Rivers, Glenn 1961–
Glenn Rivers 1961–
Professional basketball coach
Glenn “Doc” Rivers enjoyed an impressive 13–year career in the NBA. After his retirement from the NBA, he became a television analyst for Turner Sports. Although he lacked coaching experience, Rivers became the head coach of the Orlando Magic in 1999. Defying NBA analysts who said that the Magic were destined for a dismal season, the team fell just short of making the playoffs. Rivers’s coaching style was cited as an important reason for the team’s success.
Rivers was born on October 13, 1961, in Maywood, Illinois, and grew up in an athletic family. Although his father, Grady, was a policeman, both his uncle Jim Brewer and his cousin Byron Irvin played in the NBA. Rivers grew up in a tough section of Chicago, but was never tempted to get into trouble because he loved to play basketball at an early age. He was a passive student, until his studies coincided with his plans to be a basketball player. While in middle school, Rivers decided that he wanted to go to a high school that had a proud basketball tradition. He had to take an entrance exam to be accepted at Proviso East High School, and was forced to study for the first time in his life. The hard work paid off because Rivers achieved the second highest test score in the school. When he wasn’t in school, Rivers was playing basketball. He was forced to learn to contribute to his team in other ways besides scoring. He learned to play defense, box out, and move around to create space for himself. Slowly but surely, Rivers taught himself the game. As a freshman, he played so well that he was called up to the varsity team for the last part of the season. During the late 1970s, Rivers acquired his nickname during a summer basketball camp at Proviso East High School. Former Marquette coach, Rick Majerus, noticed that Rivers was wearing a Julius “Dr.J” Irving T-shirt, and called the young player “Doc”.
Rivers became a McDonald’s All-American player at Proviso, and was one of the most highly recruited players in the country. He enjoyed continued success both on the collegiate and international level. In the 1982 World Championship of Basketball, Rivers led the United States to the silver medal and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. After three years at Marquette University, Rivers left school early for the NBA draft. Like most athletes who leave school early, Rivers vowed to finish his education. However,
At a Glance…
Born on October 13, 1961, in Maywood, IL; son of Grady (a policeman) and Betty Rivers; married to Kris; children: Jeremiah, Callie, Austin, and Spencer; Education: Graduated from Marquette University, 1995.
Career: Drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, 1983; starting point guard for Atlanta, 1983–91; played for the Los Angeles Clippers, 1991–92; signed with the New York Knicks, 1992–94; played with the San Antonio Spurs, 1994–96; Turner Sports television analyst 1996–99; headcoach of the Orlando Magic, 1999–.
Awards: McDonalds All-American, 1980; Tournament MVP of the World Championship of Basketball, 1982; set Atlanta Hawks single-season assist record (823), 1986–87; NBA All Star, 1988; j. Walter Kennedy Basketball Citizenship Award, 1990.
Addresses: Residence—Orlando, FL; Business— The Orlando Magic, PO Box 76, Orlando, Fl 32802–0076.
he fulfilled this promise. In 1985, Rivers earned a pre-law\ political science degree from Marquette.
In the 1983 NBA draft, Rivers was selected by the Atlanta Hawks. After being selected in the second round of the draft, his first goal was to make the team. Once this was accomplished, he planned to eventually crack the starting lineup. Rivers accomplished these goals during his rookie season, and went on to become a mainstay with the Hawks. He spent eight years with the Hawks, setting team records for single-season assists (823 in 1986–87) and career assists (23, 866).
Following completion of the 1990–91 season, Rivers left Atlanta to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. With Rivers in the lineup, the Clippers made a rare appearance in the playoffs. After a year with the Clippers, he moved on to the New York Knicks. The coach of the Knicks, Pat Riley, brought Rivers to New York to help stabilize the team’s talented, but inexperienced back-court. That season, Rivers led the Knicks to the best record in the Eastern Conference. The team cruised through the playoffs, and met the Chicago Bulls for the conference championship. The Knicks and the Bulls split the first four games, but New York lost the last two games. The Bulls won the series four games to two.
