Q&A What's up, Doc?
The Globe got some early answers during a sit-down with the brand-new Celtics coach
Before returning to his other job as an NBA analyst for ABC today, new Celtics coach Doc Rivers discussed his plans for the future over breakfast Friday morning on what will be the ﬁrst of many full workdays for the 16th head coach in franchise history. He addressed how the team will play and how he will foster team chemistry. While he provided some speciﬁcs, Rivers said many details will have to wait until he knows the ﬁnal roster for next season. Still, he has already reached out to every player who ﬁnished the season with the Celtics and introduced himself. Throughout the offseason, the Celtics and their fans will gain a better idea of what Rivers will bring to Boston. For now, there will be a lot of introductions.
Q. How much difference can you make with this team?
A. I hope I make a huge difference. Thats the only reason Im here. The new notion that guys dont want to be coached to me is bull. The new notion that guys cant be led, I think, is crap. And the new notion that you cant motivate players is crap. I think you absolutely can and they absolutely want it. I have no doubt about that.
Ive coached for four years in our league and Ive seen guys, for the most part, want to be coached. Ive seen guys who needed to be motivated and were motivated. And Ive seen guys who have followed and wanted to be led. They have to believe in what you're trying to get across to them. It's my job to sell that to them.
Q. What do you think are realistic expectations for the Celtics next season?
A. I haven't formed them yet because we don't know who our team is going to be yet. We still have three draft picks, the mid-class exception [about $5 million] and the lower exception [about $1.5 million]. So I haven't formed any expectations yet. I want improvement. That's the easy answer.
Q. How many roster changes do you anticipate? Will there be a major overhaul this offseason?
A. No, I don't think so. We're going to try to improve the team. I don't think there's going to be any blockbuster trades or anything like that. We're going to just keep trying to add to the talent pool, and hopefully, get lucky, too. Sometimes something will happen that, wow, it really improves your team.
This does seem like a summer that there's going to be a lot of opportunity to make moves because of the climate right now, especially in the East and with all the coaching changes. Usually, when there's a lot of coaching changes, that means coaches want to change the roster that they're going into. So, if there's a chance to take advantage of that . . .
That's one of the reasons I felt that if I did take a coaching job, I wanted to take it early, to get in on that frenzy if that happens.
Q. Who do you look at as your core group of players?
A. Again, it's a tough call. Paul Pierce is absolutely in the core. There's no doubt about that. Raef LaFrentz needs to be healthy, obviously. Marcus Banks. Walter [McCarty] has been a great veteran that you want on your team. There's a lot of guys. But again, until we get the roster set, you just don't know. It's tough to have a core, until you coach them and create a core. So, right now, I don't know who the core would be beyond Paul Pierce.
Q. You've signed a four-year contract. Realistically, where do you think this team could be in four years?
A. I know where I would like to be, but let's just wait and see. I know where I want to go. I want to have a parade someday. Where do they have parades in Boston when [the Celtics] win titles? Do we remember? Wherever that is, that's where I want to be. That's all I want. I've been close as a player, never as a coach. I told my wife, and I know it's bull, but I want it so bad, I can see myself getting it and quitting.
Q. What are expectations of the players going to be?
A. To be better than whatever the talent we end up amassing is. To be better than what people expect us to be. I've always said, "Exceed expectations." So, whatever we do this summer, whatever people's expectations are, I guarantee you ours will be higher. You have to think that way.
Q. What needs to happen so the Celtics can overachieve next season?
A. We have to become a team. From the outside, you could see that that was falling apart a little bit here. We don't have to go dancing together. The players don't have to go dancing together, either. But they have to dance on the floor together. If they can do that, then we're going to be OK. But we have to become a team, a team that shares the ball, moves the ball. I said this with the last team I coached. The goal for me is when you come out of the game is to just sit on the open seat. You don't look who you're sitting next to. That's what we have to become.
Q. What new insights or approaches will you bring to Boston?
A. I think I can be better in a lot of ways. I thought I was a darn good coach for those first four years [in Orlando]. But I keep looking back at the stress that was on our franchise because of the Grant Hill situation. I don't think I realized the stress the players were under because of that. I have to see things like that better. I have to see the environment and what they're going through, instead of just grinding them every single second.
I just wanted to win so bad, sometimes I just ignored the Grant Hill situation. I kept saying, "So what? So what?" You do have to ignore that because that's just an excuse. But you also have to have compassion for what the players are going through at times. I didn't understand at times when they weren't as excited as I was. I learned you have to look, you have to see, you have to gauge the wind sometimes. But you still have to barrel through and work. Work is not something you want to do.
Q. What about developing players, particularly young players?
A. It bugged me when someone asked me something about [former Orlando general manager] John Gabriel and the Orlando Magic saying I didn't develop young guys. I took offense as you can tell because I started thinking, "Now, wait a minute, Chucky Atkins had never played in the NBA and he flourished under me. Ben Wallace had really never played in the NBA and he got his biggest contract under me. Mike Miller got the Rookie of the Year. John Amaechi had never played in the NBA and ended up signing a multiyear deal under me. And Tracy McGrady." So, I'm thinking, "Where the hell is this coming from?"
Q. Would you say one of your strengths is developing young players? A. Yeah, or giving them confidence.
Q. Is that the biggest challenge with young players?
A. Absolutely. I think these young players have talent. They have to be taught how to win. I think they know how to play basketball their way. They know how to score, how to do things. They haven't figured out how to do it and win at the same time.
My job is to push them to a level where they haven't been and give them confidence that they can do it and do it in a winning environment. What's the saying? "I'm never going to treat a player as he is seen now. I am going to treat him as I think he should be someday.'` That's been my motto.
Q. What might a typical Boston box score look like next season? Will the team average more than 100 points per game with an up-tempo offense? A. That would be nice, but more importantly, I want to be efficient offensively. We won't have to score but 95, if it's an efficient 95 points. And we have to understand what is a good shot. I don't think there's a lot of bad shooters in our league. I think there's a lot of bad shot selection. You look at some of these guys, some of the shots they take, and they can't make these shots. Then, they're labeled bad shooters. I'm thinking, "That's a horrendous shot. He's not a bad shooter. I watched him shoot in practice and before the game and he didn't miss." The game starts and the bad shots start. Patience is a big part of it. You want to push the ball up and seek the best shot you can get, but don't settle for what the defense is trying to give you. I think a lot of them settle. It's easy to settle for anything.
Q. Can you effectively balance fast-break basketball and tough defense?
A. It's bull [that you can't have both]. You know what that is, it's the insecurity of some guys who believe that you're giving up some of your authority if you allow guys to run. That's part of it. That's crap to me. I do think you can't win without playing defense. I will say that. You cannot win in our league without defense, unless Sacramento gets lucky. But I haven't seen it yet.