Racism Distraction No Match for Clippers Coach

Monday, 28 Apr 2014 07:12 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Social scientists, race experts, and yes, basketball analysts are going to weigh in exhaustively about the furor surrounding the horrendous, racially-charged remarks allegedly spoken by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Such all-time basketball greats as Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan have already emphatically voiced their disgust and anger about these utterly disgusting comments.

Overlooked in the combustible situation is the calm, undeniable dignity of Doc Rivers, the Clippers' head coach who finds himself in the unwanted position of acting like the voice of reason.

Rivers, a black man who played point guard with distinction in the National Basketball Association in the 1980s and 1990s, would prefer to get his basketball team mentally and spiritually in shape to play the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs (the teams are currently tied at two wins each in the best-of-7 series).

Instead, Rivers has to deflect the media storm surrounding the Clippers franchise. He must also come up with a way to win back the fragile momentum that swung back to the Warriors after the team thrashed Rivers' Clippers on Sunday afternoon in game four.

In itself, that would be a chore. Under these circumstances, it is a major challenge.

No matter. Rivers, regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, is doing his job. A master communicator and motivator, he has not allowed himself to get distracted publicly by this media circus.

There is no blueprint for a coach to act like a leader during an off-the-court scandal. Maybe Harvard Business School has done case studies to help inform executives, but nothing could have prepared Rivers for this kind of mess.

Actually, from what I've seen, Rivers is doing fine under extreme duress. He is showing dignity and leadership. Maybe Harvard should ask Doc Rivers to write a case study on how to keep your composure and act like a winner during a crisis. It's difficult to root for Sterling's Clippers. But it's easy to cheer for Doc Rivers.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.

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