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Doc Rivers talks Olympic tournament, why he likes pros in it

Jul 26, 2012, 5:21 PM EDT

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

Starting Sunday when you watch the USA take of France in our first game of the Olympic basketball tournament, the voice doing studio analysis on the NBC family of networks is going to sound familiar. Didn’t he used to do this for a living?

He did. Now, he coaches the Celtics for his paychecks. Doc Rivers will be the studio analyst (and 76ers coach Doug Collins will be doing color in the booth).

Rivers was on the Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” show and talked Olympic hoops. was listening in and got the quotes on questions like who could really challenge the USA?

“I think it’s Spain, Argentina, or Brazil. I think those teams are very good,” Rivers said. “They have NBA players. Argentina’s a rough team. That’s how they’ve always played, so I think you can’t discount them. And they’ve all played together for so much longer than the U.S. team has.”

Rivers also was asked about professionals playing in the Olympics and the idea being floated of turning the games into a soccer-style under-23 tournament. Rivers thinks we need our pros there.

“I played in the World Championship game back in [1982], “Rivers recalled. “We played in the gold medal game at that time [against USSR]. That afternoon I was in the swimming pool and I noticed the group we were playing had their kids, their families. They were already professionals. The other countries were playing professionals in the Olympics, they just were not called pros. We lost by one, I remember that (95-94), and I just thought the age difference was huge. And either they were going to have an age difference at [age] 22 or 25 that was a cut-off or everyone should be allowed to play. And I thought it was the right thing to do.”

By the way Doc, do you think the Olympics even matter to the players anymore?

“It does now. After they lost a couple of times it does now. I don’t think it will replace an NBA championship. I think honestly that is what you grow up to be. You don’t grow up to win a gold medal, you grow up to win an NBA championship. I do think now guys are growing up, they want a gold medal, and they want an NBA championship.

  1. nokoolaidcowboy - Jul 27, 2012 at 5:55 AM

    Tired of hearing the same justifications for pros int the Olympics. The Olympics should be for amateurs, stooping to the same level as some other countries is just that. So call it what it is.

    Before we started giving millionaires something else to gloat over (as if they don’t get enough attention), it was a great opportunity for collegiate athletes to experience the chance of a lifetime. Not all of them would go on to the pros, so representing the USA was an honor.

    Now every Olympics we stack the Team USA Basketball with ringers that are “supposed” to win it all. And if they don’t – ooh controversy!

    Too bad kids, unless you are a pro, the US doesn’t want you on their team.

  2. LPad - Jul 27, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Agree with Doc, but I’ll take it a step further. Why is it a big deal about basketball pros but not other sports? No one seems to have a problem with Federer going for gold. The approach for the Olympics should be the best athletes in each sport should compete pro or amateur. I also hope the people thinking the US shouldn’t send pros know that the US would have a hard time getting a bronze medal if we sent nothing but college kids.

  3. jimeejohnson - Jul 27, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    But THE “miracle on ice” of 1980, when our true amateurs beat Russia’s pros and won the gold medal, was AWESOME. It didn’t hurt that the Olympics were in the USA (Lake Placid, NY) that year. One more thing: all those track and field athletes earn money at meets throughout the world and are still able to compete in the Olympics. In other words, these aren’t your grandparents Olympics.

  4. jimeejohnson - Jul 27, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Oh my God: I forgot the apostrophe on grandparents’ indicating the possessive. Shoot me, now!

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