Will Doc Rivers go for gold?

Will Doc Rivers go for gold?
February 27, 2013, 1:00 pm
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We’re already six months removed from the 2012 Olympics in London, and still 41 months away from the 2016 games in Rio (aka the Fab Melolympics), but let’s take a second to talk about Doc Rivers and the U.S. men’s basketball team.
 
Why not, right? It can help pass the time until DJ White’s paperwork arrives on the slow boat from China.
 
First of all, you need to know that after seven years — not to mention, two gold medals and an overall record of 62-1 — Mike Krzyzweski is stepping down as head coach of Team USA. This is something that Krzyzweski alluded to numerous times during and after last summer’s Olympics, and reiterated yesterday on ESPN Radio — "My stance hasn't changed," he said, while adding that Jerry Colangelo plans to name a new head coach this summer.
 
And here in Boston, the question is: So . . . will Doc Rivers be that new head coach?
 
We know that he’s in the running. In reality, Rivers is one of probably three coaches with a legitimate shot at claiming Coach K’s clipboard. Of the three, he’s also the least likely to land the gig, but it’s still possible.
 
And more importantly, White’s papers still haven’t shown up so let’s take a look at the candidates.
 
1. Gregg Popovich is the favorite. He’s the best the coach in the NBA. He’s the longest tenured coach in major professional sports. He’s basically the NBA’s Bill Belichick, except that while Bill grew up around a U.S. Naval base, Pop actually attended the Air Force Academy, was captain of the Falcons basketball team and served five years in Russia and Eastern Europe. Bill Belichick is a Patriot, but Popovich is a PATRIOT.
 
You want rings? Pop has four. You want consistency? He’s about to win 50 games for the 15th time in the last 16 years. (The only season he missed was the strike-shortened ’99 campaign, when all the Spurs did was finish 37-13 and win a title.)
 
You want an understanding of the international game? Pop’s whole team is international! He’s pretty much the dean of the NBA’s foreign exchange program.
 
He’s a great fit, the most deserving candidate and the man most likely to land the job . . .
 
. . . assuming his hilarious rivalry with David Stern doesn’t get in the way, and he promises not to berate the international media or bench his starters for nationally televised exhibition games.
 
2. Doug Collins is the sentimental choice. In fact, last summer, Doc was asked whom he thought should get the job:
 
“Doug Collins,” he said. “And there's a reason: '72."
 
Doc was referring to the ’72 summer games in Munich, where Collins and the Americans lost the gold to the USSR in heart-breaking and scandalous fashion. You can read much more about the game (and how it still affects Collins) over here, but for now, let’s just say that he deserves — and would relish — another opportunity.
 
In related news: If you caught Collins’ press conference after last night’s loss to Orlando, then you know that there’s a decent chance that he’s about to have some free time on his hands.
 
Maybe he can become Team USA’s first full time coach?
 
3. And then there’s Doc, who in so many ways is absolutely perfect for the job.
 
While Pop goes out of this way to avoid associating with egos, Doc has made a career of attacking them head on. Of embracing and effectively massaging them into one. While younger guys like Jacque Vaughn, Monty Williams and Lindsey Hunter continue to bridge the gap between players and coaches, no one toes the line between brother and boss quite like Rivers. He’s the perfect combination of therapist, fan club president and vicious taskmaster. Bottom line: If you have a team that you know has more talent than anyone else — aka Team USA —and the main concern is just finding someone to bring that talent together and convince them to trust each other? Doc Rivers is your man.
 
Furthermore, he's not only great with the players, but he’s also a perfect face for the program. He’s a happy, out-going, optimistic and personable guy. While Pop is known for being stand-offish and snippy with the media, and Collins is prone to flying off the rails like he did last night, Doc will have FIBA and the entire international community eating out of the palm of his hand within weeks. Everyone loves Doc Rivers!
 
And anyway, it’s about time the Celtics were represented at the Olympics.
 
They haven’t had a player compete for the gold since Larry Bird hobbled his way through Barcelona in 1992.
 
How crazy is that? In the last 20 years and five Summer Olympics — that's Dream Team II through the Redeem Team — 26 of the NBA’s 30 teams have been represented. Even the Bobcats had Emeka Okafor. Even the Kings had Mitch Richmond. Hell, the Vancouver Grizzlies had Shareef Abdur-Rahim. But the Celtics (along with the Hawks, Warriors and Bullets/Wizards) have been shut out.
 
Antoine Walker never made it. Paul Pierce played in the World Games but wore out his welcome before the Olympics. Rondo went to Turkey in 2010, but quit before he could get cut. It’s been far too long.
 
And while having a coach isn’t quite the same as watching a player, in Doc’s case, it’s pretty close. He’s as much a Celtic as anyone in uniform, and Boston would take great pride in seeing him lead the country against the world.
 
But unfortunately, he’ll likely miss out. It’s just not his time. As difficult as it is to still consider Rivers a “young coach,” the truth is that he’s still 13 years younger than Popovich. He’s 10 years younger than Collins. (By the way, I was shocked to find that Collins is the younger of the two.) Rivers is a great candidate for the job, and a safe bet to take the reins at some point in the future . . . but just not now.
 
Maybe 2020?
 
And by that point, maybe DJ White will have finally been cleared to play.