Editor’s note: the below Q&A appeared in this season’s premier edition of “Gametime Magazine,” available at Staples Center during Clippers home games.
Doc Rivers established himself as one of the premier head coaches in the NBA after a wildly successful nine-year run with the Boston Celtics in which he advanced to two NBA Finals and won it all in 2008. Now he begins his first year with the Clippers, who he observed with intrigue the last two years in Boston and considers a young, talented, potentially elite NBA power.
We caught up with Doc just days before opening his training camp with the Clippers, and here is what he had to say:
Any first impressions on working and living in Los Angeles?
Doc Rivers: Everybody’s happy here. I told my wife, ‘these are the happiest people on earth.’ I figure it’s because of the weather. But seriously, I’ve really enjoyed the city and the people have been very nice. Even the Lakers fans have been extremely nice, and my guess is because they hate the Celtics more than they do the Clippers so they can stomach me more, which is good.
Settled in yet?
DR: Yes, absolutely. Found a place to live. Doing the condo life. But it’s good.
Coaching in Boston with the Celtics, I imagine you only paid minimal attention to the Clippers, who you played only twice a year. But from that vantage point, what were your thoughts about them?
DR: There wasn’t a lot of attention because you only played them twice a year and it was so spaced out. You knew they had athleticism and you knew they were young. But other than that, for me, you only knew the basics everyone else knew. I didn’t study them a lot because I didn’t see them as a threat for us, being in the East.
I know them more individually than I do collectively. I know the individual players, the talent. I know Jamal Crawford is an unbelievable offensive player and Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are great athletes and Blake, in particular, has a chance to be a superstar-caliber player. Chris Paul is one of the great point guards in the game. So, I knew each guy individually but I don’t know them – yet – in a collective sense.
Having said that, what about the Clippers piqued your interest enough to leave the Celtics to come here?
DR: Just that collection of individual talent. This team won 56 games last year. Vinny Del Negro did a heck of a job. And so, you put that talent together along with the youth. So that was intriguing, and historically talent, youth and potential goes one way or the other. They either turn that youth and talent into being a great team or it falls apart.
There are so many teams, if you study history, that have had great promise and they’re all young and people projected them to be a great team but for whatever reason they fell apart. But there are a few of them that stayed together and have won. And I look at this group and I’m hopeful they can be part of the latter where we can figure it out as a group and get it done.
Do you feel you are the missing piece to put this team over the top?
DR: Well, I don’t know. I do what I do and I’m hoping I can absolutely be helpful. But I’m not here saying it’s because of me. You win with the players and my job is to get the players to think together and not separately.
How did coaching in Boston change you?
DR: Not sure it changed me as a person, but it absolutely helped me as a coach. Let me put it this way, there is nothing I’ll go through after Boston that will be more intense. Maybe something as intense, you know what I mean, but nothing as intense. So that has to have some kind of benefit for me. I don’t actually know what it is, but I know it will.
At the end of the day you have to do your job, you can’t worry what others think about your job. I think if anything, coaching in Boston taught me that. If you do your job well, whether they like you or dislike you they’ll end up liking you. If you don’t do your job well, whether they like you or dislike you, they’ll end up not liking you.