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It's hard to fathom Doc Rivers coaching for any other franchise than the Boston Celtics.

His first stint in Orlando (1999-2003), taught him a lot about coaching young superstars and showed he wasn't ready.  Doc had Tracy McGrady and the oft injured Grant Hill at his disposal. Hill and McGrady barely played together, yet his 2002-03 Orlando Magic team had the favored Detroit Pistons down 3-1 in the playoffs.

It was McGrady's now infamous words "It's nice to finally be in the second round" that were his team's undoing.

The Magic never recovered and Doc was unceremoniously dumped the next year.  The question is, did he learn anything from it?

2004-05 saw the beginning of the Doc Rivers era in Boston.  He inherited a team with Antoine Walker and a brash Paul Pierce. Pierce was nowhere near what he is today. At that point, he was still a great scorer, but when paired with Antoine, his leadership skills were lacking.

The 2005-06 season saw a revamped roster and Paul clearly had become the face of the franchise by default. From day one, PP's voice was heard in practice and he would wonder out loud about Doc's method of going so hard, when it was only practice.

Rivers learned his lessons from Orlando well. He needed to have his star player buy-in on his terms. He told the team to ignore him, because Doc understood that it had to be more about the team then any one star player. He also had some young pieces in Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Gerald Green and Delonte West. All of which, except for Perkins, were traded to help form the 2008 championship core of Garnett, Ray Allen and Pierce.

Doc finally had players he didn't have to explain things to, and he was living vicariously through Rondo's high basketball IQ.

Doc has come tantalizingly close since then to bringing banner 18 to the Bay State again.  His 2008-09 chance of repeating was derailed by a Kevin Garnett knee injury. Another knee injury, this time to Kendrick Perkins in the 2010 NBA Finals all but put the kibosh on their dream of winning it all in L.A.



Most of Doc's coaching career involves him losing one or more of his stars to season ending injuries, yet he manages to make his team mesh in ways that aren't readily apparent.  This year is no different, but it is something he is used to doing.  Having to scrap and claw and make his players believe in their own abilities, no matter how limited they are.  If it fits into what he wants to do, he will make it work.

As innovative as he is in drawing up last second plays, he can be very stubborn if he has all of his players at his disposal.

When it came to Rondo, Doc was secure in his knowledge that if it took for the play to go to option "zed" it would be done.  Rondo was his security blanket, but it also hurt the team.  The sets that brought them deep into the playoffs when others left them for dead, just didn't work anymore.

The work ethic and "grind it out" basketball that he loved so much needed a little tweaking; and it took injuries for him to stand up and deliver what we already knew about him. That if he used the same inventiveness for the whole game that he used at the end, the Celtics would thrive. If only because for the first time in his Celtic coaching career he actually has young players who Pierce and Garnett can trust beside Rondo when the game is on the line.

Doc doesn't have his encyclopedic guard at his disposal and it calls for him to believe even more so in his players and assistant coaches. He is doing this by building trust and it shows in Boston's 33-27 record and their winning their last three road games. Wednesday night's game was won by something Assistant Coach Armond Hill noticed, that the Pacers were pushing up on KG at the top of the key.  This resulted in Jeff Green's game winning layup after a crushing back-pick set by PP against Indiana's David West.

In the past he may not have listened so much or second-guessed himself.  But now, he sees that sometimes you just have to do less and let go.

Frances 3/07/2013 10:35:00 PM Edit
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