Green Thoughts

Chronicling the Boston Celtics quest for banner number 17... and beyond.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Could O'Brien Change Rivers' Course?

The satisfaction of seeing the Globe's Peter May and ESPN's Bill Simmons FINALLY start to hold Celtics coach Doc Rivers to account provides some relief during this fiasco of a season. Local scribes have been nibbling at Doc's edges for weeks now, most notably in Bob Ryan's year-end assessment of Boston's big four sports teams.

Look, it was agony to watch the Celtics when Jim O'Brien was coaching. Even when they won it was ugly: sludgeball and all those "silly threes." And the style of play was less enraging than O'Brien's contempt for anyone who questioned the wisdom of an offensive approach that allowed your starting power forward to lead the league in three point attempts. "We can't win any other way," Obie would snap at his critics. What crap.

BUT - and this is the thing - O'Brien won. He took a perennial loser, won just shy of 50 games and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. And he did it with a team that certainly was less talented than the current 14-22 squad. (Just ask Paul Pierce.) O'Brien's teams may have been unbearable to watch, but GM Danny Ainge's decision to blow up the Celtics and go in another direction (which led to O'Brien's resignation) has not panned out.

It's unfair of Simmons to say " the local media doesn't seem to care -- there hasn't been a relevant writer covering the team since Jackie MacMullan." May in particular called Ainge out last summer for essentially blowing up the team AGAIN and going with a youth movement in the third (rather than the first) year of the new regime. He predicted that things would not go well and they haven't.

But the initial decision to hire Rivers went largely unscrutinized. And until now, Doc has largely escaped criticism for the way the team has underacheived this year and last. Doc never won as many as fifty games in Orlando, and has never won a playoff series. His teams underacheived - particularly in the first half of the season, but most notably in an embarassing 3-1 postseason collapse to Detroit. He famously feuded with Tracy McGrady. True, he won Coach of the Year, but the Magic still missed the playoffs that season. Why was this the guy to take the Celtics to the next level? And why did he escape criticism after last year's Celtics performed pretty much the same as Rivers' Orlando teams, including the disgraceful game seven loss to the Pacers?

Yes, play the kids. Yes, settle on a rotation. And, if Rivers can't do that, then, yes, can him and have Danny take the reins. But... here's another, completely insane, utterly outrageous idea. Bring O'Brien back.

O'Brien got the team to play defense and rebound. He was a master at getting more out of a less talented team. Other than Pierce, he had a bunch of guys nobody else much wanted. (I mean, Mark Blount? Tony Battie?) He got them to play a grueling defensive style because they really COULDN'T have won any other way. The problem was that success (as moderate as it may have been) made him resistant to change. Ainge came in and saw that the team was just going to have to get more talented if it was ever going to be a real contender. He blew up the team and Obie - who had won doing it HIS way - split (and did a pretty good job in Philly if you ask me).

But what if both men could swallow their pride? What if Danny could call up Obie and say "Y'know... you may have been right about the importance of toughness and the need to focus more on defense." And what if Obie could admit "You know, you DO have more talent now. Ricky Davis wasn't the cancer I thought he'd be. The kids could be great and Pierce is playing better than ever." What if they both could swallow hard and focus on the fact that, if Obie could get the Celtics to play defense and stop coughing up the ball, this could be a very good team.

I KNOW. Now way it will happen. But O'Brien does, as they say, have some time on his hands. And, other than one brilliant twelve game run after the Antione Walker trade last year, the Celtics haven't been able to succeed without him. Pride has left O'Brien unemployed and Ainge with a team that's irrelevant. It couldn't hurt to call.


Post a Comment

<< Home