Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Doc Rivers is out as Clippers' coach after seven seasons

Coach Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers have parted ways two weeks after the team's loss to the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs.

Rivers made the announcement via twitter that he would not be back as coach. The Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Clippers said Rivers and chairman Steve Ballmer came to the decision to mutually go their separate ways.
"Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times," Ballmer said in a statement. "He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise."

In seven seasons with the Clippers, Rivers made the playoffs in six of them, turning the franchise that was laughed at around the league into a successful one. With the summer of 2019 and additions of two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and All-Star Paul George, there were heavy expectations to finally compete for a championship.

But after losing to the Nuggets and missing a chance to face the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals after coughing up a 3-1 lead, that most likely played a huge role in the decision for Rivers not to continue as coach of the Clippers.

"When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination, and bring a championship to this organization," Rivers wrote in his statement. "While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won't be able to see them all through."

Though Rivers went 356-208 over his seven seasons with the Clippers -- making it to the second round three times, the franchise never made it over that hump of reaching a conference finals, which they have never achieved in their history. In River's third and arguably his best attempt ended in horrible fashion, as he assumed responsibility for how the season ended after high hopes nearly a year ago.

This was the third time in his coaching career that Rivers lost a playoff series after going up 3-1, it occurred in 2003 with the Orlando Magic after the eighth seed took a commanding lead over the top-seeded Detroit Pistons in round one, and with the Clippers in 2015 against the Houston Rockets in the second round.

Rivers thanked the fans for their support as the Clippers finished 49-23 in the regular season, the fourth-best record in franchise history and now has coached five of the team's six best regular seasons overall.

"Though it was a disappointing end to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support," Rivers said. "Thank you to all the players, coaches, and staff for helping us get here. Most importantly, thank you to the fans. We went through a lot, and I am grateful for my time here."

The Clippers' head coaching job becomes the sixth current vacancy in the NBA, along with Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and New Orleans after Brooklyn, Chicago and New York have filled their coaching spot over the past few weeks.

Rivers was also one of seven Black head coaches in the league this season and with his departure, he becomes the third to step down or be fired joining Nate McMillan in Indiana and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans. That leaves Lloyd Pierce in Atlanta, J.B. Bickerstaff in Cleveland, Monty Williams in Phoenix and Dwane Casey in Detroit as the only Black head coaches that currently still have a job.

As for who will replace Rivers, two of his assistants in Tyronn Lue and Sam Cassell have already been rumored to be the Clippers' top candidates. Lue has won a championship in Cleveland and Cassell has been endorsed by Rivers for a while now as being ready to become a head coach.  

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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