X’s and O’s matter. If Joe Hockey Player was hired to coach an NBA team, he would inevitably struggle, not knowing how to teach help side defense, not understanding the concept of a pindown screen, not wise enough to utilize his five players in a scheme that suits them.
Personality matters too. Think about John Kuester, known as an offensive genius for much of his professional career. Kuester’s first head coaching gig ended underneath a pile of dog crap — his players staged a mutiny in the middle of the season, Richard Hamilton was suspended (more or less) for no known reason, and the Pistons went 57-107 in Kuester’s two seasons. Sure, the record was at least partially due to lacking talent, but Kuester’s abrasive style and unbelievable lack of communication (he reportedly refused to tell Hamilton why he was not playing) managed to alienate an entire locker room in less than two full seasons. When his own team did not want to play for him, Kuester’s X’s and O’s, lauded for years, meant nothing.
Doc Rivers knows his X’s and O’s — Sebastian Pruiti, who watches more game tape than any human being not formally associated with the NBA, selected Rivers as the one coach he would want to draw up a last-second play.
But Dave Cowens believes Doc’s personality is his strongest suit. (ESPN Boston)
“Doc’s a great guy, and he’s smart. He’s a tough guy. When he talks, [the players] listen. They know he’s telling them the truth, and really, players respect that. They respect a guy that’s got the knowledge and he tells them the truth. Because they know a lot about the game, too. They’re not just learning it. They’ve been through five-, six-, seven-hundred games as a pro, as a college player, [and] high school player. So they’ve been around a lot of locker room talks and chalk talks and things like that. So, they understand. And he has a good way with the players, and I think the veterans really respect him, and they’ve got some strong character veterans and that just feeds down to the other guys that play on the team.”
Rivers certainly has faults. He rarely (if ever) trusts rookies, chokes the confidence out of certain bench players (Nate Robinson comes to mind as a prime example), and damn it, I often wish he could teach his squad how to rebound and provide a more consistent effort. But the players know Doc will be straight up with them. Even the ones who dislike Doc have to respect that.