LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers was at Staples Center Friday night to coach for his team’s season — it was less than two hours before an elimination game against the Golden State Warriors. Win or go home for Rivers and the Clippers.
But Rivers wanted to talk about John Havlicek, the Celtics’ legend and Hall of Famer who passed away Thursday at the age of 79.
“He was such a good human being,” Rivers said. “Really, if you could model our players, and how we wanted them to be — he was a fierce competitor, amazing humility, and he was a gentleman — if we could model all of us like that, we would be in a great place as a league.”
When Rivers took over as coach of the Boston Celtics in 2004, he noticed that for a team with the deepest history of legendary players in the league, but those players did not come around, didn’t spend time with the team. Rivers said he wanted to change that, so he a team official mailed literally every player who had laced it up for the Celtics and invited them to come around the team.
“The next day, John Havlicek walks into the gym and, in a typical John Havlicek way, walks up to me and introduced himself, Rivers said. “He said, ‘Hi. I’m John Havlicek.’ Like I didn’t know. But that’s just who he was, and after that he was always around.”
Love for Russell poured in from teammates and guys he went against.
Knicks legend, and former U.S. Senator from New York, Bill Bradley, released this statement.
“For ten years, John Havlicek was my toughest opponent in the biggest rivalry in the league. Night after night he was the epitome of constant motion. He only needed half a step to beat me, which he usually did. He was the quintessential Celtic—unselfish and loyal—and through the players’ union he helped make the game more just by ending the reserve clause. The only thing he loved more than the game was his family. He’ll always be with them.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released this statement:
“John Havlicek was a wonderful friend who represented the best of the NBA. He described himself as a man of routine and discipline – a humble approach that produced extraordinary results, including eight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, 13 All-Star selections and some of the most iconic moments in league history. A trusted teammate who prioritized winning, John’s passion and energy endeared him to basketball fans and made him a model for generations of NBA players. We send our deepest sympathies to John’s wife, Beth, his son, Chris, and his daughter, Jill, as well as the entire Celtics organization.”
Players from other generations expressed their respect and admiration as well.