LOS ANGELES – Two months after the Boston Celtics lost the NBA championship to the Los Angeles Lakers, Doc Rivers was back in town, this time charged with escorting his son Austin to a prep all-star game. Such was Rivers' luck that his weekend stay in Lakers Nation required a drive past Staples Center, site of the Celtics' bitter Game 7 loss.
"It still hurts the same," Rivers said. "That won't go away. I had dinner with [Rajon] Rondo and 'Baby' [Glen Davis(notes)] in Vegas and they were talking about how much it hurts. I said, 'I hope it hurts you for the rest of your life. It should.' "
Rivers would have had a harder time stomaching the defeat had it been his final game as the Celtics' coach. Though he debated whether to take a leave from coaching to return to Florida so he could watch Austin and the rest of his children compete in their respective sports, he wasn't quite ready to abandon the opportunity to make one more title run in Boston. Rivers also knows there will be plenty of opportunities to watch Austin – perhaps even in the NBA.
A senior shooting guard at Winter Park (Fla.) High School, Austin Rivers is the top-ranked 2011 recruit by Rivals.com. He averaged 24.3 points last season and had a 45-point performance against highly touted Newark St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.). At the Boost Mobile Elite 24 prep all-star game last Saturday at Venice Beach, he was selected co-MVP after totaling 15 points, four assists and four rebounds despite playing with a sprained right wrist. Earlier in the week, Austin became a YouTube sensation when he was shown in a pickup game crossing over John Wall – the No. 1 pick in the June NBA draft – for a layup, then stealing the ball from Wall on the other end of the floor.
In the end, Rivers left L.A. with the respect of some of the NBA's top young guards.
"Great kid, great talent," Jennings said. "He will play in the NBA some day. The sky is the limit if he keeps working hard."
College coaches also like Austin Rivers. Austin initially committed to attend the University of Florida, where his sister Callie is a senior on the women's volleyball team. But after watching his older brother Jeremiah have to interrupt his own basketball career to transfer from Georgetown to Indiana, Austin decided he should take his time and consider other schools to ensure he doesn't make a mistake. He wants to watch at least some of the upcoming season to see how his prospective schools look. His finalists include Florida, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas.
"I only got one chance to make a decision," Austin said. "I didn't want to go through the transferring process after I saw my brother go through it. I want to make sure I made the right decision."
Doc Rivers will soon return to Waltham, Mass., to help the Celtics prepare for the upcoming NBA season. But he could just have easily stayed in Florida to watch Austin and his youngest son Spencer play for Winter Park while taking trips to see Jeremiah and Callie compete in their final season of college. He decided to return to the Celtics with his family's blessing.
"Family is always going to be major for me; it's got to be," Doc Rivers said. "Bottom line is I do get to a ton of their games. I watch them a lot. They are all doing well, so they don't need me around much. At the end of the day, they all said the same thing: 'You're a coach and the last time you were here for a year you drove us crazy. Go back and coach.' "
Austin expects his dad to attend at least six of his games this season, so he didn't have a problem with him continuing to coach.
"He still has one more good year in him," Austin said. "I want him to go out there and do what he loves best."
"When you make it that far and you're one game away, it is very difficult to walk away," Doc said.
And if Doc continues to coach two more seasons after this? He might not be the only member of the Rivers clan in the NBA.
- Doc Rivers