Making Sense of Doc Rivers’ L.A. Clippers Tenure After Unexpected Exit – Bleacher Document

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 within the NBA are no doubt unpleasant, but the Los Angeles Clippers‘ resolution to fragment ways with head coach Doc Rivers on Monday afternoon modified into a uncommon exception.

Even after the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets within the Western Conference Semifinals, no person saw this coming. Most figured the coach who ushered the franchise through 2014’s Donald Sterling scandal, made the playoffs in six of his seven seasons and helped lift relevance to the most inappropriate group within the league might be as halt to untouchable as any coach no longer named Gregg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra.

The timing modified into extraordinary. Or no longer it has been nearly two weeks for the reason that Clippers lost Sport 7 to Denver, and there wasn’t a uncover about that Rivers’ exit modified into even on the desk. As ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday, Rivers has two years closing on his contract, they usually are not low mark—his $11 million annual wage is one amongst the easiest for a head coach within the NBA.

The crew’s legit announcement called it a “mutual resolution,” but, for what it be price, Rivers thanked Clippers Nation and no longer the Clippers group or crew governor Steve Ballmer within the assertion he posted to his Twitter account. Diagram your possess conclusions there.

Became once Rivers’ seven-year tenure with the Clippers a success? It is miles relying on the style you measure it.

Rivers came to the Clippers in 2013 after nine seasons with the Boston Celtics, which included two journeys to the Finals and an NBA title in 2008. With a blossoming Huge Three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan already in inform, the assumption on the time modified into that upgrading from Vinny Del Negro to Rivers stands out as the pass that transformed the Clippers into fair contenders for the first time in franchise ancient previous.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Connected Press/Connected Press

By these expectations, Rivers came up rapid. His Clippers by no methodology made the Finals, let by myself won a title. He did not even salvage them to the Western Conference Finals, despite leading 3-1 within the 2nd round in 2015 in opposition to Houston and this season in opposition to Denver.

Most of the Clippers’ early playoff exits can even be outlined away by injuries or other extenuating situations; the two indefensible ones are the two blown 3-1 leads. His finest educating job modified into the 2018-19 season, when he led a young community with out a All-Stars and no playoff expectations to the eighth seed within the Western Conference and all of sudden took the Golden Utter Warriors to six video games within the first round.

In the end, Rivers won three playoff series in seven seasons with rosters in five of these years that were anticipated to contend. There’s no technique to high-tail that as the rest as a replace of a huge disappointment.

But Rivers’ affect on the Clippers can no longer purely be measured by on-court docket outcomes. He brought steadiness and credibility to an organization that had beforehand had none.

When he modified into seeking to pass on from Boston following the breakup of the Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen-Paul Pierce Huge Three, he seemingly can even have had any job he essential. He selected the Clippers because they equipped the most upside with Paul and Griffin locked in. That the Clippers can even even salvage a coach of Rivers’ stature, and were willing to pay for one, modified their perception across the league.

One day of the 2014 playoffs, when TMZ published a leaked recording of then-governor Sterling making racist comments, it modified into Rivers that held the group together during the fallout. He modified into the one addressing newshounds on every single day foundation just a few controversy he had no fragment in growing. He modified into the one conserving his gamers united (they actually apt boycotting Sport 4 of their first-round series with the Warriors in response to the Sterling tape). He modified into the one making an strive to lift up up the morale of employees for the period of the group.

The Clippers essential a first fee, trustworthy public face as they reached one amongst the bottom aspects any pro sports franchise has ever reached. Rivers proved as much as that job, and then some. A lesser coach—a lesser chief, no doubt—might want mishandled it, or taken the opportunity to soar off the sinking ship. Rivers did not. And when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for existence and the league facilitated the sale of the Clippers to Ballmer, there modified into no talk of the new crew governor bringing in a new coach. Rivers had proved he modified into any individual you essential representing your group.

Jae C. Hong/Connected Press

When Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013, he modified into given the dual titles of head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. After he modified into promoted to president of basketball operations in 2014, that inform as the most highly efficient particular person within the group under the possession degree gave him the gravitas to lead the crew during the Sterling debacle.

The draw back: He wasn’t a actually apt GM.

As an govt, Rivers tended to tumble reduction on what he knew, signing previous-their-prime veterans he had either coached (Pierce, Glen Davis, Brandon Bass) or coached in opposition to (Matt Barnes, Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson) in Boston. When the Clippers essential new our bodies within the playoffs these years, they by no methodology had the depth to compete. Any dialogue of Rivers’ playoff shortcomings with the Clippers need to encompass the role his possess entrance-inform of job resolution-making performed in striking these groups together.

Or no longer it’s no coincidence that within the summer season of 2017, when Ballmer eliminated Rivers’ entrance-inform of job responsibilities so he can even point of curiosity entirely on educating, the Clippers’ rosters began to fetch mighty extra sense. The payoff modified into that 2018-19 flee, led by Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rivers’ responsibilities would had been unfold too skinny to coach that community to its stout seemingly if he mute had his entrance-inform of job job, and Lawrence Frank and Michael Winger were greater than able to constructing him a high quality roster.

This modified into the most up-to-date chapter in Ballmer’s long-period of time quest to remodel the Clippers proper into a destination, a fair competitor to the Lakers, and it perceived to work final summer season when Kawhi Leonard signed with them in free company, bringing Paul George with him via a blockbuster replace.

The indisputable truth that a broad title the Lakers were furthermore pursuing selected the Clippers is a testament to appropriate how far the group had attain within the years since Sterling’s ouster. And Rivers modified into a broad fragment of that.

Kelvin Kuo/Connected Press

He is furthermore been one amongst the NBA’s most prominent and trusted voices on social justice within the Orlando bubble. He is taken on a role as a skedaddle-setter on this inform, appropriate as he did in transferring the Clippers previous the Sterling days.

Or no longer it’s troubling but price noting that after his exit, along side the firings earlier this summer season of the Indiana Pacers‘ Nate McMillan and Unusual Orleans Pelicans‘ Alvin Gentry, there are only four Gloomy head coaches closing within the NBA: the Phoenix Suns‘ Monty Williams, Atlanta Hawks‘ Lloyd Pierce, Cleveland Cavaliers‘ JB Bickerstaff and Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. With extra scrutiny (rightly) on kind across the sports world, the surprising departure of the NBA’s longest-tenured and most handy Gloomy coach is never any longer apt.

With Rivers long previous, it be unclear where the Clippers will proceed to search out his successor. The logical pass would seem to be elevating his prime assistant, Tyronn Lue, a championship coach in his possess fair who’s been linked to all of the easiest-profile openings this year.

Rivers will be ravishing. He’ll salvage one other job as rapidly as he wants one (no longer as much as an hour after news broke of his breakup with the Clippers, The Undefeated‘s Marc J. Spears reported that the Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have already reached out). If he wants a smash from educating, he can even with out worry proceed reduction to his venerable job as a tv analyst, which he modified into excellent at.

No subject Rivers decides to fetch subsequent, he’ll have supporters in all corners of the basketball world. The Clippers’ disappointing playoff file for the period of his time there could be a immense fragment of his fable, but he represents so mighty extra.

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

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