In 2006 Bill Simmons (born William J. Simmons III - or as Eastern Europeans would pronounce it, “Bill Simmons da Turd”), in ESPN the Magazine, wrote that he thought Doc Rivers was a bad coach. His main reasons were based on the sportswriters’ favorite ammunition: statistics. After the fact statistics, that is. The ones you pick and choose to support your argument, the key being you must wait until after the games are over. That method will always make you look right. The most important thing for insecure schmucks like Simmons is to look right. Conversely, what the nerdy type dreads worse than a terminal diagnosis is to be proved wrong. Worse, because you have to live with being wrong. And make no mistake about it, that is why Bill Simmons hates Doc Rivers.
In the ‘06 article Simmons wrote the following nonsense: “Now, my father couldn’t coach an NBA team. Neither could I.” (C’mon, Bill, if push came to shove, you know you could do it - and, by golly, William II could too). He continued, “But we have watched enough games over the years, especially in person, to distinguish the difference between a well coached team and a poorly coached team. The Celtics are poorly coached. You can discern this with the naked eye; you can discern this through a variety of statistical ways.“ He then chose to back up his “statistical” argument with some very pertinent numbers which, in this case, worked out nicely. I’d have loved to have heard his “naked eye” observations but I guess there weren’t any stats to back those up.
Later in the article, Bill wrote: “Like my buddy House calling me after attending the Wiz-Celtics game on Saturday night just to ask me, ‘Why didn’t Doc go offense-defense with Delonte West and Marcus Banks down the stretch when Delonte had five fouls and you needed to foul?’ … followed by me answering, ‘Um, Doc doesn’t understand the concept of offense-defense.’ “ I can only wonder how much better the Celts would have been if only Doc had known House. Then House could have explained the offense-defense concept that was lacking in Doc’s understanding of (apparently obvious) coaching strategy.
The line in the sand had been drawn. There was no way in the hell Simmons would ever give Doc credit for being a good coach. Even if the Celtics won the NBA championship. Which they did in 2008. 131-92 against the hated Lakers in Game 6, a series where they lost the first two games at home (no doubt much to the delight of Simmons, whose disdain for Rivers had far surpassed his loyalty to the Green), only to run off four in a row. Damn it. Crow-eatin’ time.
Wait! Here’s part (albeit it in parentheses - and not until the 26th paragraph) of the article Simmons pens following the 2008 NBA finals: (Important note: I was wrong about Terry Francona in 2004, and I was wrong about Doc in 2008. That’s not earth-shattering news because I’m wrong many times. But this time, I was really, REALLY wrong. The guys gave him everything they had in the Finals. This had to be mentioned.) Evidently, Francona’s baseball intelligence also had been lambasted when the head of Simmons favorite baseball team didn’t win as much as he wanted, i.e. World Series championships. Until they finally did. Wonder if Terry got to know House?
When Doc was recently asked about Simmons, he said, “Bill’s a fan.” Throughout they years, the role of fan has changed. It used to be “fan” was short for “fanatic.” Now, it’s short for “putz.” Here’s his description of how he felt at the end of the final game - palms pink, voice hoarse and body sweaty but not wanting to take a shower. “I climbed in my bed at 2:30 a.m. and didn’t fall asleep until 4. Putz? Need I answer?
Here’s another excerpt (prior to paragraph 22): ” ‘You feel safe?’ My dad asked me that when we were leading, 89-60. My answer? ‘No.’ “ Really, Bill? Guess what? It doesn’t matter. Nothing you nor your dad could have done would have had an influence on the game’s outcome. No ritual, no rally monkey, no locking arms, no “Simmons family good luck chant.” Nothing.
If you ever wanted to know what the difference between players and writers is, there is no greater example than this section of his celebratory piece:
“If you’re a numerology buff, then you’ll enjoy this one: Game 6 was played on June 17 — in other words, ‘6′ (the number for June, as well as the number of games in the Finals) and ‘17′ (the number of Boston championships if you include one for 2008). Two of the four greatest Celtics of all-time — Bill Russell and John Havlicek — wore ‘6′ and ‘17,’ respectively. And if you add 6+1+7, you’d get ‘14,’ the number worn by Bob Cousy, another one of the four greatest Celtics ever. (If you want to really stretch it, 3 + 3 = 6, and ‘33′ was worn by Larry Bird, the fourth in the ‘greatest Celtics ever’ group). If that’s not enough, the area code for Boston is ‘617.’ And on a somber note, the 1986 draft happened June 17 — really, the last day the Celtics felt like they were invincible. I don’t know what all of this means, but it means something, right?)” If only I knew Bill as well as House, he would have added that June 17 is my birthday.
All this from a slappy who has the nerve to think he understands how to coach an NBA team. I mean, I majored in math but . . . are you kidding us, Bill? “3 + 3 = 6, and ‘33′ was worn by Larry Bird.” Or the capper: “My father deserved the title as much as anyone.“ Hey, hold on to your “fan dreams” and your father-from-son testimonial for a human interest story, not a game wrap up. Don’t confuse your personal feelings for what your dad means to you and make it sound like people should have been referring to the Big Four. Heck, if you were coaching, it wouldn’t have been surprising if, during a crucial moment, you subbed your dad for Rondo. So for goodness sakes, don’t criticize a coach.
Coaching is a profession. Writing is a profession. Just as Doc could write an article, he never would dream of criticizing writers for the technical nature of how they approach their craft. Don’t look at post game stats and justify what you think should have been done - because your favorite team lost. Today, it’s as if fans believe, “You are my coach. You owe me. You coach here until I say you can go. Like when we lose more than I expect we should or we win championships but I get tired of you, or you die.” I guess that’s why Bill Simmons is so popular. He writes - and now speaks - for the masses. That doesn’t mean he’s right.
There’s never been a more applicable quote that of Teddy Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”