The 23-51 record suggests otherwise, but when Doc Rivers looks across the country at his former employer, he sees an organization with a winning culture.
The Boston Celtics do not take losing well. Even with now-guaranteed inclusion in this year’s NBA draft lottery, the team and its fans are already looking to the future, either short- or long-term. Coach Brad Stevens has put together his offseason plans and discussed training regimens with every player. The long summer won’t merely be a break.
Rivers, who bolted Boston after last season to coach the Los Angeles Clippers, went through this sort of transition on Causeway Street before. In a profile piece by Paul Flannery of SBNation, Rivers offered an interesting insight on the mindset within the Celtics organization.
“The one thing that I found interesting in Boston (was) when we were losing, we were losing with a championship mindset,” Rivers said. “We’re winning (in L.A.) without one and we have to get that mindset. It’s not just the players, it’s everyone. When we started winning in Boston, we just fell back into what they were. They knew. They had been about winning. Here, we don’t, because we haven’t. That will be a task.”
Close observers might argue how much of a championship mindset existed before Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived in 2007, after the Celtics endured a 58-loss campaign and Paul Pierce had several rather open feuds with Rivers. Whatever mindset exists did not prevent Rajon Rondo from skipping out on a road game to Sacramento this year.
What we take from Rivers’ comment is that, no, a championship mindset doesn’t really help teams avoid 50-loss seasons if the talent just isn’t there. Once the talent arrives, however, it can be a bit easier to alter the focus from simply getting better every day — the Celtics’ current mindset — to being the best team in the league and hanging another banner. In case you haven’t heard, the Celtics have 17 of those.