In July, Boston Celtics fans finally faced the beginning of the end. Despite the efforts to prolong the inevitable by Celtics GM Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers left town and long-time Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett followed him out.
Rivers initially joined the Celtics in 2006, and endured two less-than-stellar seasons in Boston before finally capturing the franchise’s 17th championship in 2008.
His entire tenure, Rivers was loved by the fans, respected by the players and lauded as truly one of the best coaches in the league, and not without good reason.
However, as Boston fans especially are accustomed with, all good things must come to an end.
Over the summer, the “Doc Rivers Era” in Beantown finally met that end.
While the loss of Pierce and Garnett were greatly mourned, not even their fiercest proponents could argue they were going to play forever. Rivers on the other hand, could easily coach for another 15 years if he really had a desire to. His leadership, direction, and defense-first strategy could help the Celtics brief, yet ever looming rebuilding phase less painful to behold.
But for the Celtics, what’s done is done, and there is no getting Rivers back. The results of this would appear to be able to keep the Celtics a terrible and irrelevant team for years to come. Essentially, there are two major reasons losing Rivers won’t kill the Celtics in their tracks.
The first is that we are seeing a dramatically different Boston team than the one we have seen in the past. The only thing left over from the 2008 and 2010 Championship runs are Rajon Rondo. There are only four players remaining from two seasons ago. With the loss of the rest of the team, Rivers would have to start from scratch, a situation that would prove sub-optimal as his career shows us steady team chemistries revolving around a good core are his recipe for success.
Having Doc Rivers with this Celtics squad would have made them better than they are going to be under the current circumstances, but not by much. There would not be 20 wins between the current Boston roster led by Rivers and the one led by new Head Coach Brad Stevens. There might not even be more than a 10-win difference between the two.
Secondly, Stevens is used to coaching a younger team. His success coaching basketball has been nothing short of impressive, but coaching college ball at Butler University led him to run a consistently younger team.
Now I’m not getting ahead of myself. The fact his Celtics team is young and college basketball players are also young does not mean he will be successful. It’s not anywhere near the same thing. I’m only suggesting a younger Celtics squad will be better for him to lead as opposed to the alternative. The alternative would include a roster full of vets who have been in the game much longer than he has, including a 36-year-old Garnett who is actually older than Stevens.
So in the long run, a bad team with Stevens at the helm is better than a bad one with Rivers.
Losing Rivers is not a good thing for the Celtics by any means. It’s just not as bad as we think it is going to be.