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Doc Rivers Addresses the Media After Being Introduced as Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach

Doc and Jon Horst both spoke to the media

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Press Conference Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After much speculation and waiting, Doc Rivers has officially arrived in Milwaukee. This afternoon, he had his introductory press conference at Fiserv Forum. He will not be coaching tonight against New Orleans. Rather, his Bucks debut will be Monday night in Denver — to which he confirmed to us during his presser: “Yeah, that’s smart, right?”

There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s dive into it!

Jon Horst opening statement:

“Good morning, everybody. It’s great to be here. Thanks for taking some time here on a Marquette game day. I want to open up by just saying thank you to Bill Scholl, to Mike Lovell and to Mike Broeker for accommodating us today and letting us do this, kind of cool, kind of a cool story for Doc to be here today and do this. Thanks to Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Wes Edens, Jamie Dinan for their support and kind of unwavering commitment to winning. It’s been kind of incredible to go through this with them and this process. Peter Feigin, whose partnership has just been incredible as well. This has been a difficult couple of days, but a great couple of days. We talked a few days ago about identifying a coach who could lead and maximize this team’s talent in a window where we have a real chance to compete, and we found Doc, we talked to Doc, we went at him with urgency as we talked about, and it’s my honor today to be here and sit with Doc and introduce him as the next head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Doc Rivers.”

Doc’s opening statement:

“Hello, Milwaukee. It’s great to be back, you know. It took me a while, I will say that. But for me, in short, I’ll let you guys ask the questions about the team and stuff. Just personally for me, being back here is a dream. I think about Rick (Majerus) and Al (McGuire) and Hank (Raymonds). This is where I learned really most of my basketball knowledge. I came from three geniuses. I really did. They taught me basketball. They taught me life. Rick taught me all the restaurants in every city. So it’s just really cool being in an arena, coaching in an arena and your jersey’s hanging above you. I can turn to the players and say, ‘Guys, I swear to God, I played basketball. Just look up. I swear that’s me.’ It’s really cool. I’d like to open it up to whatever you guys have.”

Doc on how he’s seen this team perform and what he needs to do to maximize its potential:

“I don’t know yet. I just know who they are as far as, you see the talent obviously. I’ve coached against the talent. Looking from afar, you think we’ve got to connect this, you know? We know they all can play. But we’ve got to figure out this is the best way for them all to play together and all to be great in what they do.”

Jon Horst peeled the curtain back and shined a light on what the hiring process looked like:

“I think we talked a little bit about it the other day, but when we decided with ownership and Peter and myself to make the decision, part of that decision was to try to identify a small group of coaches that we thought fit the bill and to really try and test how much confidence we would have in executing that. Really, that’s what led to the decision, and really quickly afterwards we identified Doc and targeted Doc and it’s been kind of a quick process after that, but we’re glad that we got him.”

Doc also provided his perspective on how everything went down:

“For me, it was just a strange day, because I was flying to Dallas. I was going to do the ESPN game on that Wednesday. I flew up early because I wanted to spend time with my daughter, who lives there, and my son-in-law plays for the Mavs. And I’m terrible with my phone, you’ll find that out. I had my phone off. I walk into my daughter’s house, and she’s asking me about the news. I’m thinking that some political news happened, and then she told me. And then I turned my phone on to a lot of messages, urgent messages that I hadn’t answered. It was a strange day.”

This is obviously a unique situation. It’s not everyday a coach will take over a team as successful as the Bucks midway through the year, and Doc addressed that:

“Yeah, listen, I’ve never done this. I wouldn’t with this on anyone, I can tell you that, just from the day-and-a-half. But it’s going to be a challenge. It’s a challenge that I’m running towards. We’ve got to get organized quickly. Can’t try to do too much too soon. We’re in the middle of a season, so we’ve got to try to keep our rhythm. We’re in the middle of a season, so we’ve got to try to keep our rhythm. There are changes that we have to make, there’s no doubt about that. We’ll start working on it immediately. It’s interesting. I looked at our calendar, you know, I should have waited until after the All-Star break. This is a tough stretch. But that’s good too. I always say good. I don’t ever say bad. I do. Rex back there, first thing, ‘Did you see the teams we’re playing?’ I said, ‘Good. Let’s bring it on. Let’s get it on.’ If we win them all, great. If we struggle, great, it doesn’t matter. Our goal is to be great by the end of the year. But the biggest part of the schedule is that probably three or four practice days left in the season, good days. So we’re going to have to do shootarounds. We’ve going to have to do things a little different.”

This was an interesting part. Doc disputed reports that he was hired as a consultant to Adrian Griffin. However, he also said that he talked to him a lot. So, who knows?

