I'm surprised the Celtics are 9-1 simply because Glenn Rivers is their coach. Ever since the KG trade I anxiously anticipated the errors that Glenn was inevitably going to make that would destroy the season. I was so certain of Glenn's deficiencies as a coach, having watched him utterly fuck up the prior three seasons, that I saw little hope in the C's coming close to reaching their potential as a team. I predicted 47 wins, even though they might have 60 win talent, because I could always conceive of Glenn costing the team at least 10 victories. I was not thinking this way because I was cynical, it was just that I was a realist and I felt I knew how Glenn operated, meaning I lacked a certain youthful optimism.
And so here we are three weeks later and the Celtics have the best record in the NBA. Even though the season is but ten games young, there is reason to have tremendous confidence. The C's have not just been winning, they've been decimating most opponents in a manner that exudes superiority and professionalism. Did I think this was possible with Glenn in charge? No. So far Glenn has done a good job coaching the team. Many, including The Fox, think Rivers is actually an excellent fit given the circumstances. Glenn is personable, professional, as well-spoken as any coach in the league, and will not let his ego take charge to the detriment of his players. He has never had a good veteran team, and this is exactly what this squad is, so Glenn has perhaps been able to turn over a new leaf. There is little fault you can find in a coach whose team has only lost once.
But I cannot agree with those who think Glenn will not hurt this team. As a fan, there are many things you have hunches about, instances where you feel you might be right but would not really be surprised if you were wrong. For instance my friend said before the season that Chris Kaman was gonna have a big year, and I kind of laughed and said, no he isn't. Well, Kaman is averaging 19 and 14, I was completely wrong, and I am fully able to accept that. My hunch that Kaman wasn't gonna be good was incorrect, and that was it. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that my feeling about Glenn as a coach is not a hunch. It is a conviction. I truly believe he is a terrible coach, quite possibly the worst in the league. This is a core belief, just like how I firmly believe Duncan is better than Kobe, and how Wade is better than Melo. When you are wrong about a hunch it doesn't mean much, but when you are wrong about a conviction it totally alters your vision, and changes how you look at things forever. If Glenn Rivers is actually a good coach, my mind will be shot, it will be a cataclysm for me. So I am not even remotely ready to make such a leap, and instead want to try and rationalize how the Celtics could look so good under Glenn.
First off, and why many fans felt so good coming into this year, is that it always helps to have three certified All-Stars in your lineup. When the Triumvirate are all playing 35-40 minutes a night, it severely limits the amount of mistakes a coach can make. Those are guys you can always pencil in for big minutes, and the way the point guard situation is set up presently Rondo is basically guaranteed to have big minutes as well. Glenn not having to substitute much is certainly a positive, because that has been one of his cardinal flaws the past few years. Because Danny has basically handed him less options of who to put in there, and when to put them in, it has helped Glenn as a coach. But probably even more importantly, you have three hungry veteran All-Stars on your team. I mean you have no choice but to be professional and develop good chemistry, right?
Make no mistake, the key for the C's success so far has been terrific chemistry and passion, particularly on the defensive end. This in all likelihood has more than a little to do with Tom Thibodeau; and KG has been the best defensive player in the league, as he is seemingly more focused on defense than his offense. KG's defensive brilliance has positively affected everybody, and if the Celtics are going to be a legit title contender, this is going to be the reason why. The sometimes offensive paucity of the bench has been compensated by the second unit's willingness to work very hard on the defensive end. The defensive chemistry has been great everywhere, and the fact that your best player is willfully leading the charge in this front certainly helps Glenn look a little smarter than usual. With KG, and in extension Pierce and Allen, you have guys who are doing some pretty good coaching for you right on the floor. Good veterans cover for your mistakes, while good young players often expose them.
Further helping Glenn look better than he actually is as a coach is the fact that most of the games have not been close. Blowouts are obviously impressive, but in Glenn's case they are doubly important because he has been so clueless in close games throughout his coaching career. I still am certain that we will see Glenn blow more than a few close games this year by doing rather inane things. He is hardly the only coach in the league that does these things, it is just that he has a habit of being awfully conspicuous about it. Also, one reason there have been so many blowouts is that the C's thus far have played poor competition. The best team they played they lost to, and you can't say the C's have played a juggernaut yet. Like Jack recently mentioned, the schedule continues to be easy for most of the next month, meaning that the C's record could maybe get even more gaudy before potential problems surface.
Finally, it is worth repeating that we are all of ten games into the season. There's a couple of recent examples I want to bring up. Last year's Jazz started 12-1, and while they made it to the Western Conference Finals, they never seemed to be a serious title contender. A great opening does not necessarily mean you are a deadly team. These current Celtics remind more, however, of the '05-'06 Pistons, who started off 39-6 and finished with a record of 64-18. They were a veteran team, extremely self-motivated, and wanted to show the world they could be even better without Larry Brown coaching them. They were by far the best regular season team in the league, particularly in the first half of the year, when they played with tremendous intensity and were spoken of in hallowed tones. But come the playoffs they were burnt out, and had a lousy coach in Flip Saunders to guide them. The Heat vanquished them in the Conference Finals. I see many parallels with them and this C's squad. The Celtics have bigger stars, but the Pistons had the benefit of already having Championship experience. And as bad a coach as Saunders is, I still have him a notch above Rivers. Which means, yes, I still fully expect Glenn to blow it for us this year, perhaps when it matters most. I hope I'm wrong.