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More proof that Doc Rivers is simply a hell of a human being

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) October 31, 2012 Celtics News, Doc Rivers 54 Comments

Note:  This is a serious piece that does not concern basketball very much and deals with  mature subject matter.  If you’re not mature enough to handle it, you can go away now.  I implore you, though, to read my disclaimer at the bottom before making any comments on this piece.  

Doc Rivers has always seemed genuine.  He’s always seemed like a decent person whose values are in order.  And while you never know what a person is like behind closed doors, away from the cameras, and totally un-guarded, you can piece together certain things that can complete the picture.  It’s not unlike an archaeologist piecing together a picture of a dinosaur from an incomplete skeleton.  You find enough of the right bones, and eventually the entire picture comes into focus, regardless of a few missing pieces.

The biggest piece of determining who anyone is, is how others speak of him or her.  And the next bad thing anyone says about Doc as a person will be the first thing I’ve ever heard. Kevin Garnett famously swears to run through walls if Doc so ordered, and that’s not because Doc draws up a fine out-of-bounds play.  It’s because of how Doc treats him as a man.  Others will fall in line to take a crack at the wall for the same reason.  They respect a man who respects them, even though he wields Castro-like authority.

The next piece in the Doc Rivers excavation is his self-sacrifice for his family.  The rigors of the NBA, or any professional coaching job, demand full attention during every waking moment.  Or, at least, that’s what we’re led to believe.  Doc, though, has managed to balance being a good father with being a good coach.  Honestly, my favorite image of Doc Rivers that doesn’t involved the championship is this celebration of Austin’s game-winning shot against North Carolina.  The pure, unbridled joy he felt at the moment is a testament to how much of a family man he really is.  In this world of professional athletes and coaches pushing family aside to pursue their personal goals, that images is especially heart warming.

And then there are the words he says and the way he conducts himself publicly.  This is the hardest part of this whole puzzle because so many of these guys are coached in saying the right words.  Some guys can really sell it.  But, after years of watching people talk in front of a camera, you can often figure out who’s being sincere, and who isn’t.  Of course, it’s not an exact science.  There are people like a certain shooting guard for the Miami Heat who can fool the B.S. detector.  But there’s something about Doc and the way he says things that makes you believe it comes from the heart.

Which brings us to the impetus for this praise.

Beyond sports, there is a real world, where real people live with real problems.  Those problems evolve over generations.  A hundred years ago, women couldn’t vote.  Now they’re CEO’s.  50 years ago, a black man couldn’t eat at the same restaurant as white people.  Now one is President.  And while those societal advancements don’t mean the ills and ignorance that fueled the prejudice are cured, they are clear, obvious signs of attitudinal change.

Today, there is a new fight for civil rights.  Homophobia is the one of the few remaining, somewhat “acceptable” form of prejudice in today’s society.  Terms like “fag” are thrown around as casual insults… “good-natured ribbing,” without a second thought about the ramifications of the word.  And the fear of being branded as gay has led to un-tolled secrets being kept around the world…

… and many of them in professional sports.

Statistically, there is a percentage of professional athletes that are gay.  A recent Gallup report found 3.4% of Americans identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.  Knowing the secrets people keep, chances are good that the number is actually higher.  And there’s no reason to believe professional athletes are exempt from that ratio.  That means there are a few.  And there are probably a few in the NBA.

John Amaechi is the only NBA player to come out as a homosexual.  He played for Doc Rivers in the 2000-01 season.  In an interview with Boston Spirit, Doc discussed Amaechi, and gay players in the NBA.

Boston Spirit: You were one of the first people to come out and stand behind John Amaechi when he came out. Did you have to think about that at all? Were you worried what people might think?

Doc Rivers: No, I could care less what people thought and I didn’t worry about it at all. It’s not one of those things where we had to have a front office discussion. It’s funny, I actually think someone in the front office wanted to have a discussion and I said ‘For What? And that’s how I felt about it. It was easy for me. John’s a great, great guy.

BS: Was it a surprise to you when John came out?

DR: No, not really. Sexual orientation is always talked about in locker rooms just like everywhere. I was happy that he came out. It wasn’t a surprise to me that he came out because he hadn’t shared it — but he had, if you know what I mean. It probably was a surprise for others.

BS: Was it a surprise for his teammates?

DR: I would say it was about half and half. Later on I got some calls from some of his teammates. Some of them brought it up and some didn’t some said they were surprised and some said they weren’t surprised at all. What I was happiest about is that you could tell it wasn’t a big deal for them. Obviously he was a bit removed because he made the announcement when he wasn’t playing for us, it was later, but not one guy made a bad comment. It really wasn’t a big deal.

