Immersed in their own playoff series, Wittman’s, Thibs’ thoughts with Doc

By Steve Aschburner,

CHICAGO – If the pressures on an NBA head coach during the regular season can be described as some demanding boss loudly nagging you for six months that there’s more work to be done, the urgent postseason version would be a Marine drill instructor stalking your every step and screaming 24/7 an inch from your face.

As much as Washington’s Randy Wittman and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau were dealing with their playoffs D.I., immersed in their Eastern Conference first-round series, they couldn’t help but think about their friend Doc Rivers. Rivers was facing on the West Coast something far more frantic and debilitating as the Donald Sterling fiasco flared up, eating everything in its NBA path for four days.

As the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers – Sterling’s team – Rivers was stuck at ground zero, his ability to focus on the Golden State Warriors waylaid by what became a national scandal and media feeding frenzy.

“I can only imagine – or I can’t imagine – having to deal with something like that when you’re worrying about beating a team in a playoff series,” said Wittman, who entered the NBA in the same 1983 draft as Rivers. They played their first five seasons together in Atlanta, teamed up as investors away from the game and remain extremely close.

Wittman said he had talked to Rivers more than once since Sterling’s racist remarks on an audio recording were made public, leading to an investigation and the swift and severe penalties Tuesday from commissioner Adam Silver.

“I was just trying to be there for him, obviously,” Wittman said. “I think he ‘s handled it as well as you can handle it. That doesn’t surprise me with Doc.

“I just wanted to be there to support him and try to help him get his mind back to what it should be. And that’s playing basketball. I think hopefully after today that can happen.”

Thibodeau has known Rivers for more than 20 years, from the days when the Bulls coach was an assistant in New York and elsewhere and the Clippers coach was playing in the league. They joined up in Boston from 2007-2010, Thibodeau largely installing the Celtics’ defense for a team that won the 2008 NBA championship and went back to the Finals in 2010.

Connecting with Rivers by texts through the controversy, Thibodeau said several times over the weekend that his friend, given his personality and skills, might have been the best equipped among the NBA’s head coach to steer his team – and within his limits, the league – through the furor.

“Because this is a big issue for our whole league,” Thibodeau had said Monday. “Doc is a great leader with a lot of strength, a lot of composure. He’ll help guide us through it.”

Now Rivers can concentrate on guiding the Clippers through it. With peers and buddies who have his back.


  1. Jessica L. says:

    I was shocked when I heard the comments that had been made by Sterling. (As most probably were). My husband is black – and even in 2014 we still occasionally have to deal with racism ourselves. I have found as a white woman that many racists will spout off in their rants when there are no black men or women present – like cowards that know what they are saying is ignorant and worthy of having some very serious and immediate punishments. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. From BLACK OR WHITE PEOPLE. We are all the same – HUMAN.

    I would like to touch lightly on the fact that racism is not just one sided. There are racist people of all colors – and its ALL WRONG. I am so glad Adam Silver delivered such a fitting punishment for Sterling. And as for Sterling’s girlfriend….what kind of woman would be with such a douche bag? I don’t care if the guy was a billionaire….you know this wasn’t the first time he was heard saying racist things…so isn’t she almost just as bad? You don’t keep company like that if you respect yourself and your brothers and sisters.

  2. Kai Webster says:

    Lol. This is amusing to watch. Crybabys fussing over “racism”

  3. Falomi says:

    Thank you Mr Silver for the quick response to an unfortunate but real problem. I am a 59 year old black woman, and I’m still being judged by the color of my skin. Living in a country that was turned upside down when we got our first black President. I’m not beneath anyone because I’m black. I stand tall and proud in all that I do. I raised my children to be respectful, to love, work hard to be their best. But I also taught them to be proud young black men, carry themselves with respect and demand it in return. It’s just said that I won’t leave long enough to see the day when the color of my skin won’t be a major factor how some people will receive me. Remember my ancestors didn’t ask to come to this country. After decades of living and profiting off the blood and sweat of my ancestors, some don’t want us here still. Get over it, we’re here to stay

  4. Rafael Peralta says:

    Without a doubt that Doc is the best coach in the league!

  5. zamiLo says:

    Doc Rivers = Professionalism

    I don’t know what Doc is thinking but one would really wonder what thoughts are swirling and going on in his mind. I mean, you have given a lot of hard work and sacrifice to be able to reach this point of the season to waste it all because of the surrounding controversy. what would you say to your players? how would you keep them motivated? the team’s future is bleak. anyway, it is very wise of him to come forward early and represent the view of his players. Kudos Doc. You really are worth it.