Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined an exclusive club last month when he notched his 300th win with the team, becoming only the fourth head coach in Boston's storied history to reach that plateau.
With Wednesday's win over Sacramento, Rivers leapfrogged K.C. Jones with his 309th victory in his seventh season on the Boston bench. Rivers now sits behind only Red Auerbach (795) and Tommy Heinsohn (427 wins), but struggled to put what that means to him into words.
"I don’t know what that means, honestly," Rivers said. "It’s awesome, I guess. I just don’t know what that means yet, because I’m not thinking about it much, I’m not done. But it’s nice. And, listen, it’s [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge at the end of the day. I’m fully aware of that. We were bad for two years and he stuck with me and believed in me. So, at the end of the day, it’s Danny Ainge more than me.”
Rivers' players, and Ainge himself, might argue otherwise. Sure, Rivers got an influx of talent when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were brought in to form the new Big Three in 2007, but since that date, Rivers has had to not only coach, but manage an array of personalities and egos.
Maybe never more so than with this 2010-11 squad. But the Celtics just keep winning, earning a world title during the 2007-08 season and making deep playoff runs each of the past two seasons. Rivers thought about walking away from the Boston bench this summer, but returned on a one-year deal for a chance to join Jones and Heinsohn as Boston coaches with two world titles on their resume. Auerbach, of course, is another stratosphere.
In an NBA where you're only as good as your last season, job security can be fleeting. Rivers is one of only four active coaches to win 300 games with his current squad. The others? Utah's Jerry Sloan (1,114), San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (756) and Los Angeles Lakers' Phil Jackson (570). Denver's George Karl (298) will soon join the list as well.
Asked if he was gunning for the top spot on Boston's all-time win list, Rivers, who is 486 wins behind Auerbach, laughed at the light-hearted question.
"No, that ain't going to happen," he said. "I can guarantee you that."
--PIERCE'S EARLY EXPLOITS IGNITE TEAM EFFORT--
The Celtics put eight players in double figures and all 14 players that touched the floor scored Wednesday. But the win might not have been quite so breezy if not for captain Paul Pierce's desire to get to the rim in the first quarter.
Pierce erupted for 15 first-quarter points, most obtained by attacking the basket, and added four rebounds and two assists over the first 12 minutes. He connected on 6-of-8 shots, including a pair of trifectas, during an outburst that helped Boston build a six-point first-quarter cushion that only grew from there.
Pierce finished with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting with 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists over 26:30.
"Paul was more aggressive," Rivers said. "I thought last game Paul -– the whole team, really -- we were not a hard-cutting team; we didn’t do anything hard. It’s amazing, [Tuesday] in practice, after showing them the film, we practiced hard. The cuts were hard and you could see it. [The coaching staff was] just hoping there would be a carryover to today and there was."
As he has done often in the face of injuries to others, Pierce stepped up his game and set the tone. His teammates soon followed his lead.
"It’s huge," said Rivers. "Paul knew last game that none of us, as a group, came with the right mental approach. That’s what leaders have to do, and that’s what he did."
--MISSING A VOICE WITH GARNETT SIDELINED--
What does Rivers miss most about Garnett when he's not on the floor? His ability to quarterback the defense.
"You can get somebody to provide energy -- Luke [Harangody] plays with a lot of energy. What we miss is his voice. Kevin is the best talker on defense in the NBA, maybe in the history of the NBA. It doesn't matter what you do. Watching our transition defense the last two games, and how awful we were, it's clear what was missing -- that guy running down the middle of the floor pointing at everyone to 'Get over there,' or 'Go over there.' We just don't have a guy like that and you can't replace that."
Rivers said Garnett might miss Friday's game against the Bobcats, allowing him three extra days to rest before a potential return for Monday night's blockbuster against the Orlando Magic. Click HERE to read more on Garnett's absence (as well as Rivers' concern about Jermaine O'Neal's injury setback).
--LOOSE BALLS: REF TAKES A TUMBLE; LUKE TAKES A CHARGE; GINO TIME--
* Referee Bob Delaney needed brief on-court attention from Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte when he landed hard on his backside after getting snagged between two players after Semih Erden and Jason Thompson whiffed on a second-quarter jump ball.
"I thought he got hurt pretty bad," Rivers admitted. "He's tougher than I thought. He's a tough cop, but I didn’t know he could hang in like that. I'm very proud of Bob Delaney."
Delaney, working his fourth Celtics game of the season, simply needed a minute on the ground and remained in the game. He previously drew the ire of Shaquille O'Neal for what the 38-year-old center considered questionable calls while fouling out quickly against the Magic on Christmas Day.
Shaq drew a $35,000 fine for his postgame outburst.
* Harangody drew his first career charge, absorbing a shoulder from Sacramento's Carl Landry early in the fourth quarter ... Glen Davis picked up his 33rd charge of the year in the second quarter, giving up his body against Thompson. It was Davis' 39th offensive foul drawn of the season. The Celtics have drawn 55 charges as a team.
* Gino, the JumboTron dancer who gyrates through the final moments of lopsided wins, made only his fourth appearance of the season, showing off his American Bandstand boogie with 1:57 remaining and the Celtics out front by 22.