Rivers, Belichick Share Rare Coaching Bond

Doc Rivers, Brandon Bass

Doc Rivers, like Bill Belichick, has been known to demand execution out of his players.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

WALTHAM, Mass. – Basketball and football go together like apples and oranges. Doc Rivers and Bill Belichick, however? Now that’s a different story.

The two legendary coaches have combined to bring four championships to New England and have developed a kinship over the past eight-plus years. They may coach different sports, but they understand each other and learn from each other.

Belichick enjoyed several Celtics games at TD Garden while sitting along the baseline, courtesy of Rivers and the C’s. Last night, as the nation saw on national television, Belichick returned the favor by inviting Rivers onto the field before the Patriots’ Monday Night Football game against the Houston Texans.

Rivers was afforded an inside view of a near-perfect performance by the Patriots during the most anticipated Monday Night Football game of the NFL’s season. Prior to New England’s 42-14 domination, Rivers was given a seat in New England’s pregame coaching staff meetings.

“I got to sit in their offensive game plan meeting before they went out on the field, and you know,” Rivers said, “it’s just really cool.

“Listening, without saying what they were saying, but listening to what they wanted to do on offense before the game and then watching them actually do it was pretty impressive.”

Belichick is one of the greatest football coaches of all time because he teaches his players how to execute. Every day. Every play. Every practice. Every game. Execution isn’t just a request from Belichick. It’s a demand.

“To me, their execution and how serious and how they prepare for it…” Rivers said of Belichick and the Pats. “Just everybody knows their job, and they do their job. It’s just really a neat atmosphere. Football in general does, and then the Patriots to me do it on a different level.”

That’s what the entire basketball world thinks of Rivers and the Celtics.

There’s a reason why veteran free agents want to come here. They know Rivers is one of the best in the game and they know that he coaches the right way. Jason Terry, who truly utilized free agency for his first time this summer, is the latest example of that. Terry has played against Rivers’ teams for years. He understands what those teams are all about and he wanted to join that culture.

“He’s the Bill Belichick of basketball, because his execution of what he draws up in the timeouts, in practice, we go over it time and time again,” said Terry, who made the comparison without being provoked.

Moments later, Terry did it again.

“Doc might have been stealing things from Belichick since he’s been in Boston because everything he does is all about execution and winning every possession, not just the game but every possession,” Terry said. “I think that’s critical to our success and that’s a big emphasis.”

An emphasis on execution isn’t the only thing these two great coaches have in common. They also have similar relationships with their established leaders.

Belichick respects his cornerstone players like Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, who lead the Patriots on the field and in the locker room. Rivers is in a similar situation with future Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as established leaders such as Rajon Rondo and Terry. Rivers singled out Rondo and Garnett on Tuesday as he compared his guys to Belichick’s.

“Well, Rondo’s our Tom Brady, as far as being the point guard, quarterback. Kevin probably as far as all the relationship stuff, but I don’t know,” Rivers said before darting off in another direction.

“That was the other thing I observed yesterday – I don’t know if there’s ever been a better – first of all I think Tom Brady is the best quarterback, I don’t want to say in history, but he has to be right there. I mean, it’s surgical watching him play. And to have that, plus the relationship (with Belichick), I don’t think there’s ever been a better great-quarterback relationship with their coach, ever. I guess Bill Walsh and Joe Montana would be the only other one that comes to mind for me. But that’s pretty neat. And they’re so different as people.”

No one in their right mind thinks that Rivers is anything like Rondo and Garnett, either, aside from their competitive juices. But somehow they manage to get along as if they were meant to be together, just like Belichick and Brady.

Maybe Rivers and Belichick were meant to be together here in Boston, too. They were born eight-and-a-half years apart, one in Chicago (Rivers) and one in Nashville (Belichick). They coach completely different sports. Yet here they are, in 2012, roaming the sidelines and teaching each other in the City of Champions.