“Yeah, that’s not true. I don’t know where that came from. I was never a consultant. If I was, I need to be paid some more money for that because I didn’t get a check. But Adrian and I are good friends. I talked to Adrian the last three days. I talked to him the night of the firing, I talked to him, we talk a lot. Listen, I wanted him to do well. I look at him as a guy that - he’s a lifer - and for 15 years, he was trying to get a job and then he gets a job and it doesn’t work out for him. And this league in a lot of ways can be fair and not unfair, that’s for everybody else to judge, I just know him as a human. And he’s a terrific dude.”

Last night, Pat Connaughton filled us in a little bit on what Doc said to the team in his initial comments. He said that he told the team that teams need to be afraid to play the Bucks. Here’s Doc on what he said:

“Well I think we have to find our identity. That was more the message. Like if you’re gonna have Fear the Deer, you gotta fear the deer, you know? You know what I mean? But our identity right now — and I asked them, ‘who are we?’ You know when a team is connected and they got it, they’ll give you an answer. We don’t have an answer yet. We gotta find what are we, who are we. Every year you’re on a new journey. We have five guys here, I think it’s five, who have won a title, and I mean the players. We have to make sure they understand that we want to do a lot of what they did, but you can’t go on the same journey. Every year the journey’s different, even if the same guys came back with the same coach and everything, that journey’s different. We have to figure out who we’re gonna be and the type of journey that we need to go on to get what we want.”

Doc has had a lot of history with a handful of teams in this league. Here’s his comments on what lessons he can take from those experiences and how he can apply it to this challenge with the Bucks:

“I’ve been through everything. I really have as a coach. That’s what’s so great about coaching. There’s a lot of highs, there’s lows, and you work through them and you learn from them always. At the end of the day, this is a relationship business. Your job as a coach is to get some of the guys to do some of the things they don’t want to do. You’re not gonna be popular all the time and that’s fine, you have to accept that when you accept a leadership role. That’s just part of it. But if you can get the buy-in and get everybody to buy in and be on the same page, then you can have some success.”

He also mentioned how he’s spoken to other coaches who have been in situations that are similar to this one. Here’s what advice they told him:

“Take your time. Evaluate the staff slowly, even though early on you’ll have too many coaches. Evaluate all of them, you’ll find a diamond. That’s one I would say a lot was, you’re going to someone that you never thought can really be an asset to you. Then that guy will become part of your legacy and your coaching. And over communicate. And the best, which I already knew, was take your time. Dave and I were going over offense today and he had a thousand things on the paper and I said okay, we can only do one of these. You’ve got to keep them playing. And we can’t get them playing in their heads.”

Next, I asked Doc about the young talent on the Bucks’ roster, mainly MarJon Beauchamp and Andre Jackson Jr.:

“I don’t know yet, you know? I can’t wait to get into the gym with them. That’s the guys I can spend time with because they don’t have...they’re not high-minute guys yet. But one of those guys [MarJon Beauchamp and Andre Jackson Jr.] is gonna have to help us is the way I look at it from afar. You know, you may get in the gym and that changes. But right now, I look at our young guys and one of these guys — maybe two — but one for sure will at some point have to help us. And that’s our job as a staff to develop them. And it’s not just develop them individually. It’s more team development — develop them to learn how to play with a veteran team. And people don’t realize how hard that is for young guys. Every guy that comes out of college is the guy on their team. And now you join this team. You have Giannis and Dame and Khris Middleton. You’re not the guy on this team. And learning how to play in that role and being successful is extremely hard. But I really believe by the end of the year, one of those guys will definitely be able to help us.”

Doc also told us that multiple teams had contacted him about coaching. He didn’t pick up the phone a single time. However, he did pick it up when the Bucks called:

“Because...I mean, c’mon. You know the answer. Giannis, Dame. Really, that’s the answer. Like, you look at their team. You know, I don’t ever know the list, right? What is it, eight teams that have a legitimate shot? And I don’t know if it’s that high, but the Bucks are one of them, right? The other thing is the way they’re built with the veterans and their grown-ups. I thought that if you’re gonna jump into this at this time of the year, this would be a type of group that you have the best opportunity to connect and change the quickest. So that’s why I took the call.”

Doc also obviously has a strong relationship to the city of Milwaukee through his Marquette playing days. Here’s what he said the city and this opportunity personally means to him:

“It’s hard to express emotionally. You know and from afar, and I’ve told Jon this. This is one of the places I’ve always had circled in my life if I could ever play here. I’ve actually been pissed at Don Nelson for years because I thought he was gonna draft me. I think he drafted Randy Brewer. And I’m just still pissed by that. It was the right choice at the time, I guess. You know, so I’ve never had the opportunity to play here. And then when I started coaching...just this is...you know. Listen, I’m not here if I don’t go to Marquette. Bottom line. I really believe that. Not just Rick, Hank, and Al, but the professors. I wasn’t the greatest student when I came to Marquette but I left a hell of a student. That was not my plan. I wanted to skate and it was not allowed. And it changed my life. Coming back here, to a place that changed me as a literal person, is a dream.”

