Stevens, Rivers Join Forces at Garden Charity Event
As NBA coaches from opposing conferences, Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens have the opportunity to face each other just twice per regular season.
Wednesday night marked a rarer occurrence, however, as the two suited up to play some hoops against each other at TD Garden.
The former Boston Celtics coach and his successor took part in the Action for Boston Community Development Hoops Dreams charity event, joining a few local celebrities, such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and journalists Bob Ryan and Jackie MacMullan, for a friendly shooting competition.
“I haven’t shot on this court probably yet, other than in shoot-arounds a little bit,” said Stevens. “We don’t usually even shoot around here because the only time I ever come down here is for games, so it’s great to be here in a setting where you’re doing something for somebody else where it’s not just a part of a game.”
The annual event, which allows local corporations to buy court time at the Garden in support of low-income Greater Boston residents, became a tradition for Rivers during his later years with the C’s. After he departed for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, he wanted to make sure the event continued in a similar capacity, so he passed the reigns over to Stevens.
“[ABCD] is just a good group and you wanna just keep doing it,” said Rivers. “I’m so happy with Brad. One of the first things when I decided to leave and the Celtics hired him, I called him and said, 'Hey, I need a favor.' He was like, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘I need a big favor: I need you to take over this for me,' and he’s done that. He’s been great.”
Rivers noted that Stevens has not only been stellar in the community, but also on the TD Garden sidelines.
“I can’t imagine coming to this franchise and never coaching in the NBA,” said Rivers. “That’s not the easiest gig to do and he’s done it very well. He’s a terrific coach, runs terrific stuff, and I thought this year, after all the trades, you could see he had a group of guys that believed in him and you can see the difference in their play.”
Rivers said he can relate to Stevens in that manner, recalling his inaugural coaching campaign with the Orlando Magic during the 1999-2000 season. The Magic, in the midst of a rebuild, were expected to finish near the bottom of the barrel that year. Despite experiencing countless mid-season trades, like Stevens did last season, Rivers guided the Magic to a 41-41 record and was named Coach of the Year.
“I think what it does is give the guys who stay, it gives you hope, gives you belief in the system, and I think that’s what Brad did,” said Rivers. “I thought this was a breakthrough in that way for him.”
Though they have similar ties, the two coaches have not had much time to spend together, as they are located on opposite ends of the country. Wednesday night’s fundraiser provided them with a rare treat to be in each other’s company.
Stevens says he knows Rivers “well enough to pick up the phone and text back and forth, whatever the case may be, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. Obviously he’s a great coach and what he did here was tremendous and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
That respect is clearly mutual, and Rivers made sure to note that he still keeps close tabs on the Celtics, watching their games whenever he gets the chance.
“First of all, you gotta still watch the games as long as Tommy [Heinsohn] is doing them because that’s entertainment,” Rivers said with a smile. “You don’t get that type of entertainment anywhere else.”
“And you care about them,” he added, regarding his former organization. “You want them to do well.”
Once a Celtic, always a Celtic.