It all starts so quickly. A missed traveling violation. An unearned moving screen. Star treatment for an opposing player. Any apparent slight from the men wearing black and white stripes, really.
That’s all it takes for Rasheed Wallace to blow a gasket.
On Sunday, against the Cavs, Rasheed was in vintage form: The referees’ decision not to call a technical foul after a Lebron James tantrum set Rasheed into a land of angry arm motions, hand gestures and verbal offerings few men ever visit. After Sheed was done emptying his lungs at an official, his teammates — simply trying to calm him down — were next. After that was Doc Rivers, Sheed’s coach, also just trying to cool the fire burning inside Sheed. Sheed screamed at Rivers, choice words, I’m sure, for which children in the crowd should have had earmuffs for.
And Doc did what every coach should do to an insubordinate player, yet few coaches follow through on: He sat him right down on the bench. Left him there for the remainder of the game, too. Screw hurting Rasheed’s feelings, Doc’s actions said. I can’t let him get away with such blatant disrespect.
The weird thing is, Rasheed doesn’t want to get away with it. After the 2008 playoffs, he called Flip Saunders the “worst f–king coward I’ve ever seen,” because Saunders had no backbone to stand up to his players. Rasheed doesn’t want to be consoled when he jumps off the deep end, he wants to be set straight. He wants to be punished. He wants to be led by someone with authority.
The type of authority Rasheed wants, Doc provided on Sunday. Because of it, an ugly situation was salvaged and Rasheed and Doc have moved on. “We had a great talk,” Rivers said. “I didn’t seek his apologies, but he said, ‘Hey, I should have controlled myself.’ I don’t know if that’s an apology, but I didn’t ask for him an apology because I didn’t need it.”
What was the talk about?
“We just talked about the situation and trying to control yourself,” said Doc, “and understanding that, at the end of the day when stuff like that happens, even if you think you’re in the right, you’re still in the wrong because it hurts the team.”
With that, Doc earned Rasheed’s respect, if he hadn’t already. Handled just as a coach should. With class, integrity, and authority. Let the player know you’re in charge, but do it in a way that won’t embarrass him. Explain to him why he was wrong, and what happened, but don’t coddle him.
In the end, Doc’s sense of understated authority detonated a potential bomb and turned a horrible blowup into another learning experience.
“Rasheed and I get along great,” Doc said.
After Rasheed said to Doc, “Hey, I should have controlled myself,” instead of “You’re a f–king coward,” it’s easy to see that Doc isn’t lying.