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'Danny's good': Doc Rivers doesn't sound too surprised about the Jazz's early success


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Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

PHILADELPHIA — It was a dark time in Boston.

In 2007, the Celtics went over a month without winning a game. In total, then-head coach Doc Rivers endured an 18-game losing streak, the longest run of futility ever by the storied franchise.

At that point in his career, Rivers was still trying to solidify himself as a head coach. He had been fired by the Orlando Magic and was in his third lackluster year with the Celtics.

So Rivers expected to have the wrath of the Celtics executives down on him. Instead, he got an apology.

As the losses mounted, Danny Ainge, the famed executive who now leads the Utah Jazz front office, took the blame.

"We were bad," said Rivers, whose Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Utah Jazz on Sunday. "And he would come and apologize to me. He would!

"That doesn't happen. Usually, it's the coaches that gets destroyed. He just kept saying, 'Just be patient, hang in there.' When you have a guy like that, it gives you great confidence and it helps."

The Celtics didn't turn it around that year, but after seismic changes orchestrated by Ainge in the offseason, Rivers led Boston to a championship in 2008.

So with Ainge pulling the strings, Rivers isn't too surprised about what he's seeing from the Jazz to open up this season.

"Danny's good. He really is," Rivers said.

And he thinks the same about the new-look Jazz, too.

"They are deep, they are talented, they have individual players, they have vets, and they are just a fun team to watch," Rivers said. "They are a good, solid basketball team.

"I think the script had been written about them before the year. No one told the guys that play, and they've come in and played their butt off. They are a good basketball team."

Rivers said Ainge works as hard as any person he's come across in the NBA, but something that made him even more unique was the confidence he has in the people he hires.

"We never saw him; it's funny," Rivers said. "From a coaching standpoint, he hires a coach and he just puts complete trust in you. No second guessing, never reacts."

Will Hardy has felt that same trust, but it'd be fair to say in different ways.

Hardy said he talks with Ainge often, like nearly on a daily basis. But don't take that to mean Ainge is looking over his young coach's shoulder.

"He's very supportive," Hardy said. "He understands what it's like to be a coach, having been a coach himself. He's seen the NBA from 360 degrees: as a player, as a coach, as an executive. There's really nothing that happens on a day-to-day basis that surprises Danny, so he's never very emotional in his reaction."

Be it during a surprising 10-3 start or a two-game losing skid, or even, as Rivers once saw, a month without a win.

For Hardy, that's been a stabilizing force during his first months as an NBA head coach.

"It's very calming," he said, "because he's never too riled up. He's been unbelievably supportive, and I definitely feel like I have his trust."

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