Sources: Doc Rivers Surprised By Clippers' Decision To Move On
The Clippers have cut ties with coach Doc Rivers after seven seasons, and while it was officially termed a mutual decision, Rivers was "surprised to learn the Clippers wanted to move on," according to sources cited by Dan Woike of the L.A. TIMES. Rivers was a "cornerstone of the Clippers’ organizational rebirth, helping legitimize the team from its wretched past." During the restart he "reasserted himself as one of the NBA’s most passionate and trusted voices in the fights against racism and police brutality" (L.A. TIMES, 9/29).
RESULTS NOT GOOD ENOUGH: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt wrote the Clippers Western Conference semifinals loss to the Nuggets was a "significant failure for a team that had championship aspirations after signing two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency and trading for All-Star Paul George last offseason." Chemistry issues "plagued the Clippers during the regular season and playoffs" (USA TODAY, 9/29). The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor tweeted Rivers "meant a lot to the Clippers." O'Connor: "Guided them through the Donald Sterling fiasco, ran the front office for some years, and won a lot of games. He’s a good man. But [Owner] Steve Ballmer clearly thinks the Clippers need to do better to win it all. Pivotal decision coming up" (TWITTER.com, 9/28).
INFLECTION POINT: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes Rivers "embodied the Clippers’ collective conscience, and his unifying eloquence should never be forgotten." But he "leaves a team whose future might not be so rosy considering George and Leonard both have a player option in 2021 and can be gone after next season." Elliott: "The next rebuild will be long and tedious and will start around the time Ballmer will be trying to sell suites and season tickets at his new palace in Inglewood. Good luck with that." As for Rivers, as "principled and eloquent as he was throughout his tenure, the NBA is a make or miss league and he missed once too often and too badly" (L.A. TIMES, 9/29). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst writes finding a new coach is a "crucial moment in franchise history." It is the "type of move that could end up being the start of a championship story and remembered as a gutsy call" by Ballmer. Or it "eventually could be seen as compounding disappointment and putting the team on the road to catastrophe" (ESPN.com, 9/28). ESPN Radio's Mike Golic Jr. said, “If anyone would have benefited from getting through another year and bringing everyone back consistently, it would have been them" (“Chiney and Golic Jr.,” ESPN Radio, 9/29).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: In L.A., Mark Whicker writes, "Rivers’ true place in Clippers history will live on." He represented the franchise as "no one had before." He moves on, but the Clippers "can’t afford to lose what he left behind" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/29). In California, Mirjam Swanson notes with Rivers leaving, there currently are "only four Black coaches employed in the 30-team NBA" (ORANGE COUNTRY REGISTER, 9/29).