Bidding farewell to Doc Rivers

It’s been a little over a week since Doc Rivers forced his way out of Boston.

Scouring the internet, it isn’t hard to find fans and media alike singing the praises of Doc. Many claim his time was up and that he had every right to move on. Some even see him as the savior of a storied franchise that had been tarnished and dragged through the mud for over two decades.

I remember it quite differently.

Through my eyes, I see a coach who hid behind a starting lineup that featured three, maybe four, future first-ballot Hall of Famers. I see a coach who saw an opportunity to prove his coaching grit, but instead chose the easy way out. I see a coach who cares more about salvaging his reputation than being honest.

But most of all, I see a coward.

Doc knew full well what he was getting himself into when he inked a five-year extension with the Celtics back in the spring of 2011. At the time, Kevin Garnett was 35, Paul Pierce was turning 34 and Ray Allen was closing in on 35. The chances any of them played past 2014—let alone 2016—were slim to none.

A rebuild was likely on the horizon. Doc knew this.

“Kevin and Paul and Ray are getting older,” he told the media two years ago. “But at the end of the day, I still coach the Celtics. It’s why I took the job originally [in 2004] and we didn’t have them back then. It’s why I stayed here. It really is.”

Save it.

That time is here and Doc took the first opportunity to bolt out the door. Now he will spend his days coaching a Los Angeles Clippers squad fresh off its best season in franchise history. Tough life.

Rivers was quick to exit to Los Angeles.
However, leaving isn’t the biggest problem. It’s the lies.

Why couldn’t Doc just simply inform the media that the Clippers’ head-coaching vacancy was just an opportunity he couldn’t pass up? Or that he quite frankly wanted no part in a rebuilding process?

Sure, the fans might be angry at first. But at the end of the day, the NBA is a business. We all know what it’s like to have a job.

Instead, Doc went ahead and wove a web of lies so thick it could house more flies than Andrew Bynum’s craziest hairstyle.

My only question is this: How is this “betrayal”, if you will, any less hurtful and conniving than Allen’s decision to sign with the Miami Heat last summer?

Back then, the fan base took it as a slap in the face when the 37-year-old turned down the Celtics’ offer in favor of a lesser contract with the Heat. Especially since it was a team that Boston had developed a heated rivalry with over the last couple of years.

From Allen’s point of view, he was doing what was best for him.

Turning 36 and coming off a disappointing season, Allen was faced with two options: Either A, watch his career dwindle away on a middle-of-the-pack team or B, take a pay cut and play for the team that offers him the best chance to finish off his career with another title.

In hindsight, as much as it may pain you to admit, Allen’s decision was a success. In fact, one can even argue that if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t be stuck with a second-straight summer of LeBronCenter clogging up our TVs. Talk about twisting the knife.

Last year, in his two visits to the TD Garden, Allen was greeted with a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball. Nobody cared that this was the same guy who played a vital role during the Celtics’ two trips to the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010.

So why should Doc be treated any differently?

Maybe he too realized that his stock was beginning to fall. Or maybe things were slowly starting to come around full circle.

Last season, Boston struggled mightily.

Besides posting a 41-40 record—the team’s worst since 2007—the Celtics struggled to finish off opponents, losing seven games that they had once led by double digits. The team was also just 11-12 in contests decided by five points or less with opponents outscoring Boston in the fourth quarter in 16 of those games.

Sounds eerily similar to that aforementioned 2007 squad.

That season, the Celtics lost a whopping 58 games. They too struggled to close out, coughing up double-digit leads in the second half eight times. Boston was also just 7-20 in contests decided by five points or less. The team was outscored in the fourth quarter in 18 of those games.

Furthermore, those Celtics posted a 12-29 record on the road. Last year’s edition registered a 14-27 mark away from home.

But here’s the kicker: Doc posted a 102-144 (41.4%) record during his first three seasons with the team. That record improved to 234-94 (71.3%) during 2007-11. Over the last two years in Boston, his record dropped to 80-67 (54.5%).

It’s no coincidence that Doc’s success coincides with the time period that Garnett, Allen and Pierce were all in their prime. It’s not too far-fetched to say that he owes the majority of his success to these three.

I mean, were we really supposed to think that after eight seasons of mediocre coaching—273-312 (46.6%)—that Doc finally figured it out in a span of three months? Yeah, OK.

Seems like it was only yeterday.
Don’t get me wrong, Doc is certainly a very solid coach. The players listened to him and the media loved him. But that’s where I draw the line.

Calling him great or one of the best head coaches in Celtics’ history is downright ridiculous. Especially when you consider that out of the six coaches who have led Boston to a championship, Doc holds both the worst regular season and postseason win percentage at 57.7% and 55.6% respectively.

However, the next few seasons were set up perfectly to change all that.

Could he squeeze the most out of a young team? Could he turn a rebuilding franchise into a dark horse contender? Could he transform Rajon Rondo into a superstar that you can build around?

Those are the questions whose answers could have defined Doc’s legacy. Instead, he chose to jump from the coattails of two fading superstars onto the coattails of two rising ones in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.

He chose yearlong summers over New England winters. The Beach Boys over Aerosmith. Jamal Crawford over Jordan Crawford.

But more importantly, Doc chose NBA titles over NBA lottery picks.

Maybe he was being selfish. Or maybe this is payback for the first three years of torment and booing the city gave him.

Either way, one thing is perfectly clear: When the going gets tough, Doc starts going…anywhere but here.

Until that changes, he’s just an ordinary coach who fell into a perfect situation. Nothing more.

Good riddance, Glenn.

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