The Doc Is Still In: The Best Move the Boston Celtics Never Made

Ryan Desmarais@RyanDesmaraisCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2009

BOSTON - JUNE 17:  Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics celebrates with a victory cigar after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 17, 2008 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Allow me to take you back for a moment.

Let's go back to one of the lowest times in the history of the Boston Celtics.

A time where the only thing that was lower than the team's expectations was their level of play.

A time before thoughts of Kevin Garnett pounding his fist against a green Celtics jersey existed.

A time before Ray Allen regularly stepped on the parquet floor to display one of the sweetest strokes we've ever witnessed.

A time before the possibility of a 17th banner in the rafters was truly realistic.

We don't even have to go back that far, either.

It was only three years ago that the Celtics stumbled through one of the franchise's worst seasons in history, winning only 24 games and once again reaching the dreaded laughing-stock status that they had attained in the mid to late '90's.

Their lone superstar wanted out. He was just as sick and tired as the fans were of hearing the dreaded "P" word, a word only used by organizations that know they have no real shot of winning anything for the foreseeable future.


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For a city that had been starved for elite NBA action, potential and patience just wasn't going to cut it anymore. Something had to be done to shake things up within the organization.

And the sacrificial lamb of just about any organization is the head coach.

Doc Rivers' resume as an NBA head coach was average at best. His career winning percentage hovered around .500 before he came to Boston and that didn't really change much once he began coaching the Celtics.

His team's 24-win performance was preceded by a first round playoff exit in 2005 and a 33-win season in 2006. In terms of Celtics coaches, Rivers' name was being mentioned alongside M.L. Carr's and Rick Pitino's.

The rumors of Rivers being replaced started mid-season and continued through the Draft Lottery, where the Celtics missed out on the No. 1 pick yet again.

But Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office stuck with their man.

As the new Big Three came aboard that off-season and the hopes of Celtics fans rose by the second, questions continued to surround Rivers and his ability to handle a team of that caliber. This was his chance to show the world that he was a legitimate NBA coach.

If Rivers couldn't win with that group, he wasn't going to win. Period.

With a lot of talent on the club, Rivers was finally able to show the skeptics why the front office was right in keeping him around. Sure, the team won 66 games in 2008 and wound up bringing a championship to a rejuvenated basketball town. But it's how he did it that was remarkable.

On a team where superstars reigned supreme, Rivers enforced a team-first attitude. Nobody on the team was more important than another. Everyone had a role and he made sure each player perfected their role.

He came up with the "ubuntu" mindset, a brotherhood which relies on each other during great adversity. He helped build a fighter's mentality that ultimately carried them to the NBA title.

Even more importantly, Rivers was a player's coach and a teacher. He would get in the ear of Rajon Rondo constantly, even when he did something positive. He also had no problem pulling one of his future Hall of Famers aside to critique their play. Rivers demanded respect from his players and his players willingly gave it to him.

And he never had to throw tantrums to get his respect.

Rivers became more like a team manager in baseball than an NBA head coach. It was more about making the players more comfortable and allowing their true skills to shine. But he made sure those skills were part of the team setting rather than in repeated isolation plays.

Now let's come back to the present.

Doc Rivers doesn't have to worry about his job security anymore.

He's one of the best coaches in the NBA today.

He's a champion.

All he needed was a little talent to work with.

All he needed was a chance.

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