Five Things Doc Rivers Said About Coaching and the Celtics

Doc RiversDoc Rivers takes questions after the PCA panel discussion. (Photo by Tom Vellner)

Watching the Celtics this past season, especially during their playoff run, I was really impressed by Doc Rivers. With a roster full of health issues, injuries, and aged players that most people mocked, he kept his team in check and came frustratingly close to reaching the Finals. By June, it was clear that his passion for the game and commitment to his team were unwavering. What I didn’t know was what a charmer he is.

This morning, the national nonprofit organization Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), which seeks to provide youth and high school athletes with a positive, character-building sports experience, held a panel discussion at Fenway Park. The event brought together Rivers, Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker, Boston College men’s hockey coach Jerry York, and the one and only Bobby Valentine, manager of the Red Sox, to share personal coaching experiences, and to speak about how coaches can shape young athletes’ futures.

It was an hour of engaging conversation, moderated by Michael Holley and Glenn Ordway (hosts of WEEI’s “The Big Show”), and a number of memorable moments occurred. Bobby V. must have been a little tired from last night’s game, though, because he wasn’t as bonkers as I’d hoped. But the one who spoke the most and who got the crowd thinking and laughing was Doc Rivers. His comments won’t exactly spawn a “Sh*t Doc Rivers Says” on YouTube, but he certainly had some funny and eloquent things to say.

1. On positivity in coaching:
“I always say you either are being very positive, or you’re telling the truth — it’s one of the two. And it’s nice when they commingle, but sometimes it doesn’t,” Rivers said to a chuckling audience. “Honesty, even if it’s not what the player wants to hear, can be a positive. You’re not playing tricks or anything like that.”

2. On learning from other coaches:
“We won a game two years ago from a play that I watched my youngest son’s grade school team run. I stole it. And we ran it two years ago against Cleveland in the playoffs, and it was a big play. And I told our guys where I got it from and they named it ‘grade school.’ … I think we ran it last year again and scored, so ‘grade school’ is 2-0. My point is, I think it’s amazing how much we share. I can’t get enough of talking to different coaches in different sports. And I love the fellowship we have in Boston.”

3. On using movies/documentaries to motivate a team:
“I’ve used everything. I’ve used movies and boxing, as you heard during the playoffs because they put those mics on us — thank you; we really enjoy the interviews in the 3rd quarter,” Doc said sarcastically. “I’ve used a lot of stuff. I don’t believe in it for the game, I believe in it for the theme of the season. … I think it’s more of a reminder of what our goals are for the year than it is for that actual game.”

4. On handling the refs:
“I think it’s the type of team you have. I have a very emotional team. Kevin is pretty emotional, Paul is extremely emotional, and so is Rondo. I’ve had many times and timeouts where I’ll tell them, ‘Guys, I’ll yell at the refs. You just focus on playing.’ But then there’s times where I feel like I’m over the line and I need to bring them back by being calm, so you try everything as a coach. … When we do — I always call it ‘go to the dark side’ — the next day, you’re pretty embarrassed by it; you know, when you get thrown out of the game or you get a technical.”

5. On the 2011-2012 Celtics:
“It’s better to have a team full of character than a team full of characters. Without using names, I look at this year’s team compared to last year’s team, and in my opinion, last year’s team had more talent on it, if you go one through 12. This year was a better team because of the character in the locker room and the fact that they got along and were willing to give to each other.”

And, finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: is Kevin Garnett returning next year?

“Let’s just say, ‘yes,'” Rivers said.

“The cameras are rolling — you know that, Doc? Back there, straight ahead,” Ordway responded.

“Then, yes,” Rivers said, staring directly into the cameras, teasing the hopefuls.