What to make of the Doc Rivers situation

Where Doc Rivers will coach next season, if he will at all, is still to be determined.

The latest reports have Rivers leaving Boston to either coach the L.A. Clippers or hanging up the clipboard for a bit to return to broadcasting. There's always the possibility that Rivers could come back to coach the Celtics, but as CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely points out, that option is getting more problematic as the days go by and the rumors continue to flow that Rivers wants to coach somewhere else.

“If Rivers does return as the C's head coach, the need for damage control will certainly be a work in progress.

But the biggest concern has to be with the locker room, especially if most of the players from last season are back.

Rivers is well known for his ability to motivate players, getting them to believe in putting the team ahead of their own individual goals and agendas.

But his tryst with the Clippers seems to contradict that feel-good, ubuntu mantra.”

Rivers' best asset is his relationships with his players. He's not an offensive wiz or a defensive genius, but Rivers is one of the only coaches in the league that can attract players simply because they want to play for him. He's the definition of “player's coach.”

All that good will Rivers has built up with not only his players, but players around the league could be thrown out after this whole situation.As Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix says on the Dan Patrick show about the issues of returning to Boston:

“I'm not sure how he walks back into that Celtics locker room and looks at some of these young players in the eye and basically says "I didn't want to coach you".

You know he wants to coach the veterans that are still there, he wants to make one more run, but the guys that are going to be part of this team long term — the Rajon Rondo's, the Avery Bradley's, the Jeff Green's, the Jared Sullingers — I'm not sure how he goes back to them and says "I'm still ok with coaching you, you still have to have the same level of respect for me."
You have to wonder what Rajon Rondo thinks of all this. Rivers has coached Rondo for his entire seven-year career in the NBA and seen him blossom into one of the best point guards in the league. Now Rivers is essentially saying, “You aren't good enough to keep me around. I'd rather coach Chris Paul.”

If Rivers does end up on the Clippers bench, of course they'll be excited about it out west. But there will have to be a part of them that will question if he means what he says. Does he really mean it when he says he's committed to the team? How do we know the second this team starts slipping he doesn't bolt again? Is he really committed to the players or just a front runner?

Those questions would have never entered anyone's mind as recently as a couple years ago. Sure, Rivers talked about in past wanting to take a break from coaching to be with his family or just to get away from the daily grind of coaching a professional basketball team. But to show interest in another team while still under contract in Boston? No chance. That change in attitude has to have some impact on Rivers' reputation.

It's hard to be a “player's coach” when you only want to coach great players on contenders and look to abandon your own players you've been with for years because there's a bunch of work ahead.

It raises the question: is Rivers really the nice guy who lives for his players that we've been led to believe or has it all been an act with Rivers telling us what we want to hear and it's just worked out over the years because he's had lots of talent on his rosters to turn out a quality product?

It's clear that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett love Doc and he loves them, which is why he is trying to grab at least one of them to join him in L.A. But could that also be some con game by Rivers to raise his chances at another title?

The Clippers with either Garnett or Pierce or both are a a favorite to make it to the Finals next year. Without them, the Clippers would be lucky to get to the Western Conference Finals.

Looking back at Rivers' career with Boston, he was there for the good times and the bad. He won a championship in 2008 and sat through a 24-58 season in 2006-07. Now that Rivers has had a string of contending seasons, it looks like he doesn't want to go back to the cellar of the league and be a part of a rebuild.

There are some who say Rivers has earned that right and should be allowed to do what he wants. While that could be true, it's hard to square with the things Rivers himself has said. This from two years ago when Rivers signed his five-year contract to continue coaching Boston knowing a rebuild was imminent:

“Well, I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to that, but I’m willing to do that.I had a group that has been very loyal to me. I think it would have been very easy for me to just run and go somewhere else and chase something else.

Coaches talk about loyalty and team all the time. I just thought it was time to show it. And that’s what I did.

Even at his post game press conference after the Celtics were ousted by the Knicks this year Rivers said if he had to decide right then and there then he would be coming back to Boston.

Some have called Rivers selfish for wanting out of Boston for a chance at another ring. Whether that characterization is fair or not, he's willingness to leave is just not Doc. Rivers preached for years about team chemistry and the Celtics being a family. You simply can't say all the things Rivers has said about loyalty, chemistry and commitment and then start looking around for a new team to coach when times get rough.

It's just plain dishonest.

Call these characterizations or speculations about Rivers motives too harsh or not fair, but Rivers himself could easily clear all these things up. All he has to do is be the Doc that we've all known for the past few years. The open, honest guy who tells you straight up what's going on. Until then, the questions will continue.

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