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Clippers' Doc Rivers empathizes with former Knicks coach David Fizdale

Knicks head coach David Fizdale against the

 Knicks head coach David Fizdale against the Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LOS ANGELES — Most NBA coaches will have a word of support for a fellow coach who loses his job, so it wasn’t odd to hear Clippers coach Doc Rivers praise former Knicks coach David Fizdale, or even for him to compliment interim coach Mike Miller.

But what might have been different is that Rivers isn’t hesitant to point the finger for the troubles higher up the organizational chart in New York.

The feeling is that the writing was on the wall for Fizdale when Garden chairman James Dolan met with team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry and sent them out to provide a state of the team address to the media after the 10th game of the season. The duo sounded the alarm that the team was not performing up to their expectations.

“I was disappointed. I’m always disappointed,” Rivers said. “I thought he was in a tough spot. Some of the comments that were made, that he didn’t make, before.

“Like, [Fizdale] didn’t stand a chance. I’ve been very fortunate as a coach, been lucky quite honestly, where I’ve had the backing through thick or thin. I told David that.”

Rivers has been through it, losing 18 straight games in 2006-07 with the Celtics. Then, with the support of management and a roster makeover, he won 66 games and the championship the following season.

“I look back in Boston, man, we were awful,” Rivers said. “Lost 18 games in a row and [Celtics general manager] Danny Ainge every day would come in and apologize to me and try to talk me into staying.

“Not like I was leaving. I don’t know why he thought that. But he would say it. That was important to me. That gave me confidence and it created a great team. Obviously, it all worked out.

“I think more coaches need that to be good. David, I think, is an excellent coach. And Mike’s done an amazing job. He really has. I hope now that he’s coach he can get that. I think it’s important for us. I really do.”

Asked if he was referring specifically to the postgame news conference after the loss to Cleveland 10 games into the season, Rivers said, “Yeah, that was bad. I think we all know that. It happened. And it’s tough. Coaching is hard enough. It really is a hard job. Playing’s hard. They’re all hard. I just know this — when everybody works together, it’s better. I’ve learned that.”


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