Austin Rivers, the rookie guard for the New Orleans Hornets and the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, was at the TD Garden on Wednesday take on his father’s team for the first time as a pro. Before the suddenly red-hot Hornets beat the Celtics 90-78 to earn their sixth victory in seven games, Austin Rivers was asked point-blank who he thought was the best coach in the NBA.
It was a land mine of a question. Normally, the diplomatic answer for a player is to name his own coach, in this case New Orleans’ bench boss Monty Williams. That is a bit trickier when the opposing coach is a relative, and it is even trickier because the obvious “right” answer is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Austin Rivers handled the question like a veteran, giving credit to Popovich and dad while acknowledging his own coach’s rising potential.
“My father and Gregg Popovich would have to be the two best coaches, and I think coach Williams is on the up-and-coming,” Austin Rivers said. “Just the way [Williams] coaches, he’s similar to my father, the way he gets after it. He’s always hungry. I know he’ll be a great coach. He is now. There’s a lot of great coaches, but if I had to choose one or two, I’d have to choose Gregg Popovich and my father.”
Williams, for his part, believes that there is no better coach for the brash young Rivers, and he may be right. Williams could gain some points against Doc Rivers and Popovich if he manages to help Austin Rivers work out of his rookie slump.