Rivers Has Father on His Mind

The Washington Post's Michael Lee reports from Boston, where the Celtics demolished the Lakers 131-92 to win their 17th NBA championship.Audio: Michael Lee/The Washington PostPhotos: AP, Getty, AFP, ReutersEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BOSTON, June 17 -- Coach Doc Rivers led Boston to its 17th NBA championship with a heavy heart. Rivers has struggled privately with the death of his father, Grady, throughout the season. He made it through Father's Day during Game 5 on Sunday. Grady Rivers would have turned 77 on Tuesday, and he was on his son's mind when the 131-92 victory was well in hand.

"It was the first thing I thought of," Doc Rivers said, with his suit soaked in red from a Gatorade shower. "My first thought was, 'What would my dad say?' And honestly, I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad: 'It's about time. What have you been waiting for?' "

Doc Rivers then lifted a bottle of champagne toward the ceiling.

Grady Rivers died in early November before the Celtics' second regular season game. Rivers missed one game, a road win at Toronto, and returned to action after his mother, Betty, encouraged her son to get back to coaching.

Rivers got emotional last week when asked about the impact his father has had on his life. He scratched his head while holding back tears for almost a minute before he later said: "He's just very important in my life. It's still very difficult for me to talk about because I haven't had a lot of time, really, to reflect on it. You know, it happened during the season unexpectedly. It's very, very difficult. But I do think about it. I think about it a lot."

Travel Woes

The Los Angeles Lakers' postseason opponents this spring have had bad luck with travel. Several Denver Nuggets players were stranded on the Santa Monica Freeway when the team bus caught fire before Game 1 in Los Angeles. The San Antonio Spurs were stranded on the tarmac in New Orleans for several hours after winning Game 7 against the Hornets and played Game 1 two days later. And finally, the Celtics were delayed in Los Angeles for more than three hours on Monday after experiencing problems with two planes.

Rivers said the Celtics planned to fly at 11 a.m. Pacific time, but they were informed at 9 a.m. to rush to the team bus because their first plane had broken down and they had to hurry to make another flight. "And when we get to the gate, we see the Laker plane taking off," Rivers said.

The Celtics boarded the next plane and reached the runway; then the pilot informed them that there would be a delay. "He said it was either going to be 10 minutes or two to three hours," Rivers said. "I bet we sat there for, I don't know, three, four hours, maybe longer, before we took off."

They eventually got on another plane and arrived in Boston around 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. "It was a long day, it really was," Rivers said.

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