Rivers talks search for Bucks39 identity 39You39ve got to be

Rivers talks search for Bucks' identity: 'You've got to be afraid of the deer' – The Athletic

While the Milwaukee Bucks posted a 30-13 record under former coach Adrian Griffin to start the season, several players in the final weeks of his tenure spent their postgame interviews talking about the team's search for identity.

In his introductory press conference Saturday, newly hired coach Doc Rivers told reporters that's exactly what he wants to build as he takes over as the 18th coach in Bucks history.

“I think we need to find our identity,” Rivers said. “For example, if you want to have the slogan: “Fear the deer, you must fear the deer.”

“I asked them, 'Who are we?' When a team is connected and understands it, they will give you an answer. We don't have an answer yet. We have to find out what we are, who we are.”

The Bucks announced Rivers' signing on Friday, three days after releasing Griffin just 43 games into the season with the team second in the Eastern Conference standings.

Now, with a 31-14 record and two superstar talents in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, the Bucks look to continue a promising season under a new coach.

The 62-year-old Rivers had no plans to coach this season and insisted that while other teams had called him about returning to coach, he would only return to the sidelines given the right opportunity. And he believes he found that with the Bucks.

“Because I mean, come on, you know the answer. Giannis, lady. That’s really the answer,” Rivers said when asked why this opportunity was good enough for him to head back to the sidelines. “What is it, eight teams that have a legitimate shot? And I don't know if it's that high, but the Bucks are one of them, right?

“The other thing is the way they are set up with the veterans and their adults. I thought, if you get involved at this time of year, this is the type of group where you can most quickly socialize and change. That’s why I took the call.”

While Rivers said the time he spent away from the game felt like “an extended vacation” and joked that he would usually be “on the third hole at Riviera or Bel-Aire (golf course)” on a Saturday morning, he reiterated this also means that he wants to coach.

“Coaching is a stressful job, right?” Rivers said. “It's everything everyone says, but is it stressful when you love it? That's how I see it. I love what I do. I love this job. I love it when things are hard.”

And Rivers didn't shy away from discussing the difficulty of the task before him. According to NBA.com, the Bucks currently rank third in offensive rating with 120.1 points per 100 possessions and 19th in defensive rating with 116.5 points per 100 possessions. Their plus-3.6 net rating ranks 10th in the NBA.

You have a lot to do and significant changes to make, but little time to implement those changes. During his press conference, Rivers indicated that the Bucks' remaining schedule will give them three or four days to hold real practice, and that will be a challenge.

“I’ve never done this before,” Rivers said when he accepted the head coaching job midway through the season. “I wouldn't wish that on anyone, I've been telling you that for a day and a half. But it will be a challenge. It is a challenge that I am approaching.

“We have to organize quickly. You can't try to do too much too soon. We are in the middle of the season and have to try to keep our rhythm. There are changes we need to make, there is no doubt about it. We will start work immediately.”

While Rivers will begin figuring out how to lead the Bucks forward, he will do so from the stands on Saturday when the Bucks take on the New Orleans Pelicans in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. Interim coach Joe Prunty will take the Bucks' helm for the third straight season before Rivers takes over as coach for the Bucks' game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Concluding his media session, Rivers acknowledged that he has spent much of his career coaching teams with high expectations, having secured his first NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and that he has not had another championship since that first one won more. That doesn't mean he feels like he has to prove anyone wrong.

“I don’t know if I have anything to prove except that I want to win,” Rivers said. “I like winning, I like putting myself in situations like that. I failed and I won. But man, I’m telling you, winning is something you can’t produce.”

“Winning everything is like getting a blood transfusion with everyone in the organization, and once you get that in you, you want another one,” he said. “And that is my pursuit. I don’t know if there’s anything to prove, it’s just something I want to do.”

In Milwaukee, expectations will be high for Rivers, as evidenced by the organization's decision to fire its last two coaches in less than a year, and he will get a chance to win at the highest level. Although he was the organization's new member introduced Saturday, he knows he's not alone in his goal.

“Listen, Giannis, this is what he wants to do,” Rivers said of winning a championship.

“Khris Middleton and (Brook) Lopez – just because they won one doesn’t mean they don’t want to win another one. And lady wants to win one. Yes, I have a hungry group.”

Required reading

(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)