As the old, familiar bar-room saying goes, “You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.” Doc Rivers may deserve this phrase more than any other Boston Celtics commodity, especially considering his tentativeness to come back for another year.
At this point, most of Celtics Nation is probably saying “good riddance,” and for good reason. The times got tough, and the formerly honorable head coach decided it might be too tough for him to endure.
Of course, that completely nullifies his contract, which has him on board with the C's for three more seasons for a grand total of another $21 million. Doc apparently feels that he deserves better, despite the fact that he currently rests as the highest-paid coach in the National Basketball Association.
Fine, Doc. Go on your merry way. You sat through a rough rebuilding stage with the Celtics after a failed Orlando Magic career that sparked most sports pundits to declare your coaching career over. You sat by Paul Pierce while he tried his hardest to make something out of nothing. Then, you won the championship when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with you and Rajon Rondo emerged as an elite point guard.
You've done a lot. And at this point, you probably think that you deserve better than your current situation entails.
Never mind the fact that times get tough for a lot of coaches, regardless of salary cap issues or player injuries. You're above that. Gregg Popovich, arguably the best coach in the league (who coincidentally makes $1 million a year less), has never had to sort through such issues, right? You're in a boat all by yourself, and everyone feels sorry for you.
When the Boston Globe first reported that you were struggling to decide whether to stay or go, fans got a little uneasy. How could he leave us? Why would he go after the Celtics nearly made another championship bid in 2012, and defied the odds to make the playoffs in 2013?
Then, a league source told CSNNE that you could return to color commentating. Well, that's special. You'd rather talk about basketball than coach it, completely deserting the team to which you committed yourself.
You've now placed the Celtics in a pretty serious conundrum. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge can grant a trade-worthy team the rights to your coaching duties, or pretty much get screwed over completely. Because, let's face it: you will not be coaching the Boston Celtics in 2013-14.
How would that work, anyway? Will a team leader like Rajon Rondo, with all of his vast intelligence, really listen to a coach who never wanted to return in the first place? Will Celtics Nation, arguably the most ardent fanbase in basketball, willingly accept someone who hesitated to finish the most lucrative contract among head coaches?
No. The time has come to either get “traded,” hopefully in the Los Angeles Clippers deal—in which the Celts would net DeAndre Jordan and a couple draft picks for Kevin Garnett—or hit the high road. Regardless of the potential trade dividends, you have no place in Boston any longer.
Everyone in the city thought you were gone for good, until trade talks reportedly subsided earlier this week. Then, one day later, Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo Sports claimed that talks started back up, with the still-stagnated concept of the Clippers giving up the second of two first-round picks.
The Clips have meanwhile pushed forward with their pursuit of a head coach, looking otherwise for former coaches like Byron Scott (New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers) and Lionel Hollins (Memphis Grizzlies), as well as continually underrated assistant Brian Shaw of the Indiana Pacers.
Nobody expected Garnett to enjoy the concept of being traded away from Boston, the city in which he has already made clear he wants to retire. Similarly, 15-year veteran and captain Paul Pierce never uttered a word about wanting to leave (although rumors now run rampant, including this report from Sam Amick at USA TODAY, regarding the potential of the “Truth” departing with Rivers, should KG and the coach move to L.A.).
In some bizarre twist, all reports lead to the fact that it's the all-too-special Doc Rivers that remains unclear with his current situation. And not only that, it seems you also feel no ill will when it comes to shaking up the entire franchise that helped build your "esteemed” coaching career.
And your inability to commit comes at an even steeper price to the Celtics: your assistant coaches all have expiring contracts. The franchise could be without an entire coaching staff as early as July 1. Assistant coach Mike Longabardi recently met with the Phoenix Suns, and the Toronto Raptors want Tyronn Lue, according to