Rivers runs through it

He’s ‘leaning’ but he’s not revealing

Doc Rivers said he has talked with his family about his coaching future in passing. Doc Rivers said he has talked with his family about his coaching future in passing. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / June 22, 2010

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The thought of leaving the Celtics to spend more time with his family had tempted coach Doc Rivers in the past, but as he continued to decompress from an emotionally draining season that ended in a Game 7 Finals loss to the Lakers last Thursday, Rivers’s tone yesterday suggested that the urge to step away from the game — if only briefly — is stronger now than in any other offseason.

Four days removed from the Finals, Rivers made his regular appearance on WEEI and shed some light on his thoughts. His decision likely will be the first domino to fall in an offseason full of change for the Celtics, as they potentially transition out of the second Big Three Era, in which there were two Finals appearances and an NBA title in 2008.

Family always has been the prevailing issue for Rivers, but what makes it difficult is that he sounds like a man with two families: the one in Orlando, Fla., and the one in Boston. Even though a couple of his children were out of town playing games, Rivers spent Father’s Day with family. He said he has talked about his coaching future in passing, but would have another conversation with family in the coming days. He did say he was “leaning’’ in a certain direction.

“We didn’t talk about it at all, really,’’ Rivers said. “We’ve only even brought it up once since the season’s been over. It’s still very difficult to get through Game 7, let alone talk about your future, to be honest.

“I’m not going to say which way I’m leaning, and I am one way, but I can look you in the eye and say I’ve not made a decision. We’ve only had a small conversation and we’re going to do that in the next week or so.’’

Rivers said a sabbatical has crossed his mind in recent years.

“A couple years ago, the more you thought about it, the more it was a good thing to do — even if you didn’t have a family,’’ he said. “Teachers take sabbaticals to freshen their brains, their minds, their outlooks. So I think it’s a healthy thing. I just don’t know when you do it.’’

The time off would allow Rivers to watch three of his children play sports, something he went to great lengths to fit into his Celtics schedule. In January, he drove to Springfield after a Celtics practice to see his son Austin score 21 points in the Hoophall Classic. Last November, he used a string of offdays to go to Indiana and see son Jeremiah play point guard for the Hoosiers. His daughter Callie plays volleyball at the University of Florida and he says he enjoys that more because he knows nothing about the sport. His youngest son Spencer was often seen shooting around on the floor before the Celtics’ practices during the Finals.

Rivers’s family ties are obvious, but he also understands that if he leaves the Celtics there aren’t many other coaching situations that compare. He considers his working relationship with president Danny Ainge one of the best in the league. He has the respect of superstars Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce. He’s also helped Rajon Rondo develop into an All-Star point guard over four seasons. He has immersed himself in Celtics history, and keeps in contact with Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

“The only reason you stay is because of your love for the guys you coach, and the organization — Danny and all the guys you work for,’’ Rivers said. “Knowing that if you do leave that, you’re not going to ever get that back. You can get a coaching job back, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t ever think I’ll get the situation that I have here in Boston back, so that will be difficult to leave. But the other side of it is so strong as well with the family. It’s going to be an interesting decision and I don’t know what it is yet.’’

The idea of being able to stay home and be a father looms large. “I think what would make you regret it is if there’s a phone call and one of your kids is doing something spectacular — or not — and you’re not there,’’ Rivers said.

Rivers said he would make his decision before the situations with Allen (unrestricted free agent) and Pierce (who can opt out of his contract) are squared away. But as the Celtics left the visiting locker room at Staples Center, practically everyone on the team talked about how important Rivers was. Glen Davis called the coach a “father figure.’’

“I’m getting a lot of texts from them and calls from them right now,’’ he said of his players. “That makes you feel good, that you have a group of guys that want to go to battle for you. That makes you feel great.’’

Rivers again mentioned that he thought Rasheed Wallace would retire. After a disappointing regular season, the veteran redeemed himself in the postseason. Rivers said that the night before Wallace scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 35 minutes in Game 7, he told Rivers it could be his last game.

“I think it’s so emotional after the game, but Rasheed told me before the game,’’ Rivers said. “He told me the night before. He walked up to me and he told me, ‘Listen, I’m going to really give you everything I’ve got. I really believe this is my last game that I’m going to play.’

“He said this year was very difficult for him physically. He said the conditioning part of it hurt. He said he didn’t think he wanted to go through that again. And he wants to watch his kids. So I really think this is the last time we see him in a Celtics uniform.’’

Rivers was preparing to play golf as he called the radio show, and he said Ainge encouraged him to use this time to relax and reflect after a long season.

“He’s been great,’’ Rivers said. “He told me to go away and go on a golf course, and go enjoy your life for a couple days or a week or so, and that’s what I’m going to do.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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