Doc Rivers for Coach of the Year
Maybe I'm biased, but I think you can make a strong case for Celtics head coach Doc Rivers as NBA Coach of the Year. Doc won the award in 2000 while coaching the Orlando Magic. At that time, the Magic were expected to be a last-place team. Doc coached them to a near playoff berth.
This year is different. There were a lot of people saying 'Fire Doc' as the Celtics languished last year. Their team was too thin in talent and too young to be successful in the NBA. Perhaps fans should have been calling for the firing of Executive Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager, Danny Ainge. And, many of those fans probably were.
But, Ainge pulled off two big trades, leaving the Celtics with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, in addition to their only previous star, Paul Pierce. More importantly, Ainge signed free agents James Posey and Eddie House and drafted Glen "Big Baby" Davis. He also had previously drafted Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and my favorite, Leon Powe. All of these players have made big contributions to this team so far this year.
But, a lot of credit has to go to Doc Rivers for getting this team to mesh right from the start. Certainly, the veteran players, including Garnett, set the tone for the rest of the team to follow. But, Doc needs to get the players to buy-in to his approach. Since the Celtics have excelled at defense, you know that they have a selfless attitude. Defense takes consistent effort and doesn't lead to many SportsCenter highlights.
More recently, the Celtics have been beset with injuries. Keving Garnett has been out for nine games. The Celtics have gone 7-2 in this stretch, winning the last 5, including a defeat of last year's champion, the San Antonio Spurs. Perkins has also missed the last few games. Both Davis and Brian Scalabrine had to leave their last game due to injury. Luckily, the Celtics made it to the All-Star break on a winning note and have a few days to rest and heal. We'll see who is ready to come back after this weekend. At that time, the Celtics start what will be their toughest West Coast road trip so far, including stops at Denver, Phoenix, and Portland.
Doc has managed through all this, with the Celtics maintaining the best record in the league. In fact, they are on pace to match the best Celtics record ever, 68-14 in 1972-73. They have been very consistent, with only one really "off" game, when they lost at home to Charlotte on January 9 by 12 points. Not bad after 50 games.
I'm lucky enough to sit behind the Celtics bench at a lot of home games. I can see and hear Doc up close as he talks to the other coaches and the players. He continues to teach his young players through their mistakes and has the complete respect of his veterans. Although it is no surprise that the Celtics have a good team this year, no one expected them to be this good, and this deep, this fast.
If I had a vote, I'd vote for Doc Rivers as NBA Coach of the Year.