There is a difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance”.  Tolerance is a great step.  Acceptance is the goal.  And what makes Doc such a great individual is the fact that he simply doesn’t give a damn what anyone’s sexual orientation is.  And that’s the goal, really, in a civil rights issue.  To be judged simply on who you are, and your abilities as an individual.  That’s who Doc Rivers is.

DR: You know, I am interracially married. I’m open minded, I’ve always been open minded. I don’t think there was one thing that influenced me. My father was a cop, my mother worked on an assembly line. I don’t like anyone that is prejudiced. I dealt with it growing up in Chicago. I don’t think you should be judged by anything except for your actions and what you do. That’s just the way I was brought up. Look, there are going to be people who hate in everything. There are people who hate me for being an awful coach or for being black or being whatever. That’s just the way it is. Like Bill Cosby said, he had the number one show on television for five or six years and he got 100,000 hate letters a year. So it goes to show, you’re not going to please everyone.

My respect for Doc was already quite high before.  It’s off the charts now.  Because its easy to be the good coach and motivator of men if you know the game of basketball and a little bit about human psychology.  It’s not as easy to do the right thing off the floor, and have the proper perspective about everything else in life.

Doc’s words are simple.  If I saw him tomorrow and praised him for them he’d blow it off.  But it’s the simplicity and matter-of-fact “I don’t get why everyone isn’t like this already” attitude that makes him so great.

Because this is difficult stuff.  And not enough people are like this.  And this, quite simply, makes Doc Rivers one hell of a human being.

I know the subject matter of this piece makes it tempting for some to make a gay joke in the comments.  But let me be clear about one very simple thing:  not a single one will be tolerated.  Any homophobic jokes made by ANYONE, even if you’ve been a frequent contributor to this site, will result in being banned.  There will be no exceptions.

Please take this into consideration if you choose to comment.

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  • Dunkfaced

    I was reading articles on Amaechi/Rivers a few months ago and at the time wondered why it wasn’t more of a “big deal”. Doc took a huge step which most coaches in sports wouldn’t do. Amazing guy and great write up, John.

  • Glory

    Guys, THIS is why I love Reds Army, Doc Rivers and the whole Celtics organization. I feel like my family (my same-sex partner, and our little girl) is welcomed and ACCEPTED by the people I admire most. I cannot put into adequate words how that makes me feel. I have tears in my eyes, guys. You are all exceptional.

    My family adores every single one of you. Thank you.

    • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

      We’re all people here… united by our love for the Celtics. Thanks so much for reading, and commenting

      • Curt

        I see you’re regulating already. Sad you gotta do it, but proud of you for it, John.

        • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

          thank you.

          I want to make it clear that we are all people, and we should all live by Martin Luther King’s creed of being judged by the content of our character rather than anything else. Quite simply, it’s what I want for myself. Judge me for who I am. I will do the same for others.

          I love good people. I want to surround myself with them. Your race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such thing doesn’t matter.

      • Glory

        No need to thank me, thank YOU for the hard work you (and the contributors) put in to this site. Reds Army is one of the many reasons I am so proud to be a Celtics fan…. Even all the way out here in Australia. My long ago offer is still valid, when I finally get to Boston, drinks are on me!

        • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

          ha ha…. I’ll buy you the plane ticket…. but the drinks have to equal its cost.

          I will admit to one stereotype….. I hear you Aussies really like to fucking drink.

          • Glory

            lmao. You have yourself a deal!

            Is it really a stereotype if it’s true? ;) But I buck the trend a little because I don’t like beer. Hand me a bottle of Makers Mark, however, and it’s ON.

          • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

            Deal. Let me know when you’re in Boston… and we’ll make some bar’s night

          • Glory

            It is in the works, my friend. You and KWAPT will be the first people I tell. :) Apart from the fam in Cape Cod, that is.

  • Brenda

    Doc is a class act. I met him a few years ago and he was a genuinely nice man. He talked to me as a fan and later waved to me in the crowd as I was right behind he bench. I will always respect him and all he does for basketball.

  • TOdd

    I Love Doc Rivers…He is an inspiring individual. It makes perfect sense to me that he would be progressive and open minded because he has a brilliant mind.

  • Curt

    I’m glad Doc is helping out in such a big way. Let’s make sure everyone knows that all are accepted by the Celtics. The more fans the better. The only people I think we should are fans that encourage the Celtics Organization to change its values and its culture.

    All are welcome! Good piece John.

  • cass

    Great post. Love seeing this kind of content on sports websites. Makes me proud to be from Boston.

  • CoachBo

    I’m a fan of people more than I am sports.

