To be clear, like every other sane Boston fan I believe Doc Rivers is a horrible head coach.
Doc knows jack about defense. During last year’s season, the Celtics often looked like a high school team. They couldn’t stop anybody. Nevertheless, my most intense criticism of Doc centers around his development of young players and his managing of late-game situations. We all knew when Doc was hired that he wasn’t a defensive-minded coach. When his team fails to play any defense, we can’t be shocked.
So we begin with late-game situations. Before Pierce went down last year the Celtics weren’t that bad. They just lost every close game they played in. You may laugh, but winning some close games is the difference between being a mediocre 8th seed and the second worse team in the league. You knew that whatever team the Celtics were playing would score (and win) if they had the ball last, but in most games the problem was the Celtics inability to score when they had the last possession. They couldn’t run a play out of a timeout. When they did run a play, it appeared to be the same one over and over again. I am referring to the “Pierce isolation” play, which featured Pierce at the top of the key and everyone else getting out of the way. The play would usually end the same too. Pierce would get doubled and shoot a wild shot that bounced off the rim as time expired.
Specifically, two incredibly inept moments come to mind. In the closing seconds of a home game against Golden State last year, Pierce got triple teamed just outside of the free throw line and failed to get a shot off as time expired. The next day, he went out with his foot injury and the Celtics started their collapse. The second instance came a month earlier at home against Orlando. With the Celtics trailing by three with time winding down, Sczcerbiak drove to the hoop and lost the ball. Apparently, he didn’t know the team was down three after just coming out of a timeout.
While the players deserve a lot of the blame for the Celtics problems last year, so does Doc Rivers. It’s fine that your team can’t defend anybody, but Doc, how about drawing up a play that works?
Doc’s development of younger players is arguable. Al Jefferson did develop into a top offensive forward. Ryan Gomes did develop into a solid role player. The problem came with the guards. Telfair, Ray, West, and most importantly Gerald Green, showed no improvement whatsoever last year. I know that Telfair and Ray didn’t have much talent to begin with, but wouldn’t a coach supposedly as good as Rivers get something out of them?
Gerald Green’s development was particularly maddening. The Celtics brass talked up Green to no end. All we heard was how he was supposed to be the next Tracy McGrady. Instead, we got an out of control offensive player who couldn’t guard a trash can. In the end, he was no more than a toss-in in the Garnett trade.
I read the other day the Rondo was watching game tapes with Doc Rivers. This really worried me. Hopefully, Rondo can develop in spite of Rivers.
Alright so let’s look at the positives. Pierce, Allen and Garnett are great offensive players and Garnett is a terrific defender. Garnett’s presence alone will improve the Celtics defenses dramatically. Secondly, Rivers now has three guys he can call his famous “isolation play” for. Rivers also has three guys who can and will improvise when his play call goes bad.
The problem is that defense and executing in late-game situations wins championships. Doc has proven he’s not capable of coaching for either. However, in spite of Doc, the Celtics talent should carry them through the regular season. While they might win more games and get a higher seed with a better coach, I don’t think Doc can keep them out of the playoffs.
I say Doc gets fired after an embarrassing playoff series. It should go down similar to Isiah Thomas’ firing as Pacer’s coach in 2003 after a weak Celtics team eliminated his talented Pacers team. Maybe the Celtics will hire Rick Carlisle after firing Rivers, just like the Pacers did.
What do you think? Do people believe in Doc as much as they do Rondo?