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Blog Entry

Another tough call for Rivers

Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.

Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.

This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?

“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.

Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.

Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.

Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.

But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.

Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?

Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.

The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.

His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.
Since: May 9, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:58 am
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Since: May 9, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:52 am
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Since: Jul 24, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:46 am

Another tough call for Rivers

   I agree - either way he doesn't come back. If the Celtics win, he goes out a winner getting the most out of his aging stars. If they lose, he is gone,- as next year the big three get that much older again. I like Rivers as a coach - how he works with his players, and how passionate he is about basketball.
  Of course, all things being said, they have a chance to go all the way now that L.A. has imploded. "All" they have to do is beat the Heat in the next 2 games. So, it all comes down to the next game....and the one after that. If they get passed the Heat, it's very possible they will win it all.
   Go Celtics!

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2011 12:26 am

Another tough call for Rivers

I think THIS was the year Rivers was aiming at for another title. If Boston wins in Miami who knows? But the stars (excuse the pun) and injuries have lined up against them. If it doesn't happen this year, next year everyone will be a year older, Rondo may have a major rehab ahead of him to repair those ligaments. I just don't see next year being the Celtic's year- it might be time for them to get involved in the Howard, free agent sweepstakes and take a year to rebuild.

I doubt Rivers sticks around for that.

Since: Jul 18, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 12:18 am

Another tough call for Rivers

as much as I would hate to see doc rivers leave the celtics, if he feels that family responsibilities must come first at this stage, i would be supportive and happy for him. I truly believe that he is the best coach in the nba and he along with the players on this team have given us celtic fans a tremendous run for the past four years. they have done all that they can do in the face of any obstacle and adversity(sports wise, not to over dramatize) that has come their way and always given a full effort. I would be so sad to see doc go, but could not ask for any more from him as a fan. in my 28 years of being a celtic fan(I am 37) he is the best coach of my team that I have seen, with respects to kc jones. Tomorrow night, i believe it will doc's last game and the team will go out like champs, with pride and heart and in reflection of their coach. thank you doc, for a wonderful run, i only wish we had gotten this team together sooner and stayed a little healthier. Proud once again to be a celtics fan.

Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: May 10, 2011 10:05 pm

This time it will be easy

Some fans live and breathe sports and some take a more casual attitude. Some will say: no way can coach Rivers walk away from the Celtics. Others. especially those fathers and mothers with sons and daughters trying to make their own way into the world, understand. Imagine making $5-6 million per year for 5 years or more while never ever getting to watch your son or daughter perform. For those who cannot imagine, the money becomes secondary to those few special moments of our "bleacher years" while our kids grow up (sneaking a peek over to see if Dad and Mom are watching and approving).

So Doc has, perhaps, neglected his two older children (just about had to with the commitments to the Celtics) and now wants to make that last year with Austin make up for all those he missed. Austin, you might remember, happens to be the Rivals #1 recruit in the country - stepping in to replace Kylie Irving who is projected to be drafted into the NBA in June perhaps as the 1st overall pick. Hard to imagine missing this year what it is only money that you don't need.

Coach Rivers will become dad Rivers soon. It is time. And every moment spent watching Austin practice and play will be an investment worth more than even another ring - even if the fanatical fans disagree. I know first hand, You see my dad never did come to a single game. Happy watching dad - wish you were my dad!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or