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A “YOU HAD TO BE THERE” Spurs story from Doc Rivers

While Bill Simmons podcast has frequently kept listeners up to date this season on rookie Victor Wembanyama, guest Rivers went in a different direction this week with the “Podfather”.

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics
Before the serviceable player became a renowned NBA coach, Doc Rivers had a cup of coffee with our Spurs and has a story to tell!
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Former Magic, Celtics, Clippers, and Sixers coach Doc Rivers joined The Ringer’s Bill Simmons this week to do a flyover of NBA ongoings. While the two bantered for a considerable amount of time about the recently completed In-Season Tournament and covering ‘what’s wrong’ with a handful of NBA rosters — all while ending that discussion with ‘do you believe’ in a grouping of surprise winning teams this season thus far.

However, it was a story that occurs well over 83+ minutes into the podcast, and it’s well worth fast-forwarding past the other content (especially an anecdote about Kawhi Leonard’s recruitment to the Clippers), that is a good viewpoint into the pre-championship rosters that won often in the 1990s, but fell short time and time again.

Bill Simmons implored Rivers at the end of the podcast, “We always end with story time for you. You played for Gregg Popovich for a year. Give us a Gregg Popovich mid-90s story.”

Rivers response was pure solid gold. Doc corrected him immediately with “Pop was my GM. Bob Hill was my coach.” “We’re down 0-2 to the Rockets” in the 1995 Western Conference Finals. For those that recall (or don’t want to remember), Hakeem Olajuwon took umbrage to David Robinson winning the regular season MVP award and proceeded to dominate the series on the way to Houston winning its second straight title. The road teams took the first four games, with the Rockets claiming the first two in San Antonio.

Dennis Rodman later was suspended for the critical game 5 in San Antonio, which the Spurs infamously lost. Rivers noted that Pop and he hung out because “we’re old.” Doc then proceeded to describe an ‘incredible’ exchange during a pre-game meeting — called by Pop — before game 3 whereby Rodman walked in right before the meeting started “just to get under Pop’s skin.”

Then these things happened:

  • Rivers starts by stating, “Dennis Rodman and Pop absolutely did not like each other.”
  • Rodman was quoted as saying to the future head coach in front of the team, “You know when I heard your voice, I wanted to turn around. I can’t stand you.”
  • Former Sixers and Rockets great Moses Malone tried to uplift the team with a speech, only for point guard Avery Johnson to interrupt him abruptly to say, “Hey, we don’t have time to listen to your press clippings right now. Alright? We know who you are, but we’re trying to win!”
  • Johnson then yelled to his teammates. “I don’t know man. But right now, Allah (Hakeem’s deity) is whooping God (Robinson’s deity), and we as a group have to do something about it.
  • Doc concludes (and it’s worth several re-listens or a dozen just for all of the above to truly sink in), “but that’s why as a coach and a player, those meetings in the locker room, usually don’t work.”

Though we have to wait two long evenings for the conclusion of the Lakers/Spurs mini-series, please feel free to enjoy some rare non-Wemby content!