Doc Rivers has enjoyed many NBA lives.
The Marquette product first cut his professional basketball teeth as a defensive-oriented swingman with the Atlanta Hawks in the 1980s, but his playing days are most remembered for time spent as a reserve for the New York Knicks. Rivers’ coaching career began just three years after his retirement as a player when he began roaming the sidelines for the Orlando Magic in 1999-00.
He never took Tracy McGrady’s undermanned Orlando squads any farther than the first round, despite making the playoffs in three of his four years as coach, and was ultimately fired after the Magic’s dismal start to 2003-04. After less than a full season in the broadcasting booth for NBA on ABC, Rivers was hired as coach of the Boston Celtics in April 2004.
But the Rivers we know now, a man universally considered as one of the best coaches in basketball, didn’t emerge until the Celtics swung for the fences a few years later by trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Up to that point, in fact, he was a divisive figure among Celtics fans, a coach who had no previous ties to the organization and had yet to make up for it with on-court success the likes of which Boston was accustomed.