Rivers Shouldn't Be Diverted
Maintain Pace, Drink Fluids, Avoid Polar Bears
By Matt Bonesteel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 14, 2004; Page D02
Memo to Doc Rivers: Please stay.
Why on earth would you want to coach the Boston Celtics next year and stand in the shadows of Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and K.C. Jones when you can spend another year (or better yet, years) doing excellent color commentary for NBA games on ABC? Haven't you heard that the Celtics' second-leading returning scorer will be incorrigible head case Ricky Davis, with Chucky Atkins right behind him? In Boston, you'll have to win, deal with the prickly press and try to resurrect a stagnant NBA franchise that has only one viable star in Paul Pierce. On ABC, all you have to do is show up and speak your mind.
And that's something you've done exceptionally well during the NBA Finals, Doc. You've become one of the few reasons to sit through that annoying "Let's Get It Started" song ABC has drilled into our heads, Tom Tolbert's upholstery-themed suits, incessant camera shots of Jack Nicholson, horrendous shots, horrendous passes, near air balls from the free throw line and complete air balls from three-point land. In other words, bad basketball.
Good defense, yes, especially by the Pistons, but good defense does not necessarily translate into good basketball, at least to watch.
You and Al Michaels seem to have developed quite a rapport, which is amazing considering the relatively few number of games you've worked together this season. In Game 1, Michaels set you up with talk about the wealth of successful older coaches in the league these days. "So you're saying I don't have a chance?" you joked as a relative youngster of 42.
See, Doc, you're funny. Here's another example, one that got you "They Said It" honors in this week's Sports Illustrated: "The Lakers should play their games at 3 o'clock with the other soap operas." When is anyone going to give you the chance to show that quick wit with the Celtics?
Coaches are expected to be serious and boring.
But your skills are much deeper than one-liners. In Game 3 on Thursday, you mentioned that there's no way the Lakers' Kobe Bryant can guard Pistons big man Corliss Williamson in the post. A few plays later, Williamson scored on Bryant again from down low. "They didn't listen to me," you deadpanned.
Do you think the Celtics will?
Doc, you obviously realize how sorry the play is in today's NBA. "I don't think that's taught in the Larry Brown Basketball School," you said after Williamson, who will never be called the second coming of Bob Cousy, attempted a behind-the-back pass in Game 3. "You know, some coaches count to 10 when bad things happen," you said in Game 2 on Tuesday. "The problem is, if you're not coaching a great team, you'll miss the game." Unlike some color commentators, especially one named Bill Walton, you said this lightly, not as if you had been personally insulted by the bad play.
But you've made your decision. Next year, when you're counting to 10,000 after Davis's fifth no-look three-point attempt of the quarter, hopefully you'll look back fondly upon the days when you could joke about such things behind the microphone.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
This is one-twelfth of the entire field for the world's northernmost marathon, running the roads near Longyearbyen, Norway, which is at 78 degrees north latitude.
(Mireille De La Lez -- Reuters)