. It really did. Everyone from the doctors to the trainers to Shaq ‘€” we thought it was like days, he’d be out four or fives days or a week or two weeks. We obviously never knew it would take on the life that it did. Obviously, that took away a lot from us. Not having him for a 25 minutes a night at full speed, it hurt more than just him, obviously, on our team. I thought it really affected Rondo as well, because he wasn’t allowed to do some of the things he could have done.

Is he done? Has he told you that he’s done?

He’s not said it definitively. He’s said it and then he doesn’t say it. So, I think we’ll just wait and see. I would say yes, but I don’t know. I really don’t know.

Perk’s stats don’t jump off the stat sheet, but what did he do to help this basketball team that wasn’t measured in points and rebounds?

Perk knows all the sets. The things that we lost with Perkins, you didn’t see statistically. Just more of his defensive talk, his communication. He held everybody accountable, with Kevin. I think when you have two guys like that on your defense, especially when you’re big, it makes your defense really good.

Do you look at next year? Do you have a big red circle around 2012, even though you don;t know how long a season you’re going to have? Isn’t this the final run for Kevin and Ray?

Yeah. I think it is. I don’t know if it’s the final run for them as players, but for them being great players every night, I think Father Time wins every time. it never loses. So, we’re going to try to preserve them the best we can. That’s why I keep going back to we have to add the right guys, so we can do that. And the right guys that fit our team, that’s important as well.

What are they like? I know you can’t name names, but Tim Legler told us, ‘They have to get more athletic up front.’ And play above the rim. Would you agree?

Yeah. One of the things that stood out in the Miami series is that defensively we were pretty good, but they kept getting all the 50-50 balls. They destroyed us in that game. There were many times when we just literally couldn’t get the ball that was sitting in front of us on the floor. That’s below the rim, but that’s quickness and athleticism. Then we couldn’t get a lot of the rebounds when we had inside position. They still got rebounds. So, clearly, we have to be more athletic next year.

Do you have a theory as to what happened to Big Baby [Glen Davis] at the end? One columnist today says, “It’s reasonable to guess he’s tired of being Doc Rivers’ whipping boy.”

Well, I don’t know what it was. If that was it, then that’s too bad. To me, I thought it was more in between his ears than his play. I thought the whole contract thing affected his play. I thought he had the wrong focus at times because of that. I think when you stray away from just being a team player and being the role that you’re given, I think you struggle. I think all players do. And I thought Baby did that.

I thought scoring was way too important to him, instead of being who he is. Baby’s never going to be a great scorer in our league, but he can score. What Baby has to be is an energy player, a guy who takes charges. When you look at his charge numbers from the first 40 games and then the last 40, they’re cut down, he got very few of them. I thought a lot of that had to do with he became in thought offensively instead of being an energy player.

Do you know, did he gain weight at the end?

I don’t know that. I would guess yes. I think that was clear. But I don’t know that factual.

Do you want him back?

Yeah, if we can get him for the right price. I think it would be nice, but we can’t overpay. That will be up to Danny and Wyc [Grousbeck] and them. That’s one of the things I stay out of, at least I try to.

We’ve got to get him back in the right frame of mind. And that’s the way he was the last 20 games. Baby’s a good basketball player. He can help us or any other team. But, to me, only if he plays the right way.

Is recruiting part of your job now?

Well, that’€™s always been part of it. I don’€™t know if it’€™s begging or recruiting. I’€™m not sure which one of that it is. I think it’€™s a little bit of both. If you guys remember seven years ago when we got here, one of the things we said with Danny on the stage was that we wanted to make this a place that free agents wanted to come to. For a long time, this wasn’€™t. You couldn’€™t get guys to come here. Now, you can and we want to keep that going. We want to do whatever we can to try to attract some of the best players. When a player has a choice between one, two and three teams and he chooses Boston, that’€™ll be terrific.

Is Dwight Howard going to choose his team like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony did?

I won’€™t even go that road, but who knows? The route may all change so no one knows really. I think we all have to wait and see how this collective bargaining agreement thing works out. … In some ways, it is their right. Like I said after the Miami thing, LeBron didn’€™t do anything wrong. He did the system like any other businessman would and be applauded for. But when an athlete does it, he burns bridges. The emotions of sports and fans and there’€™s nothing you can do about that. We’€™ll see how it all works out, and I don’€™t think it’€™s healthy for our league. It did drum up a lot of interest I can tell you that, and that’€™s not all bad. But I just don’€™t know how healthy the way that is is. So we’€™ll see. We’€™ll see in the future.

Why didn’€™t we see more of Troy Murphy at the end?

Well, I just didn’€™t think he was ready for us. I thought he was working on it, and then you guys remember he got injured and basically got injured all the way until the playoffs started. I thought that put him so far behind. I was close at times and was more comfortable. You know really, I was just trying to get things out of Baby, get his confidence, get him playing right. And honestly, I wasn’€™t successful at doing that.

Are you thinking at all about moving up here? Does living up here make any sense?

Yeah it does. I probably will not. I will probably buy something. I have a kid that’€™s a sophomore in high school, and that’€™s one of the things that made it easy. We only have one kid in our house, which is strange, as you guys probably understand. So it’€™s easier travel for me as well to go back and forth to watch the kids play. We have Austin at Duke and then Spencer. My daughter just finished playing volleyball. She’€™s playing professional volleyball. Hopefully, my son [Jeremiah] can get on a team or in Europe somewhere. So that cuts off half my travel, which makes it a lot easier. I do think about that a lot.

Are you and Steve Pagliuca going to go to as many Duke games as you can get to together next year?

You know, I’€™m going to try to talk to Pags into going to go to more Duke games. It would be a great move for Pags. Very smart. … He’€™s an amazing Duke fan.

Five years is a long time. Have you thought about coaching your son or coaching against him in the NBA?

Yeah, I have. Well, no, I haven’€™t, but he brought it up. I’€™ll tell you that. He was joking, right after we decided and I told him five years, the first thing he said was, ‘€œGood, I can’€™t wait to get at you.’€ He wants to go against me, which would be a lot of fun. Coaching him would be tough because of his mom. Can you imagine yelling at him and then having to go back home? I don’€™t know how well that would work, guys.

Is that another thing we underrated that your kids think it’€™s really cool that you’€™re coaching the Celtics and not just some TV guy?

Yeah, that is, especially my youngest. That’€™s the first thing Spencer said last year. He was probably the one we talked to the most about this this year, and that was absolutely something he kept saying. He said, ‘€œYou got the job you want, and you’€™re working with the people you want. So don’€™t walk away from that for me. I’€™d feel awful.’€ And he’€™s right.

Did you consider that when you signed this contract that you’€™d have to talk to Dennis & Callahan for five more years?

I hesitated on that part for sure.

Read More: Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Glen Davis, Jeff Green
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