Rivers’ departure remains innuendo though, as the only recent news on his leaving comes indirectly.
"Doc loves coaching," according to a source quoted by Chris Broussard of ESPN. "He loves coaching in Boston. But he feels it may be time for a change."
Rivers still has three years at $7 million per year remaining on his contract with the Celtics. A return to the Celtics isn’t out of the question, but it’s obvious that one of the game's most respected coaches is contemplating his next move.
If Rivers is leaving Boston, what’s next for him?
The Los Angeles Clippers have been swirling as a potential landing spot for Rivers if he were to leave the Celtics. The coaching vacancy of the Clippers is one of the more prized job openings remaining in the NBA.
The Clippers, depending on whether or not superstar point guard Chris Paul is to return, offer a big-market position with contending potential.
According to a report by Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Rivers is interested in the Clippers:
Sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday that Rivers is highly intrigued by the idea of coaching the Clippers in the event that he and the Celtics part company after nine seasons together and one championship in 2008. Sources say that the Clippers, meanwhile, would immediately vault Rivers to the top of their list if he became available as they continue a coaching search that, to this point, has focused on Brian Shaw, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins.
It's been reported by The Los Angeles Times that the Clippers are interested in available coaches George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Brian Shaw as a replacement for Vinny Del Negro.
Still, Rivers becomes the more intriguing pick. He's an ideal candidate because of his championship success with the Celtics and his strong reputation of working well with superstars.
Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times cited several NBA executives who said that, if Rivers became available, he would "become [the Clippers'] No. 1 choice."
Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald reported that the Celtics have denied the Clippers permission to speak with Rivers.
But if Clippers owner Donald Sterling is willing to pay a premium to steal Rivers away, he could bring him to a contender and save him from the looming rebuilding efforts in Boston.
The issue, as Turner points out in his Times article, and it’s one that will exist in any potential landing spot, is the hefty compensation that Boston would seek in return for allowing Rivers to exit his contract. The price could be multiple future draft picks or more.
Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe writes:
It’s unclear whether Rivers could simply buy himself out of the deal to coach elsewhere next season. If that were the case, the buyout price also would surely be steep, and, again, the Celtics would almost certainly demand further compensation, such as players and/or draft picks, from the team he’d be leaving to coach.
The question then becomes whether or not the Clippers would be willing to pay such a high price to bring in Rivers, both in terms of salary and compensation.
All that is known at this point is that Rivers remains uncertain of his plans for next season. The Celtics’ situation is equally undecided, with monumental decisions still needing to be made by Danny Ainge in regard to the futures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Boston could transition to rebuilding mode, and Rivers may be disinterested in sticking around.
Holmes quotes a league source: “It’s a fact that Doc isn’t sure if he wants to go all-in on a team that doesn’t have much of a chance to win.”
While it appears the 51-year-old Rivers remains interested in continuing his coaching career, the other option for him is to eventually find a role in the front office.
Rivers has coached 14 years in the league between the Celtics and Orlando Magic and played 13 seasons before that.
He would bring with him obvious knowledge of the game, deep understanding of player personnel and endless contacts around the league.
Rivers, whose likeability ranks high for NBA coaches, is an outstanding communicator. He also has experience doing TV broadcasting work, as recently as his broadcasting during the Summer Olympics.
Or maybe Rivers, who has maintained his presence at Celtics’ pre-draft workouts, isn’t going anywhere.
He is 416-305 through nine seasons with Boston, and he may opt to stay loyal, even through the rebuilding process.
If he does stay, the question becomes how loyal will the Celtics be to Rivers if he suffers through losing seasons with a down roster?