Diss Guy Miss Guy, Vol. 44

Diss Guys: Basketball Writers

I’ve always been unsure how to feel about Jason Kidd. On the one hand, he is a fellow East Bay native and one in a tradition of great Bay point guards including Gary Payton, Brian Shaw and Damian Lillard. On the other hand, he’s a notorious coach killer—and much more seriously—a wife beater.

What I do know is that the NBA is a lot more interesting than it was a few days ago because of Kidd’s appointment to coach the Brooklyn Nets. I’m reminded of an exchange Jon Stewart had with hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on his infamous Crossfire appearance:

Paul Begala: “Which candidate would provide you better material if he won?”

John Stewart: “I don’t really know, it’s not how we look at it, the absurdity of the system provides us with the most material, and that is best served by the theater of it all.”

Tucker Carlson: “But if Kerry gets elected—you said you are voting for him—will it be harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?”

John Steward: “The only way it would be harder is if its less absurd than this one, so in that case if his administration is less absurd than yeah, it will be harder. But…it will be hard to top this group in terms of absurdity.”

I have no clue if Jason Kidd will be a good coach or not. For that matter, I’ve yet to see any evidence that basketball decisionmakers have much of an idea who will become a good coach or not, and they have way more information than me. But as somebody who writes about basketball, I rely upon interesting stories and narratives to emerge so that I can analyze them. Jason Kidd may be a good coach. Jason Kidd may be a bad coach. Either way, he will be a hell of a lot more entertaining than whatever retread or hot assistant Brooklyn was looking at before him.


Miss Guy: Doc Rivers

Before I launch into a melodramatic diatribe about current Celtics coach Doc Rivers, I want to make two things perfectly clear.  First, I do not believe that any person is required to remain in their job, in any circumstance.  None.  If one feels that they’re unable to do the job they told whomever hired them they would do, they have every right to leave.  That says nothing about wrongful termination, bogus resignations, or the likes.  But I do believe that no job has you chained to a desk, bench, production line, frying pan or broom.  So there’s that.  Secondly, and this relates clearly to Doc Rivers, and all NBA coaches (a topic I discussed at some length yesterday): I do not think that a job that pays you over a million dollars over the course of a contract is really woth getting too worked up over.  Regardless of whether a coach lasts 3 games as an interim, or 3,000 as a cornerstone of a franchise, that man will make a lot of money, all other things be damned.

But with that said, it’s hard not be a little miffed with Doc Rivers, who is apparently having second thoughts about fufilling the terms of his five year, $23 million contract with the Boston Celtics.  Reports have surfaced throughout the week that Doc is unsure about the team’s prospects of staying competitive in the coming years, with Garnett and Pierce advanced in age, and Rondo coming back from an ACL injury.  He already lead the team through one rebuilding period (’05-’06 and ’06-’07, when the Celtics won a combined 57 games), and is wary about undergoing another. Stephen A. Smith reported that Doc has grown a bit weary of working with Danny Ainge, and would be willing to entertain other job offers if the Celtics would let him.  Now, as Ken Berger reported today, he would have to get special permission from the Celtics, as his current contract has a no-compete clause.  If that was able to be waived, and Doc and the Celtics could come to some agreement in what could be a nasty legal battle over breaking the terms of the 5-year contract he signed two years ago, Doc would be interested in talking to the Los Angeles Clippers, a team he played for one year (’91-’92, a year they made the playoffs), and who have a roster that could conceivably win a championship.

I wish I could link to this, since I found it poignant, but I heard on the radio that when Larry Bird resigned from the Pacers after coaching the team to the 2000 Finals (with at least one more year left on his contract), he said that he felt the average shelf life of an NBA coach was three years.   Doc Rivers has lasted far longer than three years, in both of his coaching jobs in Boston and Orlando.  He knows full well that a coach’s voice can get tiresome over time, and with Garnett and Pierce perhaps on their way out, it could be possible that he loses two of his biggest supporters in the locker room.  It would make sense that the Celtics need a new voice, and perhaps a new direction, now that keeping the Big Two together seems financially irresponsible.   But if that was the case, why did he agree to five years of coaching the team?  Was it a silent assumption that if things didn’t work out, he’d go back to the broadcasting booth, and not to another team’s bench?

It’s just a bit sad.  For the casual fan, the Celtics were a fun story to follow, and in some cases support. I was a Celtics “fan” in 2008 and 2010, and rooted for their good fortunes in 2012, when they had a chance to derail the Heat’s championship run. At their best, the Celtics were three likable superstars who were stronger as a unit than individually, an enigmatic young star, countless memorable role players, and a likable, honest head coach, who seemed to be committed to the team through thick and thin.  Doc Rivers was as important as the players in the creation of the modern-day (and, in the end, perhaps relatively brief) Celtics resurgance.  He was cast brilliantly as a father figure, guiding Celtics players through trials deeper than playoff series, and the main reason the team remained together in the end of every season, regardless of the result.  In that five year contract seemed to be an agreement from both parties that this was a relationship meant to last; to be different than the other coach-front office agreements.  And it was: Rivers has been with the Celtics for nine seasons.  Now it seems that things are what they are always described to be, by players, coaches and executives alike: a “business”.

Nothing may come of this.  Doc may remain a Celtic, and lead the team for another season, regardless of how good or bad they look in October.  He may leave the team, and just relax, or go back to television (where, as I recall, he was very good).  He may even be coaching a different team next season.  But this could be the start of a very messy, ugly divorce, that casts an unfortunate pale over what was, for casual fans like me, a very enjoyable run for the Celtics.

Ah well.  NBA’s a business.  And I don’t understand — and frankly, don’t care about — math that deals with millions.

- JG

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