Green Thoughts

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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Doc on the Clock

There's been a lot of back and forth about the future of Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Some prognosticators put Rivers at the top of their list of coaches on the "hot seat," citing the disappointing 2005-2006 season and Doc's lack of game management skills. Others say Rivers deserves credit for holding together a team of head cases like Mark Blount and Ricky Davis, for getting Paul Pierce to take his game to a new level, and for giving young players like Kendrick Perkins and Ryan Gomes a chance to develop.

Count me among those who say Doc's on the clock, but not because his game managment skills are lacking. The schedule and Rivers' own history are working against him, as is the pressure on the team's front office.

At first glance, the calendar seems to smile on Doc. The Celtics play nine of their first fourteen games at home, and eight of their first fourteen against lottery teams. A record of 8-6 should be a cakewalk, and 10-4 isn't out of the question. That's a good thing, because December is loaded with playoff teams and road games, including the always challenging West Coast swing.

But Doc's history as a coach, both in Orlando and in Boston, is working against him. In the month of November, Rivers career W-L is a hideous 37-65 (.363). Moreover, Rivers' teams pretty much hover around .500 or below for the entire first half of the season. Here are the W-L splits pre and post January 31 for every year of Rivers' coaching career:

(ORL) 1999-2000: 20-26/21-15
(ORL) 2000-2001: 21-23/22-16
(ORL) 2001-2002: 23-23/21-15
(ORL) 2002-2003: 24-24/18-16
(ORL) 2003-2004: 1-10/NA
(BOS) 2004-2005: 21-24/24-13
(BOS) 2005-2006: 18-27/15-22

If Rivers stays true to form this year he puts the front office in a difficult position. Do they hang in there and hope for a second half surge or pull the trigger and replace Doc?

The team's said recently that it's seen a surge in ticket sales. With the Red Sox coming off a disappointing season, the Patriots playing once a week through January at most, and the Bruins... well... being the Bruins, the Celtics have an opportunity to expand their fan base and become relevant again. It's a tribute to the team's marketing ability that, by stressing the development of young players, they have been able to spin the worst season in seven years into great anticipation for this year.

The guess here, though, is that it wouldn't take much to make fans look away again. The team can't afford that and, for all their "stand by your man" rhetoric, Wyc, Steve and the boys know that Rivers has never won more than 47 games, and never won a playoff series, much less a championship. In other words, there's nothing in Doc's coaching history that would argue against cutting the team's losses and cutting him loose. If the team can't ace November's cupcake schedule, look for Rivers to be gone by Christmas, with either Ainge or Tony Brown stepping in as head coach.