Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been at the helm of Boston's revitalization.BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been involved in the NBA for almost 30 years as a player, broadcaster and coach, but pointed to his last five with the Celtics as the single greatest span of time over those nearly three decades.
"Oh, it's been the best. It's been a great ride," Rivers said at the team's annual tip-off gala Friday night. "And obviously the championship makes it better, but, honestly, it's the people. I've gotten to deal with great players, the town -- I always call Boston 'the town,' because of the people, the intensity of the fans. If you're in sports, and you can get into a situation like this, this is the one you want to be in."
The support Rivers has had and continues to have from the whole organization -- ownership, management, his players -- might very well be unparalleled. In a league that sees coaching changes on a regular basis, Rivers has been able to establish long-term security. Even after the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett retire, assuming there are no drastic changes in ownership or management, this job could be Rivers' for as long as he wants it.
"Well it allows you to do your job," Rivers said of having support behind him. "It allows you to do your job in peace. The support from [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and the whole group has been unbelievable. Our relationship is the same as when I came in. That's unusual. Usually after two, three, or four years, you start not liking each other because you know each other too well. The more we know each other, [the more] we like [each other], so it's pretty good."
Not only has Rivers been one of the biggest witnesses to the Celtics' growth over the last decade, he's emerged as one of the key factors in it. His reputation among players throughout the league has helped the Celtics secure valuable free agents -- Jason Terry being the most recent example -- and those players find that he lives up to the hype. His current players often refer to him as a "future hall of fame coach," and "the best coach in the league," and two of the leagues premiere veterans in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have seen their personal desires to return for more NBA action at the end of each season bolstered by Rivers' presence.
Rivers acknowledges his relationships with Garnett and Pierce as two of his most favorite.
"It's more out of respect," said Rivers. "I respect who they are as people, I respect who they are as players, and the fact that they are where they are in their careers and they allow me to still coach them, and they're still open-minded about change, makes my job easy."
Rivers' relationship with his dynamic point guard, Rajon Rondo, is equally important to him, but different from those with Pierce and Garnett. He's coached Rondo since he entered the NBA in 2006, and has seen him evolve from a reserved player with potential into one of the league's premier point guards. Though they've butted heads on occasion, Rivers has enjoyed their journey.
"It's been great. Again, it's another guy that came in at 20, you got to work with him, and he's allowed you to work with him most of the time, sometimes not, and that's part of it though," Rivers said. "That is. That's with everyone, though. Unfortunately for Rondo, I think it's been talked about more, and I'm a point guard, he's a point guard, that never is easy for any point guard to play for me, but watching where he's at now, not only as a player, I like his growth off the floor. I think he's changed and I think he's changed for the better."
There's a lot for Rivers to like about his gig, but when asked to reveal his favorite part of the job, he didn't hesitate.
"Practice. As crazy as that sounds," Rivers said. "I really enjoy practice because a lot of great things happen in practice that a lot of people don't see -- arguments with players on the floor, watching them go back and forth, talking. And the growth of the young guys through the years -- [Kendrick] Perkins, I still talk to, Al Jefferson. So, all those guys -- Gerald Green, even -- I think as a coach you remember that as much as you remember any other thing."