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Doc Rivers on D&C: Jeff Green ‘starting to take off’

Celtics [1] coach Doc Rivers [2] made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning and talked about the final month of the regular season, the Mike Rice controversy at Rutgers, and how he almost played for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

The Celtics clinched a playoff berth Wednesday with a 98-93 victory over the Pistons. Jeff Green [3] scored 34 points and hit a key 3-pointer in the final minute, continuing his resurgence after sitting out last season following heart surgery.

“He missed a year last year. You just don’t walk back on the court and play well, especially with the injury that he had,” Rivers said. “I just think it took some time. This is the next phase of his career, and he’s starting to take off.”

The Celtics head into the home stretch of the regular season looking to take advantage of some well-timed off days.

“This is a great stretch here,” Rivers said. “I hope we can really improve out team over this next week, because we practice [and] days off. So it’s a pretty good stretch here for us to try to get some improvement in.

Kevin Garnett [4] remains out with an ankle injury, but Rivers said he expects the team’s inspirational leader to return in time to get some games under his belt before the playoffs.

“He’ll play soon,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if he’ll play Friday, but I think he’ll be playing pretty soon.”

The big news in the basketball world this week was the reaction to the videotape of since-fired Rutgers coach Mike Rice abusing players in practices.

“I did see the video and it was just shocking,” Rivers said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in any practice that I’ve been in. ‘€¦ I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Added Rivers: “I don’t know coach Rice at all. But obviously I think when he saw that, you understand that he probably changed as well, which is a good thing for him. But that was hard to watch. And I just felt for those kids. Because the college kids, they go to college and their careers are in coaches’ hands. So, they will not complain no matter how bad things are, because they all have this dream of making it to the NBA, and they don’t want to be they guy, that guy that started a scandal and get the black mark. So, they can really be taken advantage of. In that case, they were.”

Rivers said the intimidating style of coaching is not something that works long term.

“There’s coaches who have done that. I’ve never believed that that lasts,” Rivers said. “Yeah, maybe for a moment it may work. But at some point it becomes white noise, and it no longer works. So, I don’t believe in that. I get on my guys, I encourage them, I yell at them at times, I guess. But at the end of the day I challenge them to just want to be better and do better for the team. At the end of the day, I think that’s the right approach.”

Former Indiana coach Bobby Knight was well known for his aggressive behavior. Rivers recalled that he almost played for the Hoosiers during Knight’s heyday in the early 1980s, although he decision to instead attend Marquette was not primarily because of Knight’s coaching style.

Isiah [Thomas] and I grew up together [in Chicago], and we made this pact that we were going to go to the same school,” Rivers said. “Originally Isiah was going to go to DePaul and he switched at the last moment and went to Indiana. So, I took a visit to Indiana, and I just decided [not to go there]. And Isiah told me he was leaving [for Indiana], he wasn’t staying. So, for me, it was pretty easy. I just didn’t want to go.”

Added Rivers: “It really wasn’t as much [because of Knight]. It’s not the school that I had envisioned, that I wanted to go to. So, it was more of that. Knight did a lot of that, but he didn’t do that [what Rice did]. I remember Randy Wittman, who played for coach Knight, he said that Knight did yell and scream, but it was a challenging scream. Not, ‘You stupid guy.’ He would scream, ‘You’re better than that. You know you are.’ It’s amazing how you can scream at someone and one way can be positive and the other way can be completely degrading and negative. He always thought the way Knight got on you was more challenging for you to be a better person and a better player.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [5]. For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics [6].