Doc Rivers is switching coasts.
After days of speculation, the much talked about transaction between the Pacific Division Champion Clippers and Boston Celtics to bring the 2008 NBA champion head coach to Los Angeles finally reached a conclusion Tuesday morning. Less than 48 hours after the deal was reportedly dead, the teams came to terms on one of the most significant transactions in team history.
The Clippers will send an unprotected 2015 first-round Draft pick to the Celtics for the rights to sign Rivers, who will take over as head coach and Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations.
The fallout immediately alters the landscape of the NBA. It is a landmark for a Clippers franchise that has been thrust into the spotlight since former No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin’s debut in 2010-11 and the arrival of superstar Chris Paul a year later. And it signals shift in direction for a Celtics team that made two NBA Finals appearances in the nine years Rivers manned the sidelines.
The Clippers’ agreement with Rivers ends a month-long search for a replacement for Vinny Del Negro, who was told on May 21 that he would not return as head coach after the team was eliminated by the Memphis Grizzlies in the opening round of the playoffs.
Enter Rivers, the 1999-00 NBA Coach of the Year with the Orlando Magic. He joined the Celtics in 2004 and has amassed the league’s second best winning percentage (.661) in the past six seasons, including twice making the Finals and becoming one of only four current coaches with at least one title. During that time, he’s quickly become recognized as one of the two or three best coaches in the league.
“He’s just a good man,” former Clippers forward Grant Hill told NESN when the team visited Boston in February. “He’s come up here and had some success, and you’re happy for him to be able to establish himself as one of the better coaches in the league.”
“He’s been a player. He knows what it’s like to lace ‘em up. He’s a great communicator. He holds you accountable. He’s honest. Like I said, communication is really one of his strong points.”
The team waited 18 days before deciding to part ways with Del Negro and seemingly uncovered every stone in its search for a replacement. Patience paid off. After conducting formal interviews with multiple high-quality candidates, including Brian Shaw, Lionel Hollins and Byron Scott, they ultimately decided to bring on Rivers, who in addition to his coaching accolades played a season with the Clippers in 1991-92.
No coach in team history has been also once been a Clippers’ player. Bob Weiss, who manned the sidelines for the team in the 1993-94 season, had a short stint with the Buffalo Braves shortly before they relocated to San Diego and became the Clippers. But that hardly counts.
Rivers was an integral part of the rotation for a team that was arguably one of the most talented since the Clippers moved to Los Angeles. His son, Austin, who just completed his rookie season in New Orleans, was born in Santa Monica during that offseason.
The shift from Boston to Los Angeles provides Rivers an opportunity to win a second championship and bring the first to a Clippers franchise that has gone 96-52 in the last two regular seasons following years of futility. While it seemed unlikely at times during the lengthy negotiating process that a deal would come to fruition, including multiple reports saying trade talks had collapsed, the Clippers and Celtics persisted.
And now Rivers is in Los Angeles.
AMONG THE BEST: How Doc Rivers compares to other top coaches around the league. (Sorted by winning percentage since 2007-08)