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Back in Boston for ABCD charity event, Doc Rivers laments departure of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce from Celtics

09.12.13 at 1:06 pm ET
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Doc Rivers returned to TD Garden on Wednesday night. The former coach of the Celtics served as a co-chair of the Action for Boston Community Development’s Hoop Dreams charity event and spent the evening shaking hands, signing autographs and sharing stories about his time in Boston.

“It’s tough to leave the Celtics because it’s the Celtics,” Rivers said. “It was the best nine years of basketball that I’ve ever been a part of, but I also fell in love with the city. And, for me, the hardest part is leaving the city. I’ve met friends that have changed my life here, and they’ll always be my friends.”

Sitting a few rows behind the Celtics bench, Rivers shared some insight on his tenure with the Celtics.

Kevin Garnett served as a focal point of the discussion. Rivers lamented the fact that KG never let the city see his vivacious side.

“Fans never got to see Kevin’s personality,” Rivers said. “I wish the city got to know Kevin more. He’s the single best athlete that I’ve ever been around as far as being a team guy. He’s as ‘team’ of a star as I’ve ever seen. A lot of stars are stars, but he’s unselfish, to a fault at times, but every coach should be able to coach Kevin Garnett just to see what a true team player should be.”

Rivers agreed that Garnett is an atypical NBA superstar, as he is a pass-first player who relishes his role as a teammate.

“He did a lot of good things that people don’t know,” Rivers said. “When rookies came in, he would bring them up to my office. He’d sit them down, and then he would bring his tailor in and say, ‘If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to dress like a pro.’ And he would buy each rookie two suits, and he did it every year. To me, that says a lot about Kevin Garnett as a teammate.”

Rivers also admitted that Garnett has an interesting use of the English language.

“The word that starts with ‘f’? He thought it was a noun, verb and an adjective,” Rivers said.

Celtics fans may never have the opportunity to see Garnett reveal his personality, but he delighted the city with his Hall of Fame play for six seasons.

“He’s full of life and a great guy in the locker room,” Rivers said. “He’s so unselfish, I think he would have scored another 10,000 points if he wanted. He’s the only player I’ve ever yelled at for not shooting. He always felt like if he took three or four shots in a row, that was too many. He needed to share the ball.”

Rivers acknowledged that the 2011 Kendrick Perkins-Jeff Green trade was a mistake that ultimately hurt Garnett.

“I think so,” reflected Rivers, “because we needed the toughness. The one thing we did by losing Perk was we removed Kevin’s protector. I didn’t think it was a coincidence that, after Perk left, that Kevin got into all those little flicks with the other teams. Perk deflected all that.”

As for Paul Pierce, like Garnett now in Brooklyn with the Nets, Rivers never wanted to see the longtime Celtics captain leave Boston.

“I didn’t want Paul to go, even though I knew it was coming,” said Rivers. “That was a tough one for me. Even when I was here and it was being talked about — my thing is, Kobe [Bryant] is going to end up being a Laker for life. Dirk [Nowitzki] is going to be a Maverick. That’s the one thing that, if we didn’t do right, that was the one right thing we didn’t do for Paul.”

When asked about the post-basketball careers for some of his former Celtics, Rivers said he pictures Pierce and Rajon Rondo as coaches. While Garnett claims he is going to drift away into a life of anonymity, Rivers has his doubts.

“He swears we’ll never hear from him again, but I don’t believe that,” Rivers said. “I think he is too competitive and he loves it, he loves basketball. I don’t think you can just fall out of love with it and walk away.”

Turning his attention to his new team, Rivers touched on his new point guard, Chris Paul.

“I see a lot similarities between he and Isiah Thomas,” Rivers said. “I’ve already reached out to Isiah. With his ball-handling skills, he’s as close to Isiah as we’ve had in the game.”

With training camp right around the corner, Rivers already has set his goal for the upcoming season.

“Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the first thing I asked them, I said, you know what bugged me? I watched the Finals, and you guys were on more than the game. You’re on every commercial. We need to get off the commercials and onto the floor.”

As for the Hoop Dreams event, Rivers worked with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) to raise $100,00 for the third straight year. ABCD is Boston’s anti-poverty agency, and Rivers joined forces with longtime Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan to create the event. Modeled after ABCD’s Field of Dreams softball fundraiser at Fenway Park, Hoop Dreams is a basketball fundraiser in which corporations organize teams to play on the Garden parquet.

“They reach out,” Rivers said. “Most organizations can only touch one area, but ABCD reaches so many groups. They have job programs, they have senior citizen programs, and I thought this way a great way to get involved with the city of Boston.”

ABCD president John Drew is very thankful that Rivers has been so invested in serving the people of Boston.

“It wouldn’t happen without him,” Drew said. “He came to Boston nine years ago and spoke at our yearly dinner on his first trip to Boston. Over several years, he spoke with our staff about wanting to be involved, and this Hoop Dreams event finally came to fruition on the Garden floor. Doc is coming all the way from LA to be at the event. He promised us a year ago, and even though he’s no longer coaching the Celtics.’€

By the end of the night, Rivers promised to stay involved with ABCD. He also vowed to involve both Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens in next year’s fundraiser. Ryan tipped his cap to Rivers for creating such a meaningful fundraiser.

“This event is thanks to Doc Rivers,” Ryan said. “He had the idea of playing basketball at the Garden, on the parquet. Without his clout with the Celtics and the Garden, I don’t know that it ever would have happened. You can see his fidelity. He’s here, he’s back from LA, because he believes very firmly in this organization.”

Read More: ABCD, Bob Ryan, Chris Paul, Doc Rivers
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