That wasn't a sentence many people were preparing to write when the Celtics were a sub-.500 team before the All Star break. The Celtics had been struggling for two months, looking as bad as they've ever looked in the Big 3 era. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were out of shape. Pierce and Rajon Rondo missed time due to injury. Jermaine O'Neal and Chris Wilcox, expected to help down low, were both lost for the season.
It was a mess.
But Doc Rivers kept it all together. He didn't panic when things were going poorly, he didn't celebrate too hard when the team started going well. He made line up shifts when guys went down and stuck with them even when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen both said they weren't entirely thrilled with their new lots in life. He is directly responsible for Avery Bradley's emergence because it was Doc who got Bradley to start making the back-door cuts that got him the confidence he needed to become a surprise scorer.
All the while, the Celtics put together one of the best post-All Star records in the league. To me, it adds up to Doc Rivers warranting at least SOME consideration for Coach of the Year. But in the few pieces being written so far about post-season awards, he hasn't even been mentioned.
First up: David Aldridge on NBA.com
THE WINNER: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio
RUNNER-UP: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
THE OTHERS: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City; Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers; Alvin Gentry, Phoenix
And then Ian Thomsen and Chris Mannix of SI
Top 3 (Thomsen)
Top 3 (Mannix)
I want to know what the hell Ian Thomsen is smoking. Mike Brown… above Popovich AND no mention of Doc Rivers?
I can see the arguments for all the names on there except for Mike Brown. In fact, my vote for COY would probably go to Popovich, who has the Spurs currently tied for the best record in the NBA. They did it without Manu Ginobili for a month and resting starters and sacrificing games at different points of the season. If they win their last two games, they'd have their 3rd 10-game winning streak of the season. That's amazing, and Pop has done an amazing job that deserves the award.
Beyond Pop, I think Doc is right there with Tom Thibodeau. Thibs, who won last year, kept the Bulls together without Derrick Rose for half the season. It's not like they're stacked with superstars. The Bulls win with defense, which is all thanks to the system Thibs installed. If you picked Thibs over Doc, I could buy that argument. If any of those three guys wins the award, I'd have a hard time arguing against it.
I get why Alvin Gentry would be mentioned. No one expected the Suns to be in a fight for the playoffs. And Frank Vogel is doing a very nice job with the 3rd seeded Pacers. But they don't rise above Doc Rivers.
As for the Mike Brown mention… I don't get it. Yes, the Lakers are the 3rd seed, but I think the top 3 reasons for that are Kobe, Kobe and Kobe. Brown's had his full squad all season long and while he has dealt with some adversity in the locker room, it's mostly been part of the growing pain process of players not being happy with changes. I'll give him credit for riding it out, but there's no way you can convince me that Mike Brown has done anything to merit a single vote for COY.
Doc Rivers, on the other hand, has. Some of the local writers have mentioned how great a job he's done this season… but the national guys have yet to catch on, apparently. Doc deserves some consideration for this award. I don't think the Celtics get themselves into this position without him.