(In the coming weeks, you’ll see in our series at FOXSports.com what the Boston bombing means to more than two dozen people directly affected at last year’s marathon. So 2014 is the comeback, because 2013 was the knockdown. This is our second installment. Read their stories.)
Doc Rivers has had plenty on his mind lately. He may be the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers now, but he will never forget what happened last April 15 when he was coach of the Boston Celtics.
Rivers can’t help himself.
"It’s like I am on a countdown to Patriots’ Day and the marathon," he said.
In almost a decade as the Celtics’ coach, Rivers had become a fan of the race. He lived two blocks from the finish line, so he’d go down to the Copley Square area and take in the spectacle like everybody else.
The unlucky ones were standing outside The Forum restaurant on Boylston Street at 2:49 p.m. last April. It’s a little melodramatic to say Rivers might have been there when the bomb went off. But if he’d cut practice short that day, who knows where he might have wandered.
Instead, Rivers was in his car heading home from practice. His plan was to park and head over to the finish line. As he exited a tunnel, Rivers noticed it wasn’t the usual Patriotsâ Day scene.
"I saw people running through the streets and people in street clothes directing traffic," he said.
He turned on his radio and heard about a bomb. It took Rivers an hour to cover the remaining five blocks and get to his condo. Once there, he followed police orders not to go out again.
"I was angry about what happened to all the innocent victims," Rivers said. "I was really proud of our city. Watching police, first responders and people of Boston go into action — very few cities could have handled it like that."
Telephone service was spotty for the first few hours, so Rivers’ family was like thousands of others. Its members anxiously awaited a call telling them everything was all right. Rivers’ daughter, Callie, texted him 16 times hoping for a response.
"Now I know who’s going to take care of me," he joked the next day.
The Celtics had scheduled "Fan Appreciation Night" against the Pacers. That game was canceled. Then life slowly returned to normal, and the great mystery around town became What Will Doc Do?
Rivers had become a semi-institution in Boston after leading the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title. Boston’s core of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett had aged, and Allen left for Miami last season. Predicting when every old warrior would go and whether Rivers would join them had become a New England rite.
Pierce and Garnett went to Brooklyn last summer. Rivers wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take on the rebuilding project.
He considered taking a year or two off to recharge his coaching batteries. Then the Clippers came calling with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and a ready-made playoff contender. They gave Boston a 2015 draft pick and got a ready-made playoff coach.
Rivers loves L.A., and why not? He has Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The Lakers have fallen so far that Phil Jackson couldn’t lift them.
And come April 21, the Clippers will be in the playoffs and the Celtics will be on vacation. But that will also be Patriots’ Day. For a few minutes, Rivers’ mind will not be on basketball.
"It will be a day of remembrance and strength for the runners, first responders and people of Boston," he said. "The spirit of Boston is amazing. The spirit of Boston shined through."