Although Rivers looked forward to leading the Knicks to an NBA championship, the rest of his career in New York was disappointing. During the middle of the 1993–94 season, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and was forced to sit out for the rest of the season. The Knicks went on to lose to the Bulls again in the playoffs. At the start of the 1994–95 season, rumors abounded that the veteran guard would be traded. At the time, Rivers told Curtis Bunn of the New York Daily News that he thought he would stay with the Knicks, “I watched us play for the championship and I know I could have helped us. I think I would have made the difference. So, why would you want to trade that guy? But, hey, I know as well as anyone that this is a business, so I’ll treat it that way. But my energy and focus is on getting all the way back.” In December of 1994, the Knicks released Rivers.
Despite his age and the fact that he had suffered a serious knee injury, Rivers believed that he was still capable of playing in the NBA. He received offers from six teams but, as he told Jet, his main goal was to play for a championship contender, “I asked myself, ‘Why am I playing basketball?’ And it is to try to win. So forget all the other things like the future of doing other things in Atlanta after the career is over. Right now, I’m a basketball player. I want to win a title.” Rivers felt that the San Antonio Spurs offered the best opportunity to achieve this goal. The Spurs featured NBA star David Robinson, and had brought in Dennis Rodman to help with rebounding and defense. Rivers joined the Spurs in 1994. Although the team did well during the regular season, it consistently fell short in the playoffs. At the end of the 1995–96 season, Rivers announced his retirement after 13 seasons in the NBA.
Over the course of his NBA career, Rivers averaged 10.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game. More importantly, Rivers was considered a solid, unselfish leader. In his 13 NBA seasons, he led his teams to the playoffs 10 times. After the 1986–87 season, in which he averaged a double-double (12.8 points and 10.0 assists per game), he was selected to play in the 1988 All-Star Game. Rivers still shares the NBA single-game playoff record for most assists in one half with 15, which was achieved during a 1988 playoff game against the Boston Celtics.
Following his retirement in July of 1996, Rivers was immediately hired by Turner Sports to work as an on-camera NBA analyst. He also served as an analyst for the Spurs’ local television broadcasts. Although he enjoyed his work on television, Rivers made it known that he wanted a position as an NBA coach or general manager. Two years into his broadcasting career, he was considered a prime candidate for an NBA coaching position. He was considered for the Washington Wizards head coaching vacancy and the Milwaukee Bucks general manager position, but finally accepted the head coaching job with the Orlando Magic in 1999. Rivers inked an 8 million guaranteed deal over four years.
The Magic was expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA after trading four of its five starters. Most NBA analysts believed that adding a rookie coach to the mix would lead to a dismal season. However, under Rivers’s guidance, the Magic played remarkably well. John Gabriel, the Orlando Magic general manager, commented on Rivers’s first year as an NBA coach to Mike Wise of The New York Times, “Doc hasn’t done this in a traditional fashion, letting players make a lot of mistakes and going away from the traditional NBA rotation of six or seven players. When he’s wanted to overinstruct, yell or pull back the reins, he hasn’t. The boundaries of that style are loose enough where guys are not inhibited. I thought this was a rebuilding year, but we didn’t bottom out completely. Doc has been the glue in the process.” Other analysts agreed that Rivers was working magic in Orlando. In an article for ESP-N.com, NBA coaching guru Jack Ramsey said, “Rivers’ coaching job is the most unexpected and the most remarkable of the season.” Although many scoffed at Rivers for giving up his secure and undemanding life as an analyst, he readily embraced the challenge of coaching an NBA team. In an interview with Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News, Rivers talked about his decision to become a coach in NBA, “This is what I wanted to do—there’s no deeper answer. I understood where I was, in the TV booth, relaxed, enjoying my work, being told I was good at it. But it would have eaten away at me if I hadn’t pursued this. It’s a gamble, sure, but that’s what life is about. I love being in the fray. I actually feel better with the pressure, the competition. Watch me when we’re doing shooting drills—if guys are fooling around … I tell them, in every competition there’s a winner and a loser. Why not try to be a winner?”
Rivers, Glenn “Doc” and Bruce Brooks. Those Who Love the Game. Henry Holt and Company: Newark, NJ. 1993.
Jet, January 16, 1995.
The New York Daily News, October 10, 1994.
The New York Times, January 9, 2000.
Philadelphia Daily News, January 14, 2000.
Additional information for this profile was obtained at http://espn.go.com\nba\oneononel230\index.html; and http://nba.com\Magic\bios\coach.html
—Michael J. Watkins