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Celtics coach Doc Rivers ‘proud of’ Jason Collins

Celtics [1] coach Doc Rivers [2] issued this statement after former C’s center Jason Collins [3] became the first openly gay active player [4] in major American sports:

“I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’€™s a pro’€™s pro. He is the consummate professional and he is one of my favorite ‘team’ players I have ever coached. If you have learned anything from Jackie Robinson [5], it is that teammates are always the first to accept. It will be society who has to learn tolerance. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘I am who I am, are whom we are, can be what I want to be. It’s not up to you, it’€™s just me being me.'”

Outing himself in this Sports Illustrated article [6], Collins quoted Rivers: “If you want to go quickly, go by yourself — if you want to go farther, go in a group.”

As recently as three weeks ago, Rivers discussed the inevitability of an openly gay NBA player [7]. ‘€œThere’€™ll be a lot of talk about it, and then I think it will go away,’€ Rivers said before a Celtics practice on April 9, the day after he took the team to watch the “42” film about Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier.

SI’s Ian Thomsen caught up with Rivers [8] after Collins’ announcement on Monday.

“He is terrific,” Rivers told Thomsen. “Losing him was hard for me because I just thought he was such a great teammate and such a great guy in the locker room. That’s what you want is those guys in your locker room.”

The C’s reportedly tried to ship Chris Wilcox [9] to the Wizards in exchanged for Jordan Crawford but instead dealt Collins because Wilcox had the right to consent to the deal [10]. Here’s what else Rivers told SI:

Celtics assistant coach Kevin Eastman also declared his support for Collins on Twitter.

Likewise, Celtics guard Terrence Williams, who played one game in green before Collins was dealt to the Wizards at the trade deadline, voiced his support on Twitter.