Doc Rivers won’t shy away from his feelings towards winning Olympic gold. The opportunity is something coaches might use as a recruiting tactic, but at least for the men’s U.S. basketball team, it’s the NBA championship that should matter most.
Rivers told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that winning the gold medal and trying to win it gets confused as one in the same, and that while representing your country is the highest honor, there’s nothing quite like the pursuit of an NBA ring:
“I’m as patriotic as anybody, but I would rather win the NBA championship than a gold medal,” Rivers said. “But winning a gold medal – and trying to win a gold medal – is a completely different feeling, and there’s no feeling like it.
He remembers being 0-13 in his pursuit of a ring as a player, and when he finally won it all as head coach of the Boston Celtics in 2008, not even the idea of winning Olympic gold as a player was enough to compare to that road towards becoming an NBA champion, even as a coach:
[W]hen you’re in the NBA it’s a yearly process. Think about me: I was 0-13 in my playing career, got close a couple times. It becomes a desperate pursuit to win it. After a few more years as a coach, after nearly 20 years in the league, I finally win. There’s no pursuit like that.
Kobe Bryant probably wouldn’t trade an NBA ring for any of his golds, Rivers said, just as men’s U.S. Olympic basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t trade his four NCAA Championship rings that he won as coach of the Duke Blue Devils. It’s a matter of weeks in the Olympics versus months if not years for NBA coaches, he said:
“When you try to win the Olympics, you make a team and it’s a much shorter pursuit over several weeks. It’s still great, but I would guarantee you that Coach K would take the NCAA championships first. The players who say ‘I’d take the gold medal’ have never won an NBA championship.”