    Doc Rivers is a great human being following strongly and closely in the footsteps of the man who made this franchise, Red Auerbach. Proud to have a person of Red’s quality sitting in Red’s seat on the bench, and I’m sure Red is too.

    • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

      that is a great comment. Thank you CoachBo.

    • Glory

      Just echoing John’s comment, well said CoachBo.

  • Aussie Celtics Fan

    Great article John. Excellent read. Doc Rivers IS all class. It’s a pity though, that in societies all over the world, this isn’t the norm. Acceptance should be the majority, not the minority. We’re all human, and should all show love to one another as humans. Thanks for a great piece.

  • Larry Legend

    Can u ex

  • Jester00

    so a horse walks in a bar and the bartender asks why the long face?

    great write up guys How bout paying for my drinks and I will fly up there. i think i win, I back everything Doc said there but a bigger issue is Jeff green still sucks

  • Joseph

    And he makes the Celtics tradition all the prouder. We aren’t without our blemishes, like Russell feeling like he was never fully accepted by us because he was black, but never was their a more class organization in sports than the Celtics.

    Thanks for writing this up. Go doc and go c’s

  • http://www.celticsdownunder.com Kein

    Good post John.

  • Jeremy

    I love the Celtics and I love this site but this article was disappointing…homosexuality is not a civil rights issue, it is a choice and a decision that someone makes! I did not get to decide what color of skin I had or if I was a male or a female, which makes racism and chauvinism (or radical feminism) wrong but homosexuality is not in the same category!

    I’m not advocating homophobia and I agree that homosexual jokes, slurs, etc., are inappropriate because homosexuals are human beings and should be treated with respect as human beings. However, this does not mean that we need to accept this chosen “sexual orientation” as being correct. If we are to base our judgment of people off of people’s behavior and actions, as this article claims, and we believe because of a variety of reasons (scientific, sociological, moral, religious, psychological, etc.) that this type of behavior is incorrect and is actually harmful, I believe it is important to state this in a thoughtful and kind way.

    • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

      I respect your comment, but disagree. I don’t want to get into a major debate over this, but homosexuality is not a choice. It’s something you’re born with. You don’t choose to be heterosexual… you just are. I don’t see any reason for someone to choose to be homosexual and accept the taunting, derision, and discrimination that inherently comes with it.

      This isn’t a full-on discussion for a Celtics blog, so I’m happy to simply leave it at this….. you’ve stated your opinion, I’ve stated mine. We rarely delve into these issues here, but I felt this was timely and important.

      There is a “contact us” link at the top of the site if you wish to continue in private. I’m happy to leave it here and, tomorrow, continue on with our usual Celtics discussions. Most of all, I very much appreciate a dissenting comment presented thoughtfully, regardless of whether I agree with it.

      I would encourage others to leave this discussion here as well.

      • Jester00

        sorry John got that message after i posted my bad

      • Glory

        A measured and respectful response, John. Well said.

      • JR99

        John– Serial murderers are also believed to be “born that way.” Several forms of insanity are considered genetic in nature. By your logic, they should all be “accepted,” correct?

        You couldn’t be more wrong. Humans MUST NOT accept ALL behavior by other humans just because those others happened to be born a certain way. And that’s obvious.

        What you have stated here is YOUR OPINION, to which you are fully entitled (esp on your own blog). But that doesn’t make it OUR opinion. And it certainly doesn’t make it right. We have our own opinions, and most of us do not think so simplistically as you have described.

        I have no comment on homosexuality, mostly because it has nothing to do with basketball, and it’s pretty hard for me to understand what the hell this article is doing on this blog. But I will state that I FULLY understand that some people consider it wrong, and those people are fully entitled to feel that way. And this new movement in this country to make homosexuality 100% equivalent to hetero is, in my view, just plain silly, and wrong. It isn’t, not biologically, scientifically, or any other way.

        • Drew

          Wow, this type of thinking just absolutely blows my mind.

        • Ga-Celt

          This is scientifically incorrect. You are simply wrong. You can choose to be homophobic, but you cannot make up facts. Aside from the many instances of homosexuality in nature (do penguins choose?), the established scientific consensus is in 100% agreement that homosexuality is not a choice.

          From Wikipedia…
          Scientific and medical understanding is that sexual orientation is not a choice, but rather a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors,[1][3] especially with regard to early uterine environment.[4] While there are those who still hold the view that homosexual activity is “unnatural” or “dysfunctional”,[5][6] research has shown that homosexuality is an example of a normal and natural variation in human sexuality and is not in and of itself a source of negative psychological effects.

          • JR99

            Ga-Celt–
            You apparently did not read the comment you replied to. (It happens.)

