No, I’m not talking about the cute 1991 Michael J Fox film that Pixar’s, Cars blatantly ripped off. I’m talking about Doc Rivers being the new head coach and VP of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Clippers… Yes, this is the sad reality that Celtics fans have to wrap their heads around currently. Doc Rivers, is coaching the Clippers… And this was all his doing.
Ever since the Celtics got ousted by the Knicks in early May there have been a lot of questions about where the organization is going to go this off season. The looming question remains on whether or not the Celtics will option Paul Pierce’s contract which would likely keep him on the team for his entire career. Whether or not KG will be sticking around is another big question as he thought very seriously about retiring after last season. Basically, are the Celtics going to milk the last useful ounces of basketball out of these future hall of famers, or are they going to go young and start their inevitable rebuilding? These were all the major questions that surrounded the franchise going into the season and Doc Rivers knew very well when he signed the 5 year contract two seasons ago that rebuilding was coming sooner rather than later.
Today I watched a press conference of Danny Ainge talking publicly for the first time about the entire situation of Doc’s departure. Ainge gave a heartfelt statement about Doc and praised him for his time and dedication to the franchise and the city of Boston over the years. It was when the media finally got to ask their questions about the whole situation that you started to see that Ainge was clearly hurt from the whole situation. He and Doc were very close friends and it’s hard to not take it personally when someone chooses to move on to something new after a healthy relationship has bloomed. He affirmed several times that it wasn’t his decision and that his choice was always Doc.
During the conference Ainge said that he met with Doc on May 8th and they discussed his future with the franchise. Doc gave no clear cut answer to where his heart lied so after the meeting Ainge wrote him a letter saying that the Celtics fully expected him to honor his contract and wanted him to continue coaching the team. Doc asked what his options were for the future and the Celtics laid out all the possible ways he could go. They laid out the possibilities of a trade that would send Doc away to another team in need of a coach and the Clippers were a very attractive option for him. Doc would get the opportunity to coach CP3 and Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, a place he would be able to golf year round. Understandably so, it’s a pretty nice offer to go from a place with harsh winters, to a town with 345 days of sunshine when you like the swing the sticks a few times a week.
At first when the rumors had started circulating the Celtics were talking about trading off Doc, Paul Pierce and KG were attached to the deal and the Clippers were going to send Deandre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. This would’ve been a really interesting move for both teams but it was way too crazy and the NBA never would’ve signed off on it. After those rumors stopped swirling around the trade talks went dead for awhile and it became an afterthought.
Doc’s silence eventually became too deafening to bare as he just wouldn’t fully commit to coming back to the C’s. Jackie McMullan, the Espn Boston corespondent who has covered the Celtics for decades gave her side of the situation after the press conference saying that Danny Ainge probably decided that Doc was going to leave anyway if he still hadn’t committed, so why not try and get something out of it, even if it’s little?
At first the Celtics were asking for two first round picks but the Clippers wouldn’t budge on the deal. Eventually they agreed to a deal yesterday, in which the Clippers would get Doc, and the Celt’s would get the Clippers 1st round pick of the 2015 draft. While it’s not much compensation, it’s better than nothing, and Ainge let Doc go.
Ainge talked about how close they were and that when they signed him to a big contract a few years prior they had talked about trying to get him more Celtic wins than Red Auerbach. I understand that it’s tough to go back to rebuilding after being so successful for so many years but maybe that’s one of the things that made Doc so uncertain about returning. I don’t think it was ever a real rumor after the season but I saw several times on Reddit where people were pleading their case saying we should fire him after we lost to the Knicks. Maybe he was afraid that eventually the fans in Boston would completely turn on him if the franchise went back to a few years of mediocrity and the organization would shit can him anyway. Maybe he didn’t want to be victimized and scorned the way Terry Francona was when he was forced out of Boston and reporters said that he was abusing painkillers because he had an ailing relationship with his wife. Francona is a very good friend of Rivers and I have no doubt that they talked a lot about everything Tito went through in Boston.
Earlier today when it became official that he was a Clipper head coach they also announced that he would be the VP of Basketball Operations, a decidedly higher role in the team than he had in Boston. Ainge never mentioned anything about Doc wanting a higher role in the decision making processes of the Celtics but I find it interesting that he immediately was named that for the Clippers. Whether or not it means Doc has all the control over the franchise’s personnel decisions remains to be seen, but even just the title promotes a much higher power than he held during his time in Boston.
There was also talk of him wanting to get out of Boston so that he wouldn’t have to coach Rondo anymore. Sure Rondo is known to be quite the elusive spirit in the locker room and on the court, I think any coach would want a talent like him on the team. The report that was made was about an incident that occurred a few seasons ago when Rondo got upset during a team meeting and caused a scene. If Rondo was the real reason he left, he probably would’ve left a few seasons ago. Maybe Rondo factored into his decision, but it was probably more of “umm do I want to coach CP3 or Rajon Rondo?” As much as I love Rondo, that’s a pretty obvious decision to make.
A lot will remain unknown for the foreseeable future as we have not heard Doc’s side of the situation. We’ll never know the exact reasons he made the decisions he made. Whether he didn’t want to participate in the rebuilding of the franchise, didn’t want to handle the media, wanted out because of Rondo, wanted to work on his golf game, wanted a bigger say in the franchise, or just simply wanted to bring a Championship to the other team in LA, all we can do is speculate. After the Clippers introduce him as their head coach on Wednesday, he is going to host a press conference with the Boston media following, which will answer some of our questions. But, I will admit it would be pretty cool to be the first coach to bring a championship to the Clippers trophy case would be pretty cool so I can’t fault him for wanting that.
I think the saddest part of the whole deal is the taste it will leave in all of the Celtics’ fans mouths. As Boston fans we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves and when we’re hurt by players or coaches we tend to turn to anger. Maybe that’s the “Irish” mentality that surrounds the city of Boston, but we boo returning players and in many cases never forgive them. While I’m sad that Doc has left the franchise to go on to new things I think it is still important that we honor and respect the time that he spent as the head coach of the Celtics. He weathered the storm his first bunch of nightmare seasons in Boston and helped get us a championship while leading several other title runs.
Besides, maybe he is right and it’s best that he and the franchise part ways. I will say one thing about Doc, is that he’s great with using the core players of the team, but has never really been all that great at effectively using his bench talent. The only reason Jeff Green eventually became a big threat on the team was because he got more playing time due to other player injuries. Courtney Lee, and Jason Terry have been effective pieces on other franchises but could never really find their rhythm this past season. Really the past few seasons they’ve had what seems like bolstered the bench, and by the end of the season it’s a core group of 6 players that really contribute, and that’s it. Not saying I wouldn’t welcome Doc back with open arms, but maybe it’s good to move in a new direction with a fresh face and a new mind.
Obviously there will be a lot of mixed feelings when he returns to the TD Garden but I hope he is welcomed back with more cheers than boos. Luckily lob city is pretty neutral to me, so I feel more nostalgic about this whole situation, then hostile. If he went to the Heat like that cocksucker Ray Allen, I would hope that we would boo him every second he was in the city of Boston.