He also talked about how he anticipates the Bucks’ assistant coaching staff to shake out. This will be interesting to watch. He said that they’ll make some changes and that they have to because he needs to be comfortable:

“Yeah, two of them are back there. Rex and Dave will definitely be joining the staff. I don’t know in what roles yet. This is different, obviously. I’ve talked to about seven coaches already who have done this — some really good coaches who have actually done exactly this already. And every one of them had — I was hoping it’d be the same thing — and that didn’t go well because each one had a whole different story about how it went. But the toughest part is that this is a human business and that we have a lot of coaches who are here already and so you evaluate everybody. You do. You don’t come in with a set idea. I guess I’ll find some new friends and learn some stuff too. And so, I’m gonna open this with an open idea. I mean, obviously, we’re gonna make changes. We have to. Because I have to be comfortable. But at the end of the day, you just evaluate.”

He was also asked about expectations with this role and in general when coaching:

“Yeah. I’ve learned that you would rather have them than not. I’ve coached teams with no expectations and that’s not very fun. I can tell you that. I’ve coached teams; I think of myself at times I’ve created unreal expectations, unrealistic expectations with teams. I go back to Philly. The first year we had lost the year before and we were swept and then we win the East in the regular season. I don’t know if we were that good. Staff-wise, we kind of knew that going in but we had a shot at it. So, that’s part of your job is to deal with expectations. I learned that early on as a coach. It was interesting. When I took the Boston job I got a lot of calls from coaches to tell me not to take the job, the expectations will be too unrealistic. I’m like, what? That’s ridiculous. You want that. You want expectations. And this team has them. Listen, I’m going to use one line from a coach I know well an that’s Bill Belichick. If you can coach a team where the expectations are if you land the plane and you get off the plane and there’s a parade, but if you don’t land it, it’s a crash, then you got the right team. And that’s the way I look at it.”

Doc was also asked if he’s had any conversations with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard:

“Not a lot. I talked a little bit, I showed Giannis something that we hated when he did when we coached against him. He hadn’t done it a lot this year and I was asking him about that, he was laughing, he thought it was funny, I didn’t think it was very funny. (Chuckles) So we talked about that a little. Its funny, he tried a little of it yesterday and had some success. And then Dame I’ve known a little bit from his shooting coach, we hired his shooting coach two years ago in Philly— I’m not going to say we may have been thinking about something else— were just going to stop there. And I got to know Dame through him, but never personally. So we had a pretty good talk yesterday as well.”

And his thoughts on the Milwaukee Bucks organization:

“First class. That was one of the things that was a driver. The culture here, my last two jobs I will say I had to come in and change the culture of the organization. Try to change things. I took a Clipper job with Donald Sterling as the owner. I thought that was a great idea when I did it. Because I thought I could come in and create change and I realized early on this is going to be a little harder than I anticipated. And then when Elton hired me with Philly, the first thing he said is we want you to come in here and change our culture, make this a first class group and Elton allowed me to do that and Daryl aided me in that as well. This place, I was telling Jon, they have it. And its going to be great because I can coach and that will be fantastic.”

He was also asked if he had anything left to prove. I thought this was a terrific answer:

“I don’t know if I have anything to prove except I want to win. I like winning, I like putting myself in those situations. I’ve failed and I’ve won. But man I tell you, winning is, it’s something that you can’t produce. Winning it all, its like having a blood transfusion with everybody in the organization and once you get that in you, you want another one. And that’s my pursuit. I don’t know if there’s anything to prove there, it’s just something that I want to do. Listen, Giannis, that’s what he wants to do. Khris Middleton and Lopez — just because they’ve won one doesn’t mean they don’t want to win another. And Dame wants to win one. Yeah, I’ve got a hungry group.”

And last, his thoughts on the defense:

“I’ve not been in long enough. You’re correct about the defense, I will say that. I sat in the stands last night and I saw some of it. But it’s here. I think we have to get on the right page, the same page. Our language and communication defensively, we have to get that right. Right now, you can feel it. Some this way, some this way. We’ve gotta get on the same page. We’ve got to do things differently too than the past. Jrue [Holiday] and Dame are different players. We have to change some things for sure.”

That wraps up the summary! There’ll be more tonight to come from the locker room. Now it’s time for me to go get some sleep before coming back to Fiserv for game coverage...


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