Making Sense of Doc Rivers’ L.A. Clippers Tenure After Sudden Exit

Making Sense of Doc Rivers’ L.A. Clippers Tenure After Sudden Exit
Matt Slocum/Associated PressFew things in the NBA are truly shocking, but the Los Angeles Clippers’ decision to part ways with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon was a rare exception.Even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, nobody saw this coming. Most figured the coach…
Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers coaches during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Matt Slocum/Connected Press

Few issues in the NBA are in actual fact enthralling, but the Los Angeles Clippers‘ resolution to share methods with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon become as soon as a rare exception.

Even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals, no person saw this coming. Most figured the coach who ushered the franchise thru 2014’s Donald Sterling scandal, made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons and helped bring relevance to the most beside the level organization in the league would be as near untouchable as any coach now not named Gregg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra.

The timing become as soon as unfamiliar. Or now not it is been nearly two weeks since the Clippers misplaced Game 7 to Denver, and there wasn’t a fetch out about that Rivers’ exit become as soon as even on the table. As ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday, Rivers has two years remaining on his contract, and they usually are now not low-price—his $11 million annual wage is among the supreme for a head coach in the NBA.

The team’s reliable announcement known because it a “mutual resolution,” but, for what it be worth, Rivers thanked Clippers Nation and now not the Clippers organization or team governor Steve Ballmer in the assertion he posted to his Twitter account. Scheme your comprise conclusions there.

Was Rivers’ seven-365 days tenure with the Clippers a hit? It depends upon on how you measure it.

Rivers came to the Clippers in 2013 after nine seasons with the Boston Celtics, which integrated two trips to the Finals and an NBA title in 2008. With a blossoming Worthy Three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan already in location, the conclusion on the time become as soon as that upgrading from Vinny Del Negro to Rivers often is the high-tail that transformed the Clippers into factual contenders for the main time in franchise history.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Connected Press/Connected Press

By these expectations, Rivers came up instant. His Clippers never made the Finals, let alone received a title. He did now not even web them to the Western Conference Finals, despite main 3-1 in the 2nd round in 2015 against Houston and this season against Denver.

Most of the Clippers’ early playoff exits may maybe per chance maybe even also be explained away by injuries or numerous extenuating circumstances; the 2 indefensible ones are the 2 blown 3-1 leads. His simplest teaching job become as soon as the 2018-19 season, when he led a younger crew and not utilizing a All-Stars and no playoff expectations to the eighth seed in the Western Conference and all of sudden took the Golden Inform Warriors to six games in the main round.

Ultimately, Rivers received three playoff series in seven seasons with rosters in 5 of these years that had been expected to contend. There is no map to scuttle that as anything numerous than a large disappointment.

Nevertheless Rivers’ affect on the Clippers can not purely be measured by on-court results. He brought stability and credibility to an organization that had beforehand had none.

When he become as soon as searching for to high-tail on from Boston following the breakup of the Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen-Paul Pierce Worthy Three, he most likely may maybe per chance maybe even bag had any job he wished. He chose the Clippers as a result of they equipped the most upside with Paul and Griffin locked in. That the Clippers may maybe per chance maybe even even web a coach of Rivers’ stature, and had been involving to pay for one, modified their thought throughout the league.

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For the length of the 2014 playoffs, when TMZ printed a leaked recording of then-governor Sterling making racist comments, it become as soon as Rivers that held the organization collectively thru the fallout. He become as soon as the one addressing newshounds on each day foundation about an argument he had no share in developing. He become as soon as the one keeping his gamers united (they conception about boycotting Game 4 of their first-round series with the Warriors essentially essentially based on the Sterling tape). He become as soon as the one attempting to maintain the morale of workers at some level of the organization.