            Not only did I never say that “homosexuality is a choice,” I said the exact opposite, apparently in complete agreement with you on this narrow point (I doubt we agree on the conclusion of the logic).

            Perhaps you meant to reply to “Jeremy”?

        • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

          Again, I don’t want this to get out of control, but I did want to reply:

          Serial killers kill people and tear families apart. Homosexuals simply love the same sex. To call that a stretch doesn’t do it justice. It’s not that I want acceptance JUST because “they’re born that way.” Homosexuals are absolutely no different than heterosexuals in every way EXCEPT who they are intimate with. A comparison to serial killers is actually pretty offensive.

          Further in your comparison, mental illness isn’t something that should be held against someone. Mental illness is a medical condition that should be treated. You absolutely should not shun anyone because they have mental illness.

          Again, I don’t want this to get out of control. You can go to the “contact us” link to continue this debate in private. I did want to publicly respond, though.

          • JR99

            The point was not to compare homosexuals to serial killers. (That’s what is called in polemics a “straw man.”) That would be ridiculous. Do I sound that irrational?

            What I WAS trying to do was attack your logic which stated, in effect: “They’re born that way, therefore they must be accepted as they are.” That is patently incorrect, as proven by the serial killer example, among many others.

            This subject is not all that interesting to me, and I will not be following up. I am, however, disturbed by the recent thrust in American society to fashion a brand NEW “civil right,” a new group of “oppressed people.” This issue, imo, could not be further removed from, say, the struggle of black people to achieve equal treatment in America. And I think anyone who would make it so is a classic “bleeding heart” looking for another cause to feel “holier” about. Yuck.

    • Jester00

      you are joking right? please explain ‘that this type of behavior is incorrect and is actually harmful”

  • Jester00

    you are joking right? Please explain

  • Kris

    Jeremy, how do you know the being homosexual is a choice? Did you choose to be straight or were you born straight. And if you were born straight, how do you know that it can’t happen the other way around?

    • Glory

      Let’s just leave it there. Jeremy said his piece and that’s that. It’s obvious there are many differing opinions on this topic and I guess we must simply agree to disagree. :)

      • JR99

        Especially since this is a CELTICS BLOG !!

  • Jeremy

    John, I will respectfully agree to disagree but I appreciate you allowing another opinion on this issue to be shared.

    Jester, no I am not joking (shouldn’t a Jester be able to detect that! ;) And even though I’d love to discuss the issue more, I will respect the mods wishes for me not to do so, but hopefully this article and the response will get all of us to think about this issue and attempt to see the various viewpoints espoused by others.

    Go Celtics!

    • Jester00

      Jeff Green still sucks

  • http://infinart.com Simon

    Thanks for the Austin Rivers link, I had seen it before, but gave my wife goosebumps watching it. (She’s slowly becoming more of a Celts fan – as she grew up a non-sports fan in Brazil.)

    Thanks for keeping up the best Celtics blog online. Your content is repeatedly stellar.

  • Shane

    Red Auerbach was the first NBA coach to have an all-black starting 5. Doc Rivers was the first NBA coach to publicly endorse gay marriage. For being in a city with such a tarnished record, it seems as though the Celtics have managed to stay above the derision and hate that have dominated Bostonian culture for so long. It’s nice to see that something as influential and long-standing as the Celtics Organization can maintain such high moral ground on such controversial issues. In addition to churning out a world-class product on the court, the Celtics have maintained worldly level class off of it. Go Celts baby!

    • Chris h

      That’s why the C’s have such deep meaning for me and cause such passion. They are a beacon in a city that’s always had it’s progressive and conservative factions clash so openly. The C’s have been a uniting force and an example the melded the best of both.

      The first all black starting 5, the first black coach, both honors the C’s hold. Walter Brown was a truly good man and someone all owners could learn from.

      The C’s have always been to me what I point to,the easiest way to explain who I am as a person and what values I hold dear. Hard work, sacrifice, team spirit, more hard work and passion. One team one goal. Red only judged a man on what he could do, what he brought to the table. When he was asked about the all black starting five, he was surprised. Russell said nobody even thought about it. When Red was asked what kind of statement he was making he said none. “If you don’t believe me, you can kiss my ass in a Macy’s window”. Thanks Red and thanks Doc and Danny for reviving that culture and spirit.

  • Drew

    Great story, what a guy. I just lived in San Francisco for 6 years and couldn’t be any more accepting of gay people. Living in a city like that for so long, you almost forget how stiff the rest of the country is when it comes to this subject. Gay men are some of the most positive, pleasant, and enjoyable people to be around. Seriously, if you are homophobic, you are missing out on great company.

  • Nick Sannicandro

    Wrote an article on Amaechi and his story about a year ago on another site and the reception was beyond inappropriate. One specific clown made it a point to use it as his own soapbox to bash homosexuality… thankfully Amaechi found the article and put the guy in his place…but I have to say I am THRILLED to see how much better of a crowd is here at Redsarmy, I am very happy to see the tolerance on here…. Amaechi is a class act, a GREAT guy and nobody deserves to hear the slurs and inappropriate comments that he assuredly has heard over the past few years.

    Doc…kudos

  • Ira Barrows

    Great post John! All that matters is how one lives his or her life and how he treats others. Tolerance is the bare minimum, acceptance goes most of the way but ignoring someone’s race, religion or sexual orientation is the truest sign of humanity.

    My wife and I have discussed how human Doc seems to be and how he reminds us of #44. They are both from Chicago and both have our vote.

  • Dan White

    Amen Doc and John. Good stuff.

  • felix

    swiss celtic fan here. great post – disappointed by Jeremy’s post.
    So even if your sexual orientation WERE a choice – still what’s wrong with being homosexual???
    Truly the worst invention humanity has ever made was religion.

  • eddysamson

    My buddy used to valet at Killington Ski Resort’s Grand hotel in Vermont. He was telling me about one time he parked this huge dude’s Maserati only to find out later he was a gay NBA player. Must have been Amaechi!

  • paul

    We often assume that things have changed for the better when they really have not, when only superficial things have changed. I wonder how much anti-gay prejudice has really changed, particularly in the world of sports. How much of the hatred towards Rondo, for example, is based on the fact that he is sometimes, or often, perceived as queer; regardless of whether or not he really is gay (presumably not – he’s married), or bi, there is this sort of perception that he may be queer, metrosexual, call it what you will. How much of the hatred towards Rondo is based on this?

    We often accept symbolic changes as, to use Doc’s phrase, fool’s gold. Gay’s can now serve in the military openly. I guess that’s good. But are they any less likely to live in gay ghettos, for fear of persecution in the ‘het’ world (as if there really were two separate worlds, outside of people’s attitudes)? I suspect not. And, sure, we have a black president now, and that’s a fantastic symbolic change, but the fortunes of black people generally in America are worse now than they have been in decades. They are getting screwed over by the economic system and the (in)Justice system worse than ever.

    Kudos to Doc. But let’s not accept the fool’s gold that is our perception of history as a march of progress. Oftentimes, perhaps most of the time, symbolic change masks no change, OR WORSE.

  • paul

    So Eddysamson, do you really think there is only one gay NBA player?

    !!

  • CPUFC

    Do people opposing gays in this day and age have a voice or only those who promote that lifestyle? Freedom of speech, just watch what you say… ain’t that the f–king truth.

  • Matt W

    I just function under the assumption that anyone who doesn’t think gay rights are civil rights doesn’t know any gay people that well. The attacks on them are so constant, and the rules of their lives so constantly dictated, I can’t get my head around any other reason not to be in their corner legally except not having any experience with them.

    I mean, seriously Jeremy. You sound like one of those guys from the 19th century who argued that black people liked their lot.

    • JR99

      Do I have the “civil right” to not be forced by a bunch of holier-than-thous to explain to my grade school child why his male teacher has a husband? Can’t I choose to raise my children in a world where marriage is defined as it has been for millennia, without having to just accept the points of view of the radical few who like to scream “civil rights” every time somebody looks sideways at them?

      Fact is, I never gave more than a passing thought to this whole subject. Imo, what any adult wants to do in private is completely none of my business. We are all free, equally; all of us. Just don’t come to MY neighborhood and try to redefine MY life and MY CHILDREN’S lives under the guise of “civil rights.”

      Jeff Green, however, worries me more than anything else. At least… when I’m on this blog.

  • http://redsarmy.com John – Red’s Army

    I’d like to thank everyone for their comments. I made a conscious decision to leave level-headed opposing view points here for the sake of fairness.

    I posted this item here because it involved Doc Rivers and I felt that it was important to know this side of him. To me, that’s a relevant post on a Celtics blog. It’s fine if you disagree, but that was my reasoning. You’ll notice that social issues rarely enter this space, and when they do, they have some relevance to the Celtics.

    So with that, I’m going to close comments on this post before they devolve into something horribly negative. I don’t want anything to get ugly. I believe both viewpoints are represented here, and I’m happy to say I only had to delete one comment.

    If you have any issues or wish to comment further, you can click the “contact us” link at the top and we can speak privately.

    Thanks again to everyone, especially for keeping the comments clean and respectful.