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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.

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