Doc makes the difference

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks to Rajon Rondo during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA...

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks to Rajon Rondo during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals.(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Doc Rivers may walk away from the bench area and return to his past post as a TV analyst.

If this year’s NBA final prove to be Rivers’ swan song, regardless of what he does in the future with his professional life, he has routinely stated his intention of wanting to spend more time with his family in Orlando, Fla.

It’s noble on Rivers’ part, an acknowledgement of the immense toll coaches take when family needs get compromised with so much at stake in the pro sports.

Rivers isn’t known for any schematic brilliance, deflecting all the attention to associate coach Tom Thibodeau when it comes to Boston’s defensive approach.

Critics of the Celtics’ head coach point to Boston’s Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and the emergence of star Rajon Rando, four solid core pieces many rationalize anyone could manage and win.

But what Rivers does best is manage egos, which is the ultimate test at the NBA level.

He has a feel for the game that is only developed by playing the game, a relationship only forged with players because Rivers played the point position on a Knicks team that came within one win of capturing a title.

This series began like many others when a Phil Jackson coached team is involved, a deliberate, well-calculated verbal shot at the opposition to plant a seed with the officials.

Jackson referred to Boston’s “smackdown mentality,’’ a veiled attack at the way the Celtics prefer to push and prod, take liberties with the rules by initiating contact and getting into one’s face.

When the Celtics found themselves trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, Rivers fought back, picking the right moment to vent.

Boston hasn’t lost since, pushing the Lakers to the brink of elimination entering Tuesday night’s Game 6.

Moment of truth

That, in essence, is what separates Rivers from his coaching peers, the sense of occasion, knowing what to say and what to do at the precise moment of truth.

When Boston’s bench stepped up in Game 4, Rivers kept his starters firmly planted on the bench.

When Kobe Bryant was going off in the third quarter of Game 5, Rivers restored calm when chaos ensued during a timeout.

The NBA awards an MVP for its championship showcase.

In theory, whatever happens in previous post-season matchups has no bearing when the NBA final MVP is awarded.

If Boston is to prevail, it’s likely Pierce will earn his second MVP in three years. If the Lakers are to come back and win in seven games, Bryant will earn his second in as many years.

But it says here that Rivers should win the award.

Absolutely no one pegged the Celtics to be within one win of the franchise’s 18th title, a reality given Boston’s 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6.

The Celtics were given up for dead, too old, too frail, too many agendas at work and simply too overmatched, at least based on the way the team stumbled to a 3-7 finish to end the regular season.

Jackson was asked if Rivers has proven to be a better coach than most had perceived.

“You know, I’m not the person to ask that type of question,’’ Jackson began, but continued to address it. “I’m going to try to downplay Doc, right?

“I mean, that’s my job. But I’ll tell you what he’s done well. He’s done well in attacking some of our weaker guys out there on the floor in situations that’s given them an advantage.

“As far as the other stuff, the players that he has on the team, they’re all experienced players. During the regular season they knew what was important about the year. The year was about coming in the playoffs and playing.

“Doc rode his team the right way. It’s the second season that’s important in this game and they’ve come in with a good amount of energy and the right team play. Is that enough for you? I’ll give him a gold star.”

Another title would suffice.


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