There are an inordinate number of challenges for high-profile NBA prospects, but perhaps the greatest is navigating the tricky water between college and the pro ranks. For many players, street agents are popping up back in AAU, trying to influence college decisions and hoping to be in line for some benefits of proximity when and if the player makes it big. We've seen players' brothers, dads and uncles get jobs in university programs. We've seen players choose brothers, dads and uncles as their agents or managers when the declare for the draft. Sometimes, it works out -- Mike Conley Sr. has ably represented his son and Greg Oden, for example. But other times, it's a recipe for disaster. Finding the right ear, the right professional guidance in shark-infested waters is so important to help players -- many of whom are coming into big money for the first time -- make the right decisions.
Austin Rivers, a lottery pick in 2012 after one season at Duke, had no such issues. Of course, unlike many lottery picks, he had money. Well, at least his family had money. His dad Doc makes as much as $7 million per year coaching the Celtics. But that's not the important part. What matters is that Doc knows the business of the NBA -- he's been on just about every side. And that knowledge is a wonderful gift he can offer his son as he embarks on his own NBA journey.
As a 14-year player who worked for four teams, Doc knows all about how to get paid on the court. Rivers had one All-Star nod, but had four seasons where he made more than $1 million back when it wasn't a basic fact of NBA life. Doc was traded twice and signed a few free agent deals, and persevered deep into his 30s. He was a darned good player earlier in his career, but prolonged the paydays with brains and hard work. (It's worth noting that Doc had some guidance, as well: his uncle, Jim "Papa" Brewer, spent nine years in the league as a player and couple seasons in the Timberwolves' front office.)
Within three years of retirement, he landed the Magic's head coach job. This is the business acumen -- he knew how to leverage his on-court reputation -- he was smart, a hard-worker and knew the game -- into further earnings. He won a Coach of the Year award and had three playoff berths in four years in Orlando before getting spared the humiliation of coaching for the entire 2003-04 season. He parlayed his reputation into a broadcast gig for a few years before getting hired by the Celtics. The fateful trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen led to Boston's renaissance, and Doc's been there for it all, sitting at the top of the NBA coaching salary ladder.
Austin's path won't be the same. For one, he's probably a more talented player than Doc was -- the younger Rivers went in the lottery, whereas his dad was a second-round pick. And no two paths through the NBA life will be the same, no matter the DNA shared. But Austin's at a distinct advantage over the norm: at any time, he can call on a guy who has his best interests at heart, nothing to personally gain from any decision and the deep experience of how to make a profitable, long career in the NBA. That's not nothing. We curse the fact that the NBA is above everything else a business. Doc hasn't. Doc has worked that flawlessly and set his family up for generations of success. Now, we see if Austin carries the Rivers torch even closer to the sun.
The Iconic Families series is brought to you by New York Life. At New York Life, everything we do is to help Keep Good Going. Find out how to keep the good in your life going at newyorklife.com.