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Shaq groups Doc Rivers with Phil Jackson in retirement press conference


Shaq made me feel more comfortable about the Celtics in his retirement press conference

Friday afternoon, the most entertaining real press conference ever put together. Sure, my imagined Tiger Woods press conference was a thousand times more entertaining and interesting that the Shaquille O’ Neal press conference, but Shaq did what he has done his entire career. He entertained the media and the fans with an often humorous and sometimes insightful look at his career.

One thing in particular caught my attention. Early on in his press conference, he made sure to mention by name three coaches. The coach to his left, his LSU coach Dale Brown, the legendary Phil Jackson and, the surprise, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Shaq has played for another legendary coach in Pat Riley. Yet, he decided to mention Doc by name and give high praise to the head coach of the Boston Celtics.

“Playing for Doc Rivers this year was very, very special,” said O’Neal. “There’s a lot of talent on that [Celtics] team and [Rivers] always, always, always focused on the team. I came in after going 5-for-6 [shooting from the field] and I’d say, ‘Coach, I can go 10-for-12, or 12-for-18.’ And he’d say, ‘Shaq, it’s not about you, it’s about the team.’ So, thank you, Doc.”

This was an incredible sequence to me on three levels.

First off, five years ago if you told me that Doc Rivers would ever get mentioned as one of the best coaches in the NBA let alone mentioned in the same breath as Phil Jackson from anyone, I probably would have laughed in your face and told to quit smoking dope. Their was a very strong “Fire Doc Rivers” campaign after the Celtics stumbled to the second worst record in the NBA. I always thought he was a good coach, but he didn’t have the talent to make it work. To see Doc Rivers come from that all the way to a coach being mentioned by name in a retirement press conference from one of the greatest players ever is crazy for me to think about.

Secondly, it proves I was wrong about something. Before the season, I hated the Shaq signing because of the ego. Throughout his career, Shaq had to start, had to play a major role, had to get super-star treatment etc. I was worried that even a strong willed man like Doc Rivers couldn’t handle it. But after the way Doc Rivers has handled the Big Three era in Boston, it is evident that Doc Rivers now demands respect as a head-coach. In terms of handling personalities and characters, Doc is becoming, dare I say, Belichickian. He took in players like Shaq and Delonte West, players who most of the league considered to have too big egos or too many character flaws. Doc was able to handle that, and the other personalities of the locker room, and produce a workable environment. It’s like Bill Belichick taking in Rodney Harrison and Corey Dillon. With a culture of winning and a strong willed coach, the players will stop acting up and just concentrate on playing.I was wrong because it is now clear that Doc can handle anything, even the great and egotistical Shaq.

Finally, Shaq played here for a season. A single season. Doc Rivers had enough influence on him to mention Doc by name and praise him  in his retirement press conference. I think that is self-explanatory right there.

Not only did Shaq give me some entertainment on my Friday afternoon, but he also further convinced me the Boston Celtics are in good hands on the bench for the next five years.

(I can’t say the same thing about the front office. That, however, is a story for another day)