There has been a surprising amount discussion about Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers’ status for next season considering there are three years remaining on his contract. The latest news is that President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has denied a request by the Brooklyn Nets for permission to talk to Rivers about become their next head coach. This comes in the wake in speculation, since the postgame press conference following the Celtics Game 7 loss to the Knicks that ended their season, about whether Doc would return next season.
Rivers has served as head coach of the Celtics for the past nine seasons compiling a 416-305 record and signed a lucrative five-year extension in 2011. In past offseasons, emotional playoff exits, his relationship with veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul (whose future with the team was itself in doubt), and his family situation combined to cloud his status. However, once he signed this most recent extension, the assumption has been that he would be part of the team’s post-Big-Three future.
The Nets are searching for a replacement to recently dismissed interim coach P.J. Carlesimo. Carlesimo replaced Avery Johnson in December and led Brooklyn to a 35-19 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference before losing to the Chicago Bulls in 7 games in the first round of the playoffs. It is expected that Nets owner, Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, will seek a high-profile coach to lead the team next season.
Rivers has been previously linked with the Nets opening in one of several reports by NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith that suggested that he would not return to coach the Celtics next season. Other reports indicated that a rift had developed between Rivers and Ainge over the past season, and that the Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers were discussing a trade that would include Rivers as part of the deal. Since most of the chatter suggesting Doc would not be back in Boston next season has originated with Smith, who happens to have a close relationship with Nets GM Billy King dating back to their days in Philadelphia, it is reasonable to consider these reports as an attempt to muddy the waters of Doc’s status.
Several sources including ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan as well as Ainge and Celtics owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck indicate that Rivers is expected back at the helm in Boston next season. Considering all the evidence, it seems that Stephen A. Smith’s insistent reports to the contrary are, at best irresponsible, and at worst, part of a calculated agenda to help land his friend a new, much sought after, coach.