The moment the Celtics needed Doc most, he decided it was time to go
One day after Danny Ainge told his side of the story, Doc Rivers spoke to the media in Los Angeles, and then held a conference call with the Boston media.
Doc was his normal self at the press conference, showing off his sense of humor and his graciousness when Clippers management said he was the best coach in basketball,
"Let's stop with that 'best coach in basketball stuff', I watched the Finals, and I wasn't in it."
The room laughed. But while Doc was charming, he often times looked pained during the presser, rarely smiling and often going out of his way to talk about how great the Celtics were.
Later in the afternoon, Rivers jumped on a conference call with Boston media, and was pressed a little harder on his departure from the Green. Here are a few of Doc's more telling comments, courtesy of MassLive's Jay King.
Doc: "I never pushed this deal." Danny and Wyc beg to differ.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) June 26, 2013
Doc said he and Danny agreed that he should leave: "This is not something that I was in this by myself."
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) June 26, 2013
It should be noted that Doc also spoke highly of Boston many times, saying he "fell in love" with the city, and gushing about Celtics fans. But these comments really stuck out to me, mostly because they a different interpretation of how things went down than Ainge has offered less than 24 hours earlier. Ainge made it quite clear that this was not what he or the organization wanted, but instead a choice that was solely Doc's. Here are some quotes courtesy ESPN Boston.
"My feelings are, I planned on Doc being our coach all along," Ainge said. "We had discussions about him being Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Red Auerbach -- breaking Red Auerbach's all-time win record as a Celtic and being here for a long time. So I never really had thought about this day. And even then, it was so early after the season that I didn't really think it was going to happen until [Monday].
"When we signed Doc to the highest-paid coaching contract in the NBA a couple years ago, we talked, we knew the ages of our players," Ainge said. "We knew that we would be here at a phase -- maybe it would have been last year, maybe this year, maybe next year -- but a time to rebuild and restore. We talked about that. At that time, before it hit him, he was all on board and I felt like I did a very good sales job on Doc at that time; maybe he did a sales job on me.
"We knew that this time would come, everybody knew that. I think that coaches are judged by wins and losses ... we're always [graded] on the results and Doc's been around the block, he sort of gets that. He's also been in the rebuilding process, and maybe it hit him. It was really hard those first few years in Boston, that was a real challenge."
It's pretty clear from Ainge's comments that he expected Doc to be here, and to be here for awhile. After all, the Gregg Popovich of the Celtics wouldn't leave the moment the rebuilding stage started. But that's what Doc did. And while Rivers says that he didn't push for it, Ainge painted a different picture.
The organization wanted Doc back, with the caveat that he wanted to be here. Once Rivers made it clear that the Clippers were his first choice, the C's decided to move in that direction. When you consider Doc and Danny's friendship, and the fact that it makes no sense to pay Rivers $7 million a year to be somewhere he didn't want to be, allowing Doc to leave was the only real option for Ainge and company.
But let's be clear here — this was Doc's decision. And it doesn't make him a villain, or a bad guy, but he absolutely went back on his commitment. He signed a 5 year deal in Boston to help steward the organization through a rebuild, and then the moment the rubber hit the road, he started getting cold feet.
Last summer, Ray Allen was a free agent, and decided to sign in Miami to chase a ring. It ended up being the right call. Allen was also coming off a season where the Celtics had tried desperately to deal him for O.J. Mayo, and had reasons to doubt the organizations commitment to him. However, when Ray left, he became public enemy number one. Despite the fact that he never went back on his word, and played hard (and injured) right through the end of his contract.
Now, Rivers, an unbelievable guy by all accounts, jumps ship from a rebuilding team to a possible title contender, despite the fact that he had the full commitment of the organization, and no one seems to be batting an eye. I can't say that I understand it.
It's not that Doc deserves to be loathed..he doesn't. But at the exact moment that the organization needed him most, the moment where they began to transition into a rebuild, Doc told Danny he thought his time was up, and that he may be better off in LA.
Now, eight weeks after the season ended, the Celtics must begin a coaching search. The draft is tomorrow night and free agency begins in five days, and Boston has yet to interview a single candidate. This was not supposed to be an issue.
Doc was the guy. Until he changed his mind.
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