Celtics call Doc
Rivers to be introduced as next head coach today
Doc Rivers will be the next coach of the Celtics, team sources and a source close to Rivers confirmed yesterday afternoon.
Those same sources said the sides simply needed to complete some paperwork this morning before officially introducing Rivers as the team's 16th coach at a press conference this afternoon.
When asked about his plans for the future, Rivers told associates in Orlando, Fla., yesterday that he was headed to Boston today to take the job.
Ainge declined comment yesterday on reports of Rivers's hiring, though he canceled a scouting trip to Europe scheduled to start yesterday.
Rivers returns to coaching after the Magic fired him Nov. 18 when his team started the 2003-04 season 1-10. Orlando would have paid Rivers $5 million for next season if he did not take another head coaching job in the NBA. The Celtics likely needed to come close to that figure to lure Rivers. Also, any deal Rivers agreed to must give him enough time to develop talent such as Marcus Banks, Kendrick Perkins, and the three first-round picks (Nos. 15, 24, 25) in this year's draft, meaning his contract with the Celtics will likely run three or more years.
In discussing the search for a new coach, Ainge has always talked about the importance of a strong staff. Since being fired in Orlando, Rivers has mentioned to colleagues his preference for bringing his former assistants with him to a new job. It's likely Rivers will be joined by Orlando assistants Dave Wohl, Paul Pressey, and Mark Hughes.
During a press conference Monday afternoon following the Celtics' quick exit from the playoffs, Ainge said he would not rush the search for a new coach. Since it only took two days to bring Rivers officially into the Boston fold, it's safe to assume Ainge knew some time ago whom he wanted to hire. And he did not wait to grab his man. Unlike other moves Ainge has made during his nearly yearlong tenure, the timing was right.
Although Ainge claimed he felt no sense of urgency, his quick decision on a replacement for dismissed interim coach John Carroll has provided the franchise with the first signs of stability since Jim O'Brien resigned Jan 27. Players can now more easily sense the team proceeded with some plan. Weeks of speculation likely would have added to the frustration they felt throughout the second half of the season. Also, Rivers has an entire offseason to meet with the players and let them know what lies ahead.
"What I like about it is Doc is going to bring something that we need," said Chucky Atkins, who played for Rivers in Orlando during the 1999-2000 season. "He's going to define everybody's role. He's going to let everybody know what he expects out of each individual player. He's going to be somewhat like Jim O'Brien was. He's going to be a disciplinarian. Guys are going to have to be more of a team next year as opposed to this year, when they were individuals.
"Doc's style is great for the type of team we have. We've got young guys with a lot of talent and a lot of energy that like to get up and down the court. Guys like Ricky Davis, Paul Pierce, Marcus Banks, Raef LaFrentz, myself are going to flourish because he's going to put those guys in situations where they're going to be successful. One thing I really like about Doc is that he takes his scheme of basketball and forms it around his players. He's going to get the most out of each individual player."
Shortly after Rivers became coach of the Magic June 7, 1999, he quickly earned a reputation for getting the most out of his players every night. With four undrafted starters, Rivers guided Orlando to a 41-41 record in his first season, bringing the franchise within one game of the playoffs and earning Coach of the Year honors. The next three seasons under Rivers, the Magic reached the postseason, though they lost in the first round each year.
The most devastating first-round exit came last year, when No. 8 seed Orlando won three of the first four games against No. 1 seed Detroit before bowing out of the playoffs in Game 7. An offseason full of changes followed. Then, a slow start to the 2003-04 season and tension between Rivers and management precipitated his exit from Orlando. Rivers finished his first coaching tenure with a 171-168 record.
During his time with the Magic, Rivers proved himself an excellent communicator. Ainge has repeatedly listed strong communication skills as an important quality for his next coach. The wish list also included a disciplinarian, a teacher of the game, someone who can develop young talent and guide an uptempo team without ignoring defense. During his 13-year NBA career, Rivers certainly had coaches/mentors who encompassed all those qualities -- Pat Riley with the Knicks, Mike Fratello with the Hawks, and Larry Brown with the Clippers.
While Rivers has an easygoing manner, he can be tough behind closed doors. He is considered a master motivator, a quality that would serve the current Celtics well. And as far as young players are considered, Rivers likes Banks. Last summer, Orlando wanted to draft the speedy point guard out of Nevada-Las Vegas. Rivers also enjoys coaching overachievers. He appreciates players who exceed their presumed abilities.
In the past, Rivers has been criticized for simple offensive sets. And Orlando was a woeful defensive team last season. But talent was partially to blame. It will be interesting to see what personnel moves Ainge and Rivers make together this offseason.
"It's good that [Danny] did it right away, not only because he gets an opportunity to show the players he's moving in the right direction, but because it allows Doc Rivers to get the personnel he needs in order for us to be good," Atkins said. "Getting him is only one of the solutions. The most important thing is we've got to get players in that are going to bring a tough mind-set and a tough way of playing back to the Boston Celtics.
"It's very good that Danny did it quickly because it shows that he's prepared. That's not a fly-by-night decision, picking who you're going to get to coach your team. He's taken a lot of criticism for getting rid of players and this and that. But I think he has a vision and I have total confidence in him. Doc's a great guy. He's a good basketball mind. He's definitely what this team needs."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.