Doc Rivers is a former NBA basketball player and the current head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He spoke with ESPN’s The Undefeated about his 20 seasons coaching in the league.
Rivers admits, “stress is apart of [his] job and always is.” He said that he looks at his players as more than just X’s and O’s, and some of them require much more from him than what people may think coaching entails.
“Listen, dealing with players is stressful at times because some of these players need you more,” the veteran coach said. “Some don’t. It’s all about relationships. It’s hard.”
One thing that makes building a bond difficult is race, according to the Clippers coach.
Last year, The Washington Post reported that 75 percent of the players in the NBA are Black. Although many people may perceive that Black coaches easily connect with Black players, Rivers debunked that notion.
“We have a lot of Black players without fathers,” he told the sports and pop culture website. “And to me that’s a story that needs to be talked about, because it’s difficult for the Black coach sometimes.”
The 2000 NBA Coach of the Year continued, “The Black male figures in a lot of these guys’ lives have burned them. So, being coached by us, some people think it’s easier when actually it’s harder.”
NBA superstar LeBron James, who pushes to be a positive force in his community, has spoken about how his absentee father affected his life.
Rivers doesn’t take for granted his position as one of eight African-American head coaches among the 30 teams in the NBA. He also is aware of the lack of access Black coaches have.
“If I’ve learned anything, it is about access,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of Black coaches that are coming into the league that haven’t played in the NBA. But they can be good coaches, too, because there are a lot of White coaches that haven’t played that have become head coaches.”
Rivers said he tries to focus on helping to open the doors to even out this disparity. He recounted helping Ty Lue, the last African-American coach to win an NBA championship (in 2016) get a coaching gig after his career as a player was over.
The Clippers head coach, however, said he is more than willing to help White individuals who need him as well.
Rivers is hyperaware of the racial gaps on the coaching, management and analytical sides of the league. He said the NBA, which is currently the topic of debate about female head coaches, is the perfect sports association to become more diverse.
Some advice he would give to aspiring Black coaches would be to “shake hands and work your butt off. You get to get in the door. But once you get in the door, you have to prove you can do the job. Once you get in the door, it’s a win-loss job and a win-loss business.”