Rivers Runs North

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Before Isiah Thomas tapped Lenny Wilkens, there was speculation Doc Rivers would go to New York. Before Danny Ainge tapped him to run the Celtics, there was speculation he would go to Atlanta. As of yesterday, it is now official. Doc Rivers is a mean green Celtic machine.

If he didn't coach next season, the Magic would have been on the ropes to pay him his $5.5 million salary. Since he has a job, however, the Magic only have to make up the difference between the lower Celtic salary and the $5.5 million.

There had been rampant speculation that Ainge would have picked either a coach or an assistant coach that he had played for in Phoenix, such as Paul Westphal and Lionel Harris, or former teammate Dennis Johnson, but Ainge surprised the world by picking the 1999-2000 Head Coach of the Year.

Rivers will have an opportunity to coach two offensive powerhouses in Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis, and he will surely draw on his experiences in helping Tracy McGrady emerge as an All-World talent to that end. "Some of his judgments at times have not been great," Rivers said about Davis, as quoted byThe Associated Press. "But if I'm in a game I would rather have a guy (like him) who is capable of taking a game over."

He probably also understands the need to have a vocal leader, someone like a Darrell Armstrong, and leave the Pierces and Davises to just worry about the game. So far, that player appears to be Chucky Atkins. Atkins had an excellent quote on the Celtics web site: "I've been with Larry Brown and Rick Carlisle who are great coaches, but Doc Rivers is the best coach I've ever played for." Nice, huh?

Rivers brings not only a great coaching mind but also some hidden benefits. Perhaps he would be able to help draw former Magic players to Boston's side. Would Drew Gooden or Juwan Howard like to play with their former coach again? The biggest question would come up if Tracy McGrady opts out of his contract or threatens to do so, thus triggering the Magic into looking for trades. Would Boston be a more attractive opportunity with Rivers there?

Surely it would, if for no other reason than that Rivers is an excellent coach. Magic fans will miss him, and Atlanta fans will continue to yearn for him, but it is Boston fans who now get the opportunity to appreciate him.

With both Ainge and Rivers likely agreeing that up-tempo basketball is the vision of the future, it is safe to say that from now on, Rivers runs north.

Read quotes about Doc Rivers from a variety of sources here.

Just because the season is over doesn't mean the players are unreachable. If you want to ask any Magic player a question, you canemailthe Magic. Be sure to include the name of the player you want the ask your question of.

Orlando Magic season tickets are available for purchase by calling 407-89-MAGIC (press 1). Monthly payment plans are available! If you'd like information about season tickets sent to you, click here


Our own Patrick J. Austin ofHoopsworld.com writes: When I heard the news, shocked would be an understatement for my feelings. Doc Rivers will be coaching the Boston Celtics. It just doesn't sound right. And I don't see him being a success their either. How happy will Doc be when Danny makes another boneheaded trade. Or, he drafts a bunch of white stiffs with their first round picks. I think Doc will wind up regretting this move.

Mike Bianchi ofThe Orlando Sentinel writes: So I'm reading a Boston Herald story Thursday morning about new Celtics Coach Doc Rivers when I came across this paragraph about Doc's days in Orlando with ex-Magic general manager John Gabriel: "Rivers criticized Gabriel's decision to trade Ben Wallace to Detroit for Grant Hill -- the player whose physical deterioration ultimately sunk the team as a whole. But Rivers spoke out against other decisions as well, including Gabriel's passing over future stars like Tony Parker and Jamaal Tinsley in the draft." It was about this time when I nearly choked on my Fruity Pebbles and spewed coffee out of my nose. Looks like Doc is again rewriting his role in Magic history.

Jimmy Golen ofThe Associated Press writes inThe Albany Times Union: The Boston Celtics coaching job was only open a few hours when Danny Ainge decided that Doc Rivers was the guy he wanted. That doesn't mean the Celtics' basketball boss didn't give it a lot of thought. "The search probably started at the 1988 All-Star Game," Ainge saidon Thursday after hiring his teammate from the Eastern Conference team that year. "A friendship probably started there, and a mutual respect."

KOTV Channel 6ran a story attributed to The Associated Presswhich states: [Doc] Rivers said he wanted the team to run the floor more than it has in the past without becoming soft on defense.He said he wanted to get help for Paul Pierce, who was frustrated at the end of the season by his inability to do everything himself. ``When you lose games, you get down,'' Rivers said. ``I don't think he was down on himself -- he was down on losing.'' Rivers said he welcomed the challenge of coaching Ricky Davis, the talented but occasionally troublesome guard who has had trouble fitting in on four separate teams. ``Some of his judgments at times have not been great,'' Rivers said. ``But if I'm in a game I would rather have a guy (like Davis) who is capable of taking a game over.'' Four players -- Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Kendrick Perkins and Walter McCarty -- sat in the front row at Rivers' news conference. After his opening remarks, Rivers turned to them and said, ``You'll find me with no agendas. I just want to win. However we find a way to do that, that's what we're going to do.'' They seemed receptive to the message. ``I think,'' McCarty said, ``it's the first move in, hopefully, the right direction.''

David Teel ofThe Hampton Roads Daily Presswrites: Early exits to the pros hit ACC basketball in 1972, when Robert McAdoo bypassed his senior season at North Carolina en route to the Hall of Fame. Similar departures soon affected the conference's other programs, with one glaring exception. Duke dodged the trend for more than 25 years as the likes of Mike Gminski, Gene Banks, Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill resisted the NBA.The dam finally broke in 1999, and it has been a flood since.