What do you do with a young, mercurial player with a stubborn personality, who Doc Rivers has admitted can be hard to coach?
Simple. Make him a coach.
It reminds me a little bit of the technique parents used to get bullies to stop bullying their kid.
You invite the bully over to play and have dinner with you. When they leave they see things differently than when they came.
It’s not quite the same thing, but it’s close enough.
Cast somewhere between Peck’s Bad Boy and Little Lord Fauntleroy, Rajon Rondo recently absorbed some time on the Ainge and Rivers initiated media pillory post. That’s what you get for starting higher than expected in behind the scenes contract negotiations.
I have no confirmation of that, but that is the only reason that makes any real sense as to the surprising public admissions by both Doc and Danny about the team’s 23 year old starting point guard. The Celtics can re-sign Rondo to an extension between July 31 and October 31. After that Rondo becomes a restricted free agent, if they don’t. Let’s just say that negotiations began early.
Danny on Rondo on WEEI (Alex Speier) at the end of June….
He can be extended after July 31 up until October 31. We have until October 31 to decide whether to extend him. If that doesn’t happen by October 31, then after next season, he would become a restricted free agent where we can match any offer that he gets.
Would that merit a little public posturing from the Cs? If the Cs had received some early seismic tremors from Bill Duffy, (Rondo’s agent) for more money than they think Rondo’s worth….ay-yep. It just might. The Celtics got out ahead of some early spin, just in case. That’s my theory, anyway.
Come on, you say. It isn’t really that serious already, is it? There is a lot of time before negotiations get really serious.
Clue #2 as evidence that Danny is already looking ahead from the same interview…
Would this be taking a chance that he could leave in two years and you’d get nothing for him?
It depends. I guess it depends on where we are as a team. We love Rondo. Rondo is a player we want to have on our team and he’s a guy we want to move forward with. We would never want him to just go away (without compensation). Next summer is probably a summer where we’ll have to come to some financial decisions on Rondo, if we don’t come to a conclusion this summer. (my bold)
But I mention this all for a reason.
Things are now clearly evident that Rajon can be…um….a bit difficult to coach at times. But so are many top players. That is a component of many driven, high performing personalities. Embrace the difficulty. Better yet, get him to see things a bit differently. Reverse the power. Invert the psychology.
Invite the difficult-player-to-coach…to coach.
I don’t know who thought of it, but I’m going to give Doc Rivers’ the obvious credit. Rajon has been assigned to help Celtic Assistant Coach Mike Longabardi coach the Celtics’ summer league team in Orlando. If not brilliant, at least poetic irony. The baby sat becomes the bay sitter.
I find the coaching aspect of sports fascinating. I’ll probably try to incorporate more from this perspective in future articles.
Here are some opening thoughts on Rondo as coach:
From Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald….
Rivers, who has turned the reins of the summer league team over to assistant coach Mike Longabardi, was amused when Rondo called one of his first plays on the first day of practice.
“It’s good for him to see all of the workings of the league – not just as a player,” said Rivers. “Yesterday he drew up a play, the guys went out and turned it over, and I said, ‘There you go. Now you know how it feels.’ ” . . .
And again from Murphy of the Herald…
And now he gets to feel what a coach feels, including the frustration.
You might say that he now understands why Doc Rivers can get discouraged when what gets called in the huddle doesn’t get carried out on the floor.
“It’s frustrating when you call for something and the guys go out and turn the ball over,” Rondo said.
“But it’s only two days, and the guys are coming from different teams and systems, so it’s hard. But I’m cool. I get to look at things and learn the coach’s perspective.”
Rondo is a huge talent. Putting on the coach’s shoes for a few days will do him good.
Doc was a friend and disciple of recently deceased, uber coach, Chuck Daly. Here is a Chuch Daly quote from Eric Musselman’s website...
“If you’re going to coach, you’ve got to be one of the great salesmen. Particularly today, because your players are already millionaires or multimillionaires. So you’ve really got to sell them on why they have to do something and the reasons for it. You must get into social situations and into in-depth conversations to find out who this person is, what this person is all about, and their likes and dislikes. So you, as the person who is supposed to get this person to perform, can have a better understanding of them. And everybody has different things that push their buttons.”
That might mean having that player, especially a thoughtful (though hard headed) and sensitive one, like Rondo, get to have a better understanding of what coaches go through. Push that button.
You can see Chuck Daly’s influence in how Doc Rivers’ coaches with the following quote from the same article…
Perhaps Coach Daly’s greatest gift is his outlook on life and the ability to keep things in perspective. Horace Grant, who played for Coach Daly, once said:
What makes Chuck Daly successful is his attitude toward life. He doesn’t make basketball into a life-or-death situation. He’s a great coach and most of all a great, great person.”
Sound familiar? Doc’s approach is very similar. Time off is given for births, deaths, and unmentioned personal crises and issues. He doesn’t practice you to death. Issues are dealt with and you move on.
And sometimes you try to have stubborn players see things from your role. Doc is keeping it real.