What's Up Doc?
Dreaming is the keyword in our five-day series on who the fans would want to see as the next Thunder head coach. The whole reason this series is getting written is because of my time in sports talk radio when ex-football players would scream out names they wanted to see Sam Presti hire.
Most of their suggestions were based on who was getting mentioned for other jobs and what they thought Presti should be looking for in a coach. As we have learned, what the media and Presti value are two different things.
Still, it's fun to throw out names and fantasize about what Oklahoma City would look like with a guy who seems to be top of mind on shows like First Take. So let's talk about Doc Rivers.
Why He Would Work: First of all, Rivers has two appearances in the NBA Finals and one championship to his name, which always resonates with players. He's also plugged in socially; his impassioned remarks after the death of Jacob Blake speak to someone who understands there is something more important than basketball. And in case you haven't noticed, that's the mindset many players have at the moment.
Rivers and Chris Paul worked together during Paul's time in Los Angeles, and while it looks like the Thunder will trade Paul sometime in the next few months, bringing in Rivers could make Presti and Paul think twice about his departure.
Thunder fans hate the "small market" label. A hiring of this magnitude would signal that Oklahoma City isn't a starter job; it's a destination for coaches and hopefully free agents.
Why It Could Happen: The Clippers were a trendy pick to make the Finals after trading for Paul George this off-season. Bowing out to the Nuggets in the second-round has some in L.A. questioning if Rivers' message is still getting through to his team.
Shams Charania says: Head coach Doc Rivers had several strategic decisions that left players scratching their heads, such as deciding not to ride a bigger lineup against Nikola Jokic, choosing rotations that did not prioritize more minutes for JaMychal Green, and various defensive adjustments. The team also never came together in terms of chemistry or camaraderie inside the bubble. These are all things Rivers and the Clippers will sift through for the entire off-season and into an unknown start date to next season.
If Steve Ballmer's or more importantly, his players' faith is shaken in Rivers, it wouldn't be shocking for the owner to suggest a change of scenery for the 14-year coaching veteran.
Why It's Not Going To Happen: Even if Ballmer thought Rivers had lost the locker room, he signed a long term deal just last year. Billionaires don't throw away money, and unless Rivers had a guaranteed job that would eliminate his buyout, Ballmer isn't going to suffer from a temporary moment of insanity that would put him on the open market and cost the owner a lot of cash.
Rivers and General Manager Michale Winger have an excellent working relationship. There is no doubt a coach of Rivers pedigree will have his opinion considered in personnel decisions. Plus, even in the craziest of fantasy worlds, you don't leave Kawahi Leonard and Paul Geroge for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lu Dort, and Darius Bazley.
They are all excellent players, but they're not ready for prime time. Of course, the Clippers may not be prepared to make that jump either, but you'd rather have Doc at your side vs. trying to break in even the most seasoned of coaches to get you to that next level.
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With more than 20 years of experience hosting local and national radio shows, Erik Gee is a fixture of Oklahoma sports media. He has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for the past eight seasons. He is also the co-host of the Pat Jones show on 97.1 The Sports Animal in Tulsa.