Doc Rivers has coached the Celtics
since 2004. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
Doc Rivers has been the Celtics' coach for nearly a decade. It's strange to think of Boston without him at the helm, and yet a report from Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine indicates that Rivers may be considering leaving the team. A snippet from Broussard's report:
"Doc loves coaching," the source told ESPN. "He loves coaching in Boston. But he feels it may be time for a change."
That pull-quote is pretty vague, but Rivers' decision could presumably be tied to the Celtics' more general downward trajectory. Kevin Garnett, though coming off another productive season, is nearing retirement. Parting ways with Paul Pierce may now be in the team's best interest. Rajon Rondo is still recovering from an ACL tear that forced him to miss more than three months of the 2012-13 season. Beyond those three players, Rivers has precious few role players on whom he can reasonably depend.
The fall could prove to be hard and sudden if general manager Danny Ainge starts making moves to prepare for the future, and Rivers could ultimately be left to coach a poorly equipped team through another trying rebuild. It's perfectly understandable that he might want to avoid that possibility, and Rivers' relationship with Ainge and the Celtics is reportedly strong enough for both parties to consider a clean break -- potentially adding Rivers' name to the coaching carousel:
If Rivers became available, he would immediately become the most coveted coach on the market. The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers asked for permission to speak with Rivers about their coaching jobs last month, but Ainge refused to grant it.
There is a feeling throughout the league, however, that because of the closeness of their relationship, Ainge would allow Rivers to leave and go elsewhere if the coach requested it.
Rivers, who took over the Celtics in 2004, could be a great fit for many of the coaching vacancies, but finding him a new home is skipping ahead. His calming influence and clever strategic work played a prominent role in this era of Celtics basketball, and his leaving would add another layer of uncertainty to a franchise faced with inevitable reconstruction. Garnett and Pierce won't soon get any younger, and if it weren't challenging enough to build a new foundation and locker-room dynamic without their prominent influence, the absence of Rivers would only add to that difficulty.
Still, it's entirely plausible that Rivers would consider leaving and that Ainge would entertain the thought of letting him out of his current deal, if only because of the juxtaposition of a successful working relationship and a shifting tide.