The Clippers significant a official, honest public face as they reached some of the lowest capabilities any pro sports franchise has ever reached. Rivers proved up to that job, after which some. A lesser coach—a lesser leader, in actuality—may maybe per chance maybe even want mishandled it, or taken the replace to jump off the sinking ship. Rivers did now not. And when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and the league facilitated the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer, there become as soon as no talk of the fresh team governor bringing in a brand fresh coach. Rivers had proved he become as soon as any individual you wished representing your organization.

Jae C. Hong/Connected Press

When Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013, he become as soon as given the twin titles of head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. After he become as soon as promoted to president of basketball operations in 2014, that repute as the most highly effective person in the organization below the ownership stage gave him the gravitas to lead the team thru the Sterling debacle.

The blueprint back: He wasn’t a extraordinarily factual GM.

As an govt, Rivers tended to fall attend on what he knew, signing past-their-high veterans he had both coached (Pierce, Glen Davis, Brandon Bass) or coached against (Matt Barnes, Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson) in Boston. When the Clippers significant fresh bodies in the playoffs these years, they never had the depth to compete. Any discussion of Rivers’ playoff shortcomings with the Clippers need to encompass the position his comprise entrance-office resolution-making played in striking these groups collectively.

Or now not it is no coincidence that in the summertime of 2017, when Ballmer eliminated Rivers’ entrance-office duties so he may maybe per chance maybe even focal level entirely on teaching, the Clippers’ rosters began to carry out procedure more sense. The payoff become as soon as that 2018-19 bustle, led by Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and rookie level guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rivers’ duties would had been spread too skinny to educate that crew to its elephantine capacity if he quiet had his entrance-office job, and Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger had been more than able to building him a quality roster.

This become as soon as the most fresh chapter in Ballmer’s prolonged-period of time quest to change into the Clippers true into a trot blueprint, a factual competitor to the Lakers, and it perceived to work last summer season when Kawhi Leonard signed with them in free company, bringing Paul George with him by a blockbuster alternate.

The truth that a megastar the Lakers had been also pursuing chose the Clippers is a testomony to appropriate how a ways the organization had are accessible the years since Sterling’s ouster. And Rivers become as soon as a large share of that.

Kelvin Kuo/Connected Press

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He will be been some of the NBA’s most excellent and trusted voices on social justice in the Orlando bubble. He is taken on a position as a go-setter in this condominium, appropriate as he did in shifting the Clippers past the Sterling days.

Or now not it is troubling but worth noting that after his exit, alongside with the firings earlier this summer season of the Indiana Pacers‘ Nate McMillan and Novel Orleans Pelicans‘ Alvin Gentry, there are entirely four Shadowy head coaches remaining in the NBA: the Phoenix Suns‘ Monty Williams, Atlanta Hawks‘ Lloyd Pierce, Cleveland Cavaliers‘ JB Bickerstaff and Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. With more scrutiny (rightly) on diversity throughout the sports world, the surprising departure of the NBA’s longest-tenured and Most noteworthy Shadowy coach is now not factual.

With Rivers long past, it be unclear the effect the Clippers will high-tail to fetch his successor. The logical high-tail would appear to be elevating his high assistant, Tyronn Lue, a championship coach in his comprise appropriate who’s been linked to the total supreme-profile openings this 365 days.

Rivers will be most attention-grabbing. He’ll web one other job as soon as he desires one (much less than an hour after data broke of his breakup with the Clippers, The Undefeated‘s Marc J. Spears reported that the Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers bag already reached out). If he desires a spoil from teaching, he may maybe per chance maybe even with out grief high-tail attend to his worn job as a television analyst, which he become as soon as good at.

Whatever Rivers decides to blueprint subsequent, he’ll bag supporters in all corners of the basketball world. The Clippers’ disappointing playoff describe for the length of his time there may maybe be a huge share of his story, but he represents so procedure more.

     

Sean Highkin covers the NBA for Bleacher Yarn. He is a graduate of the University of Oregon and lives in Portland. His work has been honored by the Pro Basketball Writers’ Association. Apply him on Twitter, Instagram and in the B/R App.

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