Los Angeles Clippers head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers wants to win an NBA championship as much as the next coach. Probably more. In his seventh season coaching the Clippers, Rivers already has title hardware that he earned as head coach of the Boston Celtics back in 2008, which seems to be almost a lifetime ago.
His motivation to get another championship ring? The players he coaches. Not only is Rivers a coach; he’s a mentor as well as an inspirational leader. A sure bet Hall of Famer, Rivers, who has over 900 wins (938…and counting) during his career, keeps it real with his players.
With the Clippers in the hunt for a title this season once the NBA resumes play with the league’s restart plans, not only does he wants the individual player to shine on the basketball court, he expects and encourages the men he coaches, to be better citizens off of it as well. And how does he do that?
Well, it’s not always Xs and Os with Rivers. Sometimes, it’s reading between the lines with the veteran leader, now in his 21st season (Orlando, Boston, Clippers). As the league navigates how to be proactive about its social justice campaign messaging, Rivers has always been outspoken about the very issues players half of his age are trying to fix.
So heavy has the sentiment been around social causes, especially around police conduct against people of color, that quite a few NBA players have taken it upon themselves to walk among protesters demonstrating in the streets in a visual way of support.
“I’m very proud of our players, black and white,” Rivers said. “J.J. Redick (Philadelphia 76ers) has been extremely outspoken. Its what we have to do. I think we’re fortunate in the way that we’re in a bubble right now, so our health is good, but more importantly, we can keep this talk alive. We cannot allow this talk to die down with all the rhetoric we’re getting from theWhite House and other places. It’s just so important. Very proud of all the guys. They got to keep doing it. Can’t lose steam. We got to keep it going.”
The death of George Floyd, and other alleged acts of excessive force in the killings of Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and others, have brought out a wave of raw ferocity not seen in this country in quite some time. The weeks-long protests here in the United States as well as across international waters have stoked a furor of backlash against the establishment.
With that in mind, NBA players (and WNBA) have been vocal in bringing the issues of police brutality and systemic structural racism to the forefront. Beginning July 30, the date of the NBA restart, Rivers said he’s content advocating for social justice from the sidelines.
“We need to follow the youth on this movement,” Rivers said following a July 28 team practice. “We need to follow what they want to do and listen to what they want to do and say, and then follow them. And so as a coach, I’m going to do that. I’m going to let my players lead, and I’ll follow.”
Rivers may choose to stay in the background, but he certainly knows how to use the megaphone at his disposal to speak truth to what needs to be said. While the nation is up in arms about representation, inclusion, and diversity, seeing more people of color coaching at the NBA level would go a long way in demonstrating that the league is working fiercely to go in that direction, Rivers said.
A recent study by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport shows that although Black players make up 74 percent (74.2 %) of all NBA players, that has not translated into a successful formula as a head coach. Black head coaches account for just 23 percent of those positions.
In comparison, 70 percent of all NBA head coaches are white.
“I think it would take owners hiring more,” Rivers said during a press conference with reporters on July 21. “I don’t think it’s that complicated. It is in the sense that you hire who you know, you hire who you’re comfortable with. I think if we could improve one thing, it would be doing something where owners can be more comfortable with people that aren’t in their circle. I don’t know how to do that, but I think it has to be done.”
Rivers is unafraid to speak his mind about subjects that some people may try to steer away from. That has earned him kudos from players to fellow coaches and even the concession guy. But make no mistake, despite flashing that wonderful and endearing smile of his, Rivers digs deep in getting the most out of players, which explains why he is one of the most reputable coaches in the league.
The NBA Coach of the Year recipient following the 1999-2000 season, Rivers has probably his best team since Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett helped the Celtics make it to two NBA Finals, including winning it all 11 years ago.
To some people that could be debatable since the Clippers and Rivers did at one point have Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan on the floor. However, a lineup that includes Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Joakim Noah, and Lou Williams is going to be hard to stop.
With the NBA in restart mode, Rivers could be poised to walk off the court with another title. At the moment, while basketball is clear and present the No. 1 objective for Rivers and the Clippers, fighting social injustice is still on the back of everyone’s minds as well.
One way to fight that fight, particularly in ways to reduce crime in the inner city, Rivers, the son of a former police officer, said it’s going to take a village to make that happen.
“Start with that,” Rivers said. “I think there’s a lot of things, number one. Jobs would help. But mentorship. You’re right. Community relationships with the officers would help as well. You’re just not policing the neighborhood, you actually are in the neighborhood. My father was a cop, but my father was also the little league coach, the football coach, the basketball coach. Everyone knew his name. I think that would help as well. Then community involvement. We got to empower the communities so they feel safe enough that they can get involved.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. A news and sports reporter, Dennis has written about social justice, civil rights, education, politics, and crime. He also covers the NFL, NBA, MLB as well as other sports. Based in Southern California, Dennis earned a journalism degree with a minor in criminal justice from Howard University. The real HU!!