It hadn’t occurred to me that Doc Rivers might take leave of the Boston Celtics for any other job. And I still consider it highly unlikely, except for one thought that keeps running through my head.
It’s closer to home. Where the Rivers family lives, and has since Doc coached the Orlando Magic.
That would be Winter Park, adjoining Orlando, and whose central feature is Rollins College. No Disney World spill-over there, no animal kingdom or roller coasters or undersea world there. When Doc Rivers was hired to coach the Celtics, he moved, but his family stayed put, and Winter Park is still home to Doc.
(Actually, his name is Glenn, and his father was a police officer in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago. Glenn became “Doc” when he showed up in a summer camp wearing a “Dr. J” T-shirt.)
When the Celtics were in town awhile ago, Doc made it rather clear that the Rivers family is firmly based in Winter Park. There was a cost factor. Chartered planes, flying to and from was expensive, as much as $200,000 over the years, he said, but there is no price on peace and contentment.
One son is a senior at Indiana, a daughter is a junior at Florida, and a younger son is a promising basketball star in high school at Winter Park, and he won’t he heading north to college. “He’s a warm weather guy,” Doc said.
And it might be said that Doc is as well. After graduation from Marquette University, he was drafted by the Hawks and settled in Atlanta for several seasons, as a broadcaster with Turner Sports after his playing days. When Ted Turner created the Goodwill Games, Doc coached one of the U.S. teams as an aide to Tom Izzo.
Winter Park became home when he coached the Magic, and by the time he was fired, the Rivers family had grown deep roots there. So, you see, that might make the Hawks a more attractive destination, though who could imagine him turning his back on the Celtics for the bungled management of the Atlanta Spirit? Nay, it says here.
Doc does bring back happy times to this old-timer. We paired on the golf course some years back and came away with the winning trophy. Blushingly, I’ll confess that I must have sunk a mile of putts that day, and while my game has suffered from age, my memory of Doc hasn’t.
He is a brilliant coach, as well as a special kind of human being and family man. He met his wife, Kris, at Marquette, and though they are of different colors, it has been an admirable match from the start. And for all the commuting, there’s some Celtic history there. When Red Auerbach coached the Celtics all those celestial seasons, he commuted from Washington.
Doc has deeply rooted support in Boston. Danny Ainge, who operates the franchise, commends his work, “an excellent coach” who has done “a magnificent job.” When there was fear that he might take leave, Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn, of the Celtics’ rosy era, led his cheering section.
Pure American is Doc Rivers. Never met a coach I respected more, for what that’s worth.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.