Rivers joins club
Among league’s coaching royalty
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — What started as a couple of conversations between Larry Brown and Doc Rivers while all the coaches were in Chicago last summer for the referees summit, turned into one of those “Men of a Certain Age’’ commercials.
Tom Thibodeau came through. Then Avery Johnson. Gregg Popovich was supposed to stop by, but there was a problem with his wine cellar.
“That shows you his priorities,’’ joked Brown, whose Bobcats lost to the Celtics last night, 93-62.
Brown and Rivers got to talking, something they do all the time, about everything from golf to Rasheed Wallace.
“We just met for a day and a half and exchanged notes and went over each other’s practice plan,’’ Rivers said. “He had a whole litany of questions to ask me. I had questions for him.
“But it’s great because the more you hear stuff — a lot of time you just confirm stuff — but someone will throw something out and you go, ‘Wow, I would have never done that or even thought of that.’ ’’
There’s a group of extraordinary coaches that Rivers acknowledges, which includes Brown, Popovich, Phil Jackson, and Jerry Sloan. In the last three years, with how he has helped the Celtics’ renaissance, Rivers is increasingly being mentioned among them.
It’s hard for Rivers to wrap his head around that, even though he’s been named Coach of the Year once, and has taken teams to the Finals twice.
“I don’t even think about it because they’ve been around so much longer than me,’’ he said.
When he talks to Brown, it’s hard for Rivers to see him as a peer, even when Brown is the one asking the questions.
“He’s a good guy to talk to,’’ Rivers said. “He calls me all the time and asks questions, which I always thought was very weird because it’s Larry Brown, you know what I mean?’’
Brown is the quintessential coaching nomad. In nearly 30 years as an NBA head coach, he’s seen almost everything. But Rivers has skills he admires.
“Just the way he handles people,’’ Brown said. “The way his team plays. He’s got a passion for the game and cares about coaching. He cares about other people in the profession. I’ve been in this a long time, there’s a lot of people in this league that we all could learn from and we’re silly if we don’t. Not everybody wants to share. But he’s certainly one that cares about our game.’’
Rumors of Rivers one day taking his talents to South Beach have swirled since the Heat assembled their own Big Three of Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade. Rivers has swatted them down.
“I think it’s unfair to everybody when people talk about it so freely,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t really laugh at it. I wish it wasn’t out there.’’
But the idea didn’t sound that far-fetched, even in the Celtics’ locker room.
“I think he can,’’ said Rajon Rondo.
Handling personalities has been Rivers’s signature the past three seasons.
“He’s just continued to grow,’’ Rondo said. “He’s gotten better as the years have passed. No other coach could do it. Not this mind-set of players.’’
Eventually, Ray Allen said, the faces will change on the Mount Rushmore of coaching. Sloan, Popovich, and Brown will be replaced by Johnson and Rivers, among others. When this Celtics team runs its course, Rivers will be a hot commodity.
“Coaches, you know, you end up saying, ‘OK, I’m done,’ ’’ Allen said. “Then you’re sitting on the side watching and coaching vacancies happen and whether Doc likes it or not — he might be doing TV or studio stuff and his name will be right back at the forefront.’’
Pierce under weather Paul Pierce jokingly tried to play his 1-for-9 shooting night off as completely intentional.
“I’m one of the great decoys in this game,’’ Pierce said.
But for the past week, Pierce has been fighting flu-like symptoms and his game has been suffering because of it. In the past four games, Pierce is 12 of 38 (31.6 percent), and he hasn’t made a 3-pointer since Dec. 1, missing his last 16.
Yet Pierce hasn’t missed a game all season, and he’s averaged 35.1 minutes this month.
Pierce went to Rivers to let him know that he felt fatigued.
The Celtics have the next three days off before playing the Knicks in New York.
Daniels recovering Marquis Daniels said he’s shaking the effects of a stomach virus that had been bothering him most of the week. “I was weak the last two, three games and I’m finally starting to get my energy back, eating,’’ he said. Daniels also jammed his thumb Wednesday against Denver. He scored 10 points last night on 4 of 7 shooting, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers . . . Former Celtic Gerald Henderson popped into the locker room to give the Celtics a message. “Win the whole thing.’’ His son Gerald Henderson Jr. has missed the last three weeks for the Bobcats with left knee inflammation. Charles Oakley was also roaming around the building. “There should be a trophy after Charles Oakley for the best role player ever,’’ joked Rivers, his former teammate with the Knicks. “And he protected me.’’ . . . With a chance to string together six days of rest for their banged-up big man, Rivers sat down Shaquille O’Neal against the Bobcats.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.