Wait, what? Doc Rivers almost fought Horace Grant? While he was coaching him? Why did I never know this before?
According to a great piece Mark Murphy wrote for the Boston Herald, Rivers was sick of Grant’s attitude. Grant was a veteran who was set in his ways and didn’t want to change. By baiting his teammates with what Murphy called “withering sarcasm,” Grant (and I assume his rec specs, too) were becoming a problem.
Doc confronted Grant about his bad attitude on the team plane, and the two had to be separated by fellow coaches and players before any punches were thrown. Not that Rivers was against a nice brawl.
“We never came to blows, but I was willing to,” Rivers said. “It escalated, and honestly it was more me being the aggressor. I approached him for sure. I was young and far more emotional. It was about another player. He was saying things to another player about the other player. It had nothing to do with me. But I wasn’t having that, because it disrupts your team.
“One of the other guys said, ’Well, Horace does that,’ but I said, ’Not here,’ ” Rivers said. “I confronted him about it and he tried to get out of it, and I said we’re not going to have that.
“It’s funny, a year later I saw Horace and we talked a long time,” said Rivers. “(Expletive) happens in a year. Some you laugh at, some you wish didn’t happen. I still, to this day, know that Horace is a good guy, but in that instance he was a veteran set in his ways who didn’t want to change.”
I re-watched Year of the Bull (my favorite YouTube clip ever) for the 9,000th time yesterday, and the football coach in that clip (after spear-tackling one of his own back-talking players), explained his behavior: “Before I let you lose respect for me, I will lose my job and I will fight you.” The coach continued, “Once they see you [act out], they’re going to do it. And after we have that reputation, that’s it man. They’ve got us. They’ve got us. Still, I love you. I love you like a son.”
The other Orlando Magic player tried to rationalize Horace Grant’s behavior by saing, “Well, Horace does that.” But Rivers couldn’t let Horace do something Rivers discouraged, even if it was just Horace being Horace. He had to keep the locker room’s respect and hold players accountable for every action. If he’d let Horace get away with all that withering sarcasm crap, Rivers would have lost his locker room’s respect. And after he has that reputation, that’s it man. They’ve got him. They’ve got him.
We tend to look at Doc Rivers as a players’ coach, someone who lets his players get away with a lot. But there’s a reason Rivers has kept control of a locker room with so many zany personalities. He commands respect. Before he lets you lose respect for him, he will lose his job and he will fight you.
“Well, Horace does that.”