Doc Rivers trusts the 2008 Boston Celtics more than any team he’s ever coached.
The former Celtics bench boss made that abundantly clear Tuesday while in Boston for the annual ABCD Hoop Dreams fundraiser he runs with current Boston coach Brad Stevens.
“That team, the 2008 group, was as close of a group as you could ever coach,” Rivers said, per ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. “Everyone bought into their roles. It wasn’t a perfect group all the time. We had our arguments and our differences, and that’s fine.
“On the floor, I’d take that group every night to go to war. If I had one game to win for my life, I’m taking that 2008 group and we’re going to go to war, because you know they were going to show up and do it together.”
The Celtics won the NBA Finals in 2008, their first year with the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. That team forever will be remembered for its unselfishness, with all three stars putting aside their egos, but the honeymoon ended a few years later when Allen left the Celtics and signed with the Miami Heat in a decision that to this day affects his relationship with his former Boston teammates.
“As years have gone on, things have been fractured, and I hate it. I hate seeing it,” Rivers said Tuesday, according to Forsberg, with Allen set to enter the Hall of Fame this week. “I would love this (to be a) celebration for Ray. Not a lot to say here about it. Ray won us a title. He really did.
“I think he should be celebrated. I think he should be celebrated in Boston. He’s responsible for that banner. If I had one wish, I wish I could do a better job of getting that group back together. I can get a lot of them back together; I just can’t get the whole group. They really should be because they were so close, and it really hurts me to see what’s going on.”
Allen and Pierce since have buried the hatchet, even though Allen missed Pierce’s number retirement ceremony, which Garnett and Rajon Rondo attended together alongside Rivers. But it doesn’t sound like Allen is going to make peace with the others anytime soon. And that pains Rivers, who believes the players’ similarities — “very stubborn, very tough, very competitive and no one wants to give in” — are to credit for their success and to blame for their lingering beef.
“The phrase I used to use a thousand times in arguments with the team: ‘It’s about getting it right, not who is right,’ ” Rivers said, per Forsberg. “I hope we can get that right because they are all probably right in whatever they are saying in some way or form, but they need to get it right and get together.”
When together, the group sure was amazing, which Rivers knows more than anyone.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports