The Boston Celtics’ season came to a crushing end nearly three weeks ago when the Celtics fell in Game 6 to the New York Knicks at TD Garden. Doc Rivers made comments after the game that left open the possibility that he might not be back on the Celtics’ sideline next year.
Rivers said, “You know, it’s not anything, I’m not leaning that way of not coming back. If I told you right now, I’m coming back. But like I just said, I immerse myself and I need to detox and we’ll find that out.”
Rivers clearly makes the point that he will be back next year, but he also claims the potential of sitting back and realizing that life may not be so great as the Celtics head coach next year. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been very loyal to Rivers and they could be leaving Boston this summer. Pierce has a team option that is guaranteed for $15 million if the Celtics’ front office decides to activate the deal by June 30th. If the Celtics choose not to exercise the option, they will buy out Pierce for $5 million. Garnett made the point that his future in a Celtics uniform is tied to Pierce after the Celtics’ loss in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals even though Garnett is signed for two more years.
The other option is that all three are back next year. Rivers used those comments as a way to deflect attention away from Pierce and Garnett. He could have just been loyal to his aging veterans. Rivers and Garnett have enjoyed such a great relationship since Garnett was acquired by the Celtics on July 31st, 2007. When Rivers took Garnett out with a minute left in Game 6, Garnett asked Rivers how he was doing.
“Doc is coaching next year,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Herald at the NBA Draft Combine last week. “As far as everything I know, he’s going to be our coach.”
If you read into those comments, you can speculate that Ainge might not be sure if Rivers will be back with the Celtics because he uses the phrase “as far as everything I know.” Ainge is allowing Rivers time to relax while Ainge continues to rebuild the Celtics into a championship contender. The Celtics still need more pieces, but they are over the salary cap.
Rivers is signed for three more years after he signed a five-year extension in May 2011. Like his players, Rivers is a loyal man. He agreed to that extension with the understanding that he would not be coaching Pierce or Garnett for much longer. He also does not want to be known as another Larry Brown (a mercenary who does not stay with a franchise for long) unless his family wanted him to be closer to their home in Florida.
In the words of Ainge, Rivers will be back next year because he ultimately loves coaching and he loves Boston.