Doc Rivers has officially been named head coach and senior VP of basketball operations for the Clippers.
By JOAN NIESENFS West
After league rules appeared to have doomed the
Clippers' chances at landing Doc Rivers late last week, the NBA on Tuesday approved the deal that will send the former Celtics coach to
Rivers has also been named the team's senior vice president of basketball operations.
Rivers coached the Celtics from 2004-2013 and has three years and $21 million remaining on his current deal, which made him the highest-paid coach in the NBA last season. He will coach the remainder of his contract with the Clippers, who will in turn send an unprotected 2015 first-round pick to Boston in compensation.
Rivers is actually coming back to the Clippers. He played for the franchise as a player during the 1991-92 season.
The talks that eventually culminated in this exchange began more than a week before the deal was completed, as Rivers had expressed that he was less than thrilled to lead the Celtics through their impending rebuilding process. Having already interviewed several coaching candidates, including Brian Shaw, Lionel Hollins and Byron Scott, the Clippers expressed immediate interest in Rivers would the Celtics to permit him to walk, and talks escalated quickly.
At first, the deal seemed contingent on the fact that Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were a package deal, and the talks focused on a trade that would bring both Garnett and Rivers to Los Angeles. (Acquiring Pierce was always a separate matter.) By June 20, however, the league had decreed that any deal involving both Garnett and Rivers would be illegal, as players cannot be swapped for coaches.
In spite of that, talks between the two teams – focused on Rivers and Rivers alone – resumed last weekend, even after Rivers had reportedly told the Clippers he was no longer interested in the job. However, a return to Boston would have proved tricky for the coach after the terms of his potential move to Los Angeles became to public, and eventually the Clippers decided they were willing to give up a future first-round pick, a move they had reportedly resisted initially.
Leery of trading their 2014 pick – next summer’s draft is thought to be one of the deepest in recent years – the Clippers settled on a 2015 pick, and by Sunday afternoon, the two teams had loosely agreed to terms. By the time the deal was finalized on Tuesday, one further wrinkle had been added: Rivers was given a second title, senior vice president of basketball operations, which will give him a presence in the team's front office in addition to his coaching duties.
According to reports, Clippers point guard Chris Paul, who will be a free agent on July 1, strongly supported the team bringing on Rivers as its coach. In fact, Paul is reported to have been the impetus behind the talks between the teams resuscitating last week after they were presumed dead. With the finalization of the deal, the Clippers re-signing Paul appears close to a lock, bringing the team closer to its goal of becoming a contender in 2013-14.
Despite approving the deal in its current form, NBA commissioner David Stern has been adamant that a later trade sending Garnett to the Clippers would be in violation of league rules, as it would be seen as directly related to Rivers' move. The Clippers may still have a shot at acquiring Pierce, though, if Boston were to waive him before June 30, when his contract for next season becomes guaranteed.
Although the concept of trading a pick for a coach seems a strange one, it's not unprecedented. In 2007, the Magic sent the Heat their 2007 second-round pick and the option to switch picks in 2008 in order to acquire coach Stan Van Gundy.
Twelve years earlier, in 1995, Pat Riley, then under contract as the Knicks' coach, sent Miami a list of his demands were they to hire him. Miami met them, Riley resigned, and soon he was coaching the Heat. However, when the terms of what had happened became public, the Heat were (justly) accused of tampering, and they sent cash and a first-round pick to the Knicks as compensation.
In addition, the Bulls sent a second-round pick to the Hawks in 1983 to compensate for their acquisition of coach Kevin Loughery. Selected with that pick? Rivers himself.