CLIPPERS INTRODUCE DOC RIVERS
It was one of the most memorable 20-minute windows of time in Clippers history.
Doc Rivers, wearing a dark gray polo shirt and black pants, addressed the media for the first time Wednesday a day after joining the Clippers as the team’s new head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations.
“I hope this is the last time I’m the center of attention this year,” Rivers said after being introduced by legendary Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler. “And I say that honestly, it’s going to be about the players.”
For the moment, it was about Rivers, the former coach of the year and 2008 NBA champion, who is expected to help the Clippers immediately enter the fray for a title.
“I like the expectations,” Rivers said. “I don’t run from those at all. I want our players to have those expectations.”
The Clippers reached an agreement with the Boston Celtics to trade a 2015 unprotected first-round pick for the rights to negotiate with Rivers, following a 12-day, on again, off again, negotiation that came to a conclusion Tuesday.
Clippers President Andy Roeser and Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks headed the push to acquire Rivers and flanked the new coach Wednesday at the dais.
“I’m a little overwhelmed by the number of people here and the attention that’s been paid to this,” Roeser said. “In the end, we were determined to get what we wanted.”
HOLLINS EXCITED FOR ADDITION OF RIVERS
Clippers center Ryan Hollins played for Doc Rivers in Boston for a portion of the 2011-12 season.
He said Wednesday that his experience under Rivers during the final 15 regular-season games and 17 postseason games was life-changing.
“He changed my life. He changed my career,” said Hollins, who was at the Clippers facility working out prior to Rivers’ introductory news conference. “He can teach you to get back to the love of the game. Not that you don’t, but you get out and you work hard and you remember all of the little things that go you to where you were able to go. He can also teach you what you need to be successful, that culture, chemistry and that awareness.”
In a sense, Rivers is both a player’s coach and a no-nonsense winner. Hollins said he realized right away in Boston that it was possible to have fun and take the game serious at the same time.
“It’s about putting guys in the best position to be successful, building an attitude, a winning attitude, a championship attitude,” Hollins said. “It’s something that he knows and he’s been a part of and he can relate from to coaching to being a player. Just him managing personalities and getting the most out of guys is one of his hugest assets.”
He also suggested that Rivers would be a tremendous benefit for younger players, including Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe. Likewise, Rivers was most intrigued by the possibilities those players brought to the table.
“We have the youth for sure,” Rivers said. “If we keep it all together, there’s a lot of youth. They’re talented. You can win for a long time. Winning can never be taken for granted.”
Perhaps, that message sunk in the most for Hollins during his stint in Boston.
“There’s a sense of respect that you bring in,” Hollins said. “As a player you know your role, you know what’s needed, but you know not just what’s needed, but how to be a championship team. I mean, Doc isn’t aiming to be undefeated in the preseason. He isn’t aiming to set the record for wins in the season. He’s looking for a championship.”
In doing so, the Clippers acquired someone Sacks referred to as the “best coach in the league.” Since 2007-08, Rivers owns the third best winning percentage in the NBA (.661). The journey to Los Angeles for Rivers, though, at times looked impossible.
“It was interesting,” Rivers said. “It was just kind of a negotiation between [Celtics President of Basketball Operations] Danny [Ainge] and [Clippers President] Andy [Roeser] and if it all worked out then I would consider it. The closer we got to this thing that it could actually happen was the more I got interested in it.”
And what interested Rivers more than anything was the talent the Clippers have accumulated over the last three seasons. He mentioned Blake Griffin as one the key building blocks, suggesting the culture and talent change in Los Angeles ultimately started with Griffin’s arrival via the 2009 NBA Draft. The trade for Chris Paul two years later vaulted the Clippers into a position among the Western Conference elite and the Clippers now believe Rivers is the person to guide the franchise to new heights.
“I think it’s a combination of things: communication, his championship pedigree,” Sacks said when asked about why the Clippers were intent on bringing Rivers on. “He’s one of the few coaches who is active in the NBA who has won a championship and been deep in the playoffs, to the Finals. His basketball knowledge, his ability to get the most out of the players, there’s really so many things you can go on and on and on.”
Sacks and Rivers, who will serve a dual role as Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, will work in tandem along with other front-office staff to make player personnel decisions. Rivers said in an ideal world they would operate in a relationship similar to Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford with the five-time Western Conference champion Spurs. Both Sacks and Rivers talked about teamwork, not just on the court, but in the front office.
“I’ve always been open to working with a coach on everything and incorporating our entire front office,” Sacks said. “It’s just a matter of finding a way to complement each other with our strengths.”
Rivers arrived at the Clippers’ Playa Vista training center about two hours before being officially introduced. He toured the facility with Roeser, met numerous staff members and made his way to his office for the first time, where a framed No. 25 Clippers jersey was waiting for him.
He exuded the same affable charisma and defining posture that made him one of the most well-liked coaches in the league during his 14 years in Orlando and Boston. And he seemed ready to get down to business.
The timing of Rivers’ arrival coincides with arguably the busiest week of the offseason. The NBA Draft is Thursday where the Clippers, in a bit of symmetry, own the 25th pick. And free agency opens at 9:01 p.m. PDT Sunday.
“The reason I wanted [the job] when it was made available is because of what they have, not what they don’t have. I clearly think this is an extremely talented basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re young. For me, it just gave me a lot of life, working with some of the young talented guys and trying to figure out if we can figure out a way of becoming a winning team.
“I am a big believer in culture and when I went to Boston, even though we had an amazing amount of history, I thought we had to do different things there,” he added. “I do believe in a winning culture. You have to have that first before you can win. And that’s the tone I’m going to try and set starting today.”