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Doc Rivers is coach players most want to play for. Stan Van Gundy, not so much

Apr 19, 2012, 10:36 AM EDT

Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers watches his team in Boston Reuters

Across the board, players say they like playing for coaches who once played in the NBA. It’s not a requirement, but players feel it gives the coach an understanding of what they go through.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that Doc Rivers tops Sports Illustrated’s annual poll of players on the question of coach they most want to play for. Here is the top five:

Doc Rivers, (22 percent), Mike D’Antonio (21), Gregg Popovich (16), Rick Carlisle (6), Rick Adelman (5).

A bunch of Knicks fans just rolled their eyes at D’Antoni being on the list, but he has always been popular with players not named Carmelo. First, he’s a laid-back coach who expects professional players to push themselves and hold each other accountable — you know, be professionals. That just didn’t work for the Knicks. D’Antoni’s up-tempo, free flowing offensive system is a draw to most players.

As for the coach players least want to play for…

Stan Van Gundy “wins” at 22 percent. Scott Skiles is second at 16 percent.

Notice the theme there — guys perceived as being very negative. Well, not perceived, they both tend to be negative. In SVG’s case he also gets wins so he will keep getting jobs even when the Magic force him out this summer, but players don’t love him. And he’s probably fine with that.

  1. LilTmac2003 - Apr 19, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I’m surprised upcoming coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks aren’t on the list. Maybe too early I guess.

    Anyone still remember when Doc Rivers was with Orlando? He got fired but they started the season off 1-19.

  2. pbanach01 - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Last time I checked Scott Skiles played in the nba didn’t he? And he is at the bottom of the list soooooo that makes this poll and article reputable? Maybe big babies like Howard do not want to play for SVG but is what it is. Players should want to play for someone who has extreme knowledge of the game, is respectful to players (treat them as professionals) but also pushes them to reach their potential and to work as a team buying into the system. Mike D is on there because his offense is free-flowing shoot a million threes a game without any accountability so obviously some players who are used to being babied their whole careers will love. He will never win an NBA championship.

  3. thestudiokida - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Being popular isn’t a good thing for a coach. Remember when the Kansas City Chiefs beat the undefeated Packers in December and they embraced and celebrated Romeo Crennel? That’s not a good sign. A coach the players love means they are too easy on the players. You also don’t want to be a guy everybody hates like SVG. From what I can tell Tom Thibodeau is the best coach in the league right now.

    • nygrwy - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

      I agree with everything except for the beating the packers comment. They should have celebrated more. The Chiefs were terrible and they stopped the number 1 offense in the NFL for a night

    • snoopy2014 - Apr 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      Tom Thibodeau is a phenomenal coach. But I just don’t think you can overlook the career Popovich has had. As good at X’s and O’s as Thibodeau, great player manager and leader, and just look at the resume.

      The Thibodeau-Rose relationship reminds me a lot of the Pop-Duncan relationship.

      • thestudiokida - Apr 19, 2012 at 3:07 PM

        Good point. Can’t believe I overlooked Popovich. Then again, everybody has been overlooking him for a few years now. Has he ever won coach of the year? He or Thibs definitely deserve it this year for what they’ve done with the injuries and team they have.

  4. doctorfootball - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Let’s face the truth here. Rivers may be the coach who players most want to play for but, money is usually the deciding factor. Players go where the money is more than where their favorite coach is.

  5. 00maltliquor - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    That’s crazy. I’ve been saying for the last 3 years that if I were an NBA player the coach I’d most like to play for would be SVG. I love that guy as a coach, he gets me so pumped up with that style/attitude. NBA players are freakin’ sissies nowadays so I guess it’s no surprise. Nobody likes to be pushed or hear a lil’ bit of yelling, they’re waaay to oversensitive. To many players need to be coddled.

  6. hollywood26 - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    The issue with Van Gundy though is that he only has one way , screaming and yelling. I’ve been to some of their games and had a friend who warmed the bench, but honestly he just yells waay too much , plus he always always talks negative. The key is when you mix in occasional praise to get them looking for it, but he never does.

  7. 40easter - Apr 19, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    Poorly written article title.

  8. rajbais - Apr 19, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    This doesn’t surprise me, but who’s Mike D’Antonio???

  9. jimeejohnson - Apr 19, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    Many a Boston fan wanted Rivers skinned alive when the Celtics were struggling. Come to think of it, these same fans want the new Red Sox scapegoat, I mean manager, sent back to the Mets!

    • bozosforall - Apr 20, 2012 at 7:43 PM

      New England sports fans have no loyalty to ANY player or coach. At the first sign of trouble, they stab them in the back and try to move on to a replacement. Why any player or coach would ever want to play or coach there is beyond me. Must be the money.

  10. bozosforall - Apr 20, 2012 at 7:44 PM

    Players want to play for Doc Rivers because he is a pushover. And without Thibodeau’s defense, Doc Rivers hasn’t won anything.

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