Rivers reception no surprise to this reporter
The Doc Rivers “love-in” at the TD Garden last night was one for the ages. The pre-game show featured shots of Doc walking into the building with the local and national media following his every move. Doc stopped to shake hands with reporters, and yes, he even hugged a few of them. Imagine Bill Belichick 20 years from now returning to Gillette Stadium and literally “embracing” the media.
We all loved Doc. He helped bring the Boston Celtics Championship #17. He put together the “new big three.” He was the reason Kevin Garnett came to Boston. He brought in Ray Allen. He help turn Paul Pierce from a kid in trouble, into a man, a leader and a captain.
Beyond all this, Doc Rivers is a great guy. As a member of the media it was always a treat to get a Celtics practice assignment because it was a given Doc would say something “good.” Doc genuinely liked talking to the media. He is smart, engaging and funny. He never dismissed a question with a non-answer. He was quick with a joke, forthright, and insightful in every interview situation.
Everyone loved Doc. The media, the fans, the owners, the GM, the trainers, the ball boys, right down to the Garden security people. Most importantly, his players loved him. Like a good father he could hand out tough love, and be respected for it.
The ovation last night at the Garden should come as no surprise. Who in their right mind could “boo” Doc Rivers?
Yes, he bolted last spring without saying good-bye. Remember this was all happening when the Bruins were making a run for the Cup, and Aaron Hernandez was hiding out in his house awaiting arrest. We woke up one day and heard Doc was leaving for the left coast. He was under contract, but decided a “rebuild” was not in his immediate future. It was up to the Clippers and Celtics to work out a deal, while Doc kept quiet.
“Obviously, I didn’t like the way it played out,” he said. “You can portray it any way you want, at the end of the day I felt after nine years, it was time for me to go. It’s just time. there didn’t have to be anything bad about that.”
Doc received his first ovation two minutes before the conclusion of warm ups. He received his loudest ovation after a video montage appeared on the big board high above court side. The crowd went crazy, and Doc waved as he held back tears.
In the post game interview, the tears came back. Doc started to talk about the fan reaction, and was overcome with emotion. For the first time in memory the affable, talkative, Doc Rivers was speechless. After several starts and stops Doc said the words that he never had the chance to say last spring.
“That was just nice. It didn’t surprise me because that’s just the way – you’ve got to live here to understand that – that’s just the way they are. It’s an amazing fan base. It really is. And I want everything to go well for them.”
Nine years is a long time in one place. Doc Rivers is starting over in LA. He knows as well as anyone else, the Clippers fans are not the Celtics fans. And there is no doubt, it’s the fans in Boston that Doc will miss most.