Doc Not Afraid to Summon the Ghost of Bob Boone
Baseball reputations are a lot like tattoos. It's easy to get one but a little more complicated -- and usually a lot more painful -- to have such artful work removed. Bob Boone was portrayed as a micromanager in three seasons as the field general for the Kansas City Royals. He was not so much Napoleon, some said, as a mad quartermaster bent on accounting for the whereabouts of every bolt and washer in his private 25-man army.
One Kansas City reporter routinely referred to him as "Royals over-manager Bob Boone." Others labeled him Abner Boonieday, just another guy who thought he invented baseball but really hadn't. (Pretty funny stuff is you're not the target.) So when the Cincinnati Reds hired him to replace Jack McKeon as manager, the jokes began about the inevitable daily lineup changes and the probability of counting more double-switches during games than on inventory day at a hardware store.
When he announced a minor lineup change recently, he allowed that a call to Kansas City would tell how many different ones he has used this season. He said he was certain his old adversaries still were keeping track as they had in 1996 when he used 152 in 161 games, despite the team not being riddled by the injury bug at any point during the season.
It was a joke, yes, but a painful one considering his firing in Kansas City still hurts. Boone took a two-year deal from the Reds at a bargain-basement salary because he was desperate for another chance to manage. A fast start would have made Boone's return to the dugout a secondary issue. But the Reds have stumbled out of the blocks to a 3-5 record without Griffey Jr., and Boone said the other day that he has been more of a focal point than he wants to be. "It would be nice to have a game where I didn't have to manage so much," he said Sunday. "I hate being a factor in a game. I want to sit over there and relax. It hasn't happened yet, but it will."
Boone then proceeded to issue four intentional walks in the game that followed. Two worked and two didn't, but nobody would have been counting had the Reds been playing better or had they won. But they aren't and they didn't.
The great thing about crazy ideas is that you never know when a seed planted four years ago might bear fruit. So here we are, October 2012, about ready to start season 9 with Glenn "Doc" Rivers at the helm of Battleship Shamrock, and the Celtics sideline maestro has a very good opportunity to manage basketball games like he's always wanted to but never dared, unless you go all the way back to the beginning of his tenure in Boston when he tried wholesale substitutions of young, athletic, and energetic bench players for an aging group of plodding starters.
Word has it, and, admittedly, this is based on what I view as "reading the tea leaves" by the local media (and who said I enjoyed a monopoly on that enterprise?), Doc is entertaining the idea of going with starting lineups that shift with the sands and change with the tides. One day he'll spot-start Darko (where did you here that before?), the next he'll bring both Courtney Lee and Jason Terry off the bench. Somedays he'll start Jared Sullinger. Other days? You guessed it. Brandon Bass. Hey, Chris Wilcox, where do you fit into the puzzle, Big Fella?
You know what?
This doesn't phase me one bit.
What I really want to see more than anything else is a bench unit like no other I've seen. The 1985-86 bench was damn good. But at the end of the day, it really consisted of three guys: Bill Walton, Jerry Sichting, and Scott Wedman. Rick Carlisle played well in the two Laker games, and David Thirdkill came up big once against the Sixers. But, really, it always came down to Wedman, Walton, and Sichting.
Doc has a chance to do much more with this year's bench. It will be much more versatile, and much deeper. Walton, Sixth Man of the Year in 1986, did a little bit of everything. Wedman and Sichting were basically just shooters. The Celtics had nobody like Jeff Green on the bench, or on the entire roster for that matter. Jason Terry won't shoot 56% from the field like Sichting did, but if Lee joins him on the second unit, that combination of guards will easily surpass the Sichting-Carlisle combination, since Carlisle rarely was invited to the party and neither was much of a defender. The Celtics had no back-up power forward in 1986. This year they have three power forwards, none of which are as good as Kevin McHale (well, unless, of course, Doc decides to play Kevin Garnett at his old position, in which case, yes, the current Celtics roster would have a power forward as talented as Kevin McHale), but all three of which bring something very different and very valuable to the table.
You start mixing up the lineups, and tell me exactly how does any other team prepare for that?
You might ask, quite justifiably, exactly how does any one Celtic unit get comfortable with each other if Doc will be constantly shifting around the players?
But I'm willing to roll with this for a few months.
As I will point out tomorrow, the one thing you can't deny is that Doc delivers, and this year, with this crazy idea, he just might start cementing his place in history.
- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)