Doc Rivers

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers brings a commanding presence to a team that is hoping to achieve greatness this season. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times / October 23, 2013)

It was the Clippers' second day of training camp in La Jolla and assistant coach Tyronn Lue was demonstrating one of the team's new defensive techniques, telling the guards to "bump" opposing big men when they set a screen, then to hurry back on defense.

Once Lue finished, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers moved his 6-foot-4 frame across the court and with his booming voice, in the now silent UC San Diego gym, Rivers immediately had the attention of his players. The new coach wanted to emphasize the importance of what Lue had said.

Every player looked directly at Rivers as he spoke, listening intently. His guards must land the "first blow" against the opposing center or forward setting a screen, Rivers said, then hustle back out to defend their own man. After two days of practice, Rivers had begun to impose his will on a new team.

Many Clippers talked about the imposing presence of their new coach.

"It's a respect factor," Chris Paul said.

"He commands a lot of respect and he deserves the amount of respects he gets," Blake Griffin said. "That's our job, really, is to just listen and trust and buy into it."

New Clippers guard J.J. Redick recalled at a recent dinner with his teammates how they all spoke glowingly about what Rivers had said in the locker room and team meetings.

Redick said he'd played for "two great coaches" who were exceptional motivators: former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Redick said Van Gundy and Krzyzewski excel at what they do because they "are original" with their messages.

He has added Rivers to the list.

"You get like goose bumps sometimes," Redick said about Rivers' speeches. "It's refreshing to play for a guy like that."

During training camp, Paul and Griffin have been careful in public not to compare Rivers with his predecessor, Vinny Del Negro. But the All-Stars made some subtle comparisons between the two coaches.

Both players said there is a purpose to everything they do in this camp. In one practice, after Griffin went up for a layup, Rivers told his star forward to dunk the ball next time. It was Rivers' way of telling Griffin to practice the way you play in a game.

"Doc is really good at pointing out those really small things," Griffin said. "There's really no wasted time in practice."

"If we're doing a drill, we won't go to the next one until we do it right," Paul said. "That's one of the things about our team this year, there are no shortcuts."

Since arriving, Rivers has talked about creating a defense-oriented team. Much of his attention has been on DeAndre Jordan. The coach wants his 6-foot-11 center to be a defensive force, not only blocking shots, but altering others.

"No practice goes by without us working on improving our defense," Jordan said.

Rivers not only tries to control what goes on with his players, but also with his staff. Rivers won't allow his assistant coaches to be interviewed by the media, saying he wants "one voice" speaking for the organization. He often listens to his players' interviews with the media before practices, telling them to hurry up so they can get to work.

Rivers has set a serious tone.

"His presence is what makes him such a great coach," said Steve Kerr, TNT analyst. "He's got an amazing way with people. He's an incredible communicator. He's fun to be around. But he's also forceful in a good way. There's no doubt who's in charge."

Rivers, 52, won an NBA championship in 2008 coaching the Boston Celtics, who also reached the NBA Finals in 2010. But he didn't want to be a part of rebuilding project in Boston, so he bolted to the Clippers.