BOSTON -- Doc Rivers smiled when the question came and he couldn't resist being a tad smart-ass. The query was, after all, gift wrapped with a nice little bow.
Rivers was asked about the regular season matchups between Detroit and Boston and if Rivers held anything back in terms of strategy during those games, anticipating a postseason meeting with the Pistons.
|When coaches Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders talk, their All-Stars listen. (Getty Images)|
He couldn't resist taking a shot at the media -- and in a way some in the NBA establishment -- who have snootily suggested for years now that Rivers the coach has long been way over his perfectly coiffed head.
Interestingly, Rivers' coaching twin in the Eastern Conference finals is also his opponent. Flip Saunders has endured more than his share of being called the village idiot. The two men are perceived by some as a band of dunce cap-sporting brothers.
"I was talking before to somebody the other day," said Saunders, "and I think a lot of people think right now these two teams could play each other without coaches at times."
This is not to say that Rivers is Red Auerbach and Saunders is Pat Riley.
Yet it's interesting how two coaches who have had success are sometimes viewed like they're names are Custer and Burnside.
As coach in Minnesota it was Saunders who led the Timberwolves to their first playoff spot and 50-win season. Rivers is a former Coach of the Year and has helped to make the Celtics relevant again.
Admittedly, when you have the talent those two do -- Rivers is coaching three All-Stars and Saunders has one of the more professional teams ever assembled -- there is less for a head coach to do than if he's leading, say, Milwaukee.
The style of Rivers and Saunders is in some ways perfect. Rivers in particular is an ego manager and the importance of that cannot be underestimated. In today's sports world, where athlete egos are so fuel-injected their blood type is Russell Crowe, this is still the most underrated part of a coach's job.
This is what critics of Saunders and Rivers totally miss. Meshing all of that talent into a cohesive unit, while simultaneously preventing mutiny and all kinds of ugliness, is a talent in itself.
"As I told somebody, and in Doc's situation, a lot of times it's more difficult to coach teams with talent," said Saunders. "And especially in his situation when you've got two new players that have given the impact that they have (in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen).