More With Less: Doc Rivers Silences Haters With Playoff Berth

ESPN underestimated the coaching genius of Doc Rivers when it predicted 33 wins for the LA Clippers.

Most NBA experts predicted that Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers would be a bottom feeder in a loaded Western Conference this season.

However, Rivers isn’t a championship coach and considered a Top 3 sideline stalker for nothing. He took a team with no superstars and clinched a playoff berth on Wednesday night, confirming that he is one of the best to ever do it. Hands down.

Danilo Gallinari and former sixth man of the year Lou Williams are Doc’s best players. It’s much easier for coaches to win when they have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Demarcus Cousin and Draymond Green like Steve Kerr does in Golden State.

Mike D’Antoni isn’t starving for wins with future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and NBA MVP James Harden leading the way. The verdict is still out on whether or not Sixers coach Brett Brown can even coach, but when you have four of the most productive players in the game on one team, 50 wins should be child’s play.

The true test of a coach’s ability is when he doesn’t have the murderer’s row lineup. When he has to rely on his acumen to gain his team advantages rather than relying on the superior talent of his players.  The Clippers aren’t expected to contend for a title, but that’s exactly why this season is probably Doc’s finest moment from a pure coaching standpoint.  

People like to dismiss the importance of coaching in today’s pro sports. “Talent wins” and “players win games” has become cliche and represent a new dismissive attitude towards the importance of great coaching. Doc has always been considered one of the game’s best strategists. He’s an NBA championship coach and helped bring the LA Clippers back to respectability, despite playing in the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Doc has made a career out of shutting the haters up. He was a seasoned veteran of 14 years in the league as a player and now he’s in his 20th season on the NBA sidelines. He earned props for his intellect and grit as the consummate floor general for the Atlanta Hawks in the 80s.  Then as a coach, he broke the two-decade championship drought for the Boston Celtics in 2008.

When the Clippers were at their best, Rivers was overseeing an exciting group of players known as “Lob City.”

CP3 was the All-Star point guard, Blake Griffin was the All-Star power forward and DeAndre Jordan was the freakishly athletic 7-footer. Rivers made the playoffs his first four years with the Clippers and then CP3 forced his way to Houston. Blake ended up in Detroit and Jordan joined a pitiful Knicks squad in NY.  Rivers was left with an empty cupboard and a lot of fan hate, but still managed to win 42 games in a tough Western Conference.

Frustrated by LA’s inability to advance in the playoffs and the realization that Lob City would never win an NBA championship, some delusional fans called for Doc’s firing.

Even if the Clippers brass wanted to let Rivers go, after they took a look around at the thin pool of established winning coaches, they quickly realized that none of these guys are messing with Doc, who is a hot NBA commodity once again.

If the Clippers aren’t careful, he might end up on the Lakers or another high profile squad looking for a coach that can actually turn a very good team into championship caliber.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.