Doc Reveals That Opposing Coaches Help C's
WALTHAM, Mass. – This is the time of year in which everyone begins to ask one age-old question: How far can the Boston Celtics advance in this year’s playoffs?
Most would answer that question based off of what they’ve seen out of the Celtics throughout this season. That makes sense, but Boston’s players and coaches won’t be the only men who help to determine the Celtics’ fate.
Doc Rivers has been known to solicit outside counsel to assist him both in preparation for the NBA Playoffs and during the postseason. It’s no secret that Flip Saunders, who was fired by the Washington Wizards during January of least season, traveled with the Celtics as an adviser throughout their run to the brink of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Saunders was an unofficial member of the team who brought a different perspective to the table. Here’s how Saunders described his role when he spoke to the Washington Times last May:
“He asked me to come in and just kind of be another set of eyes,” said Saunders. “I watch games and give him perspective on what I see [the Celtics] doing, and what I see the other team doing, and give him an idea of what I would do.”
That last sentence is precisely what Rivers seeks: to break into another coach’s mind. Rivers tries to stay unbiased with his views of the Celtics but those views will always be somewhat skewed. He is, after all, around this team every single day. Other coaches are not, so Rivers believes he can get vital information out of them through their outsider perspectives.
Saunders brought that perspective to the table during last season’s playoffs, but Rivers also seeks information as his team approaches the postseason. As recently as the past week, Rivers has spoken with opposing coaches about how they’re defending the combination of Paul Pierce and Jeff Green.
“It’s nice when you play, honestly, a team that’s not in the playoffs and you know the coach, because after the game you can ask what their reasoning is for choosing one or the other,” Rivers admitted. “It’s been interesting the comments that I’ve gotten back.“
Rivers wouldn’t disclose any details of those comments but did say that it has been “good information” and that coaches are typically willing to help him out.
“They’ve always helped, and they’re open, for the most part,” Rivers said. “I mean, they’re not going to tell you their secrets, but they’re going to tell you some of their thoughts.”
The coaches who help the most, as one might expect, are the ones whom Rivers knows the best. It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Rivers is pretty close with many of them.
Rivers played 13 years in the NBA, and 19 of the other 29 current NBA coaches played in the league as well. Those playing days mean that Rivers has known most of these guys for a while. Additionally, two of the 10 current head coaches who didn’t play in the NBA, Tom Thibodeau and Lawrence Frank, have served as assistants under Rivers.
Needless to say, those established relationships go a long way.
“That’s huge,” Rivers said of his close connections with other coaches. “Otherwise I wouldn’t ask, to be honest. “
Inactive coaches, like Saunders, also serve as great informational resources.
“There’s also a lot of coaches not coaching right now that you talk to a lot and even ask them, ‘Who would you guard?’ or, ‘How would you attack?’” Rivers said. “It’s good getting somebody outside of us, because they see us entirely different than you see yourself.”
Not many coaches have been fired this season – three, to be exact – so there aren’t a whole lot of candidates out there to fill the role that Saunders served last season. However, he does have a certain group of old reliables that he’ll ping as the rest of the season plays out.
As Rivers stated, “I’ll still call the same group of guys.”
They'll answer the phone, and they may wind up giving Rivers information that changes the outlook of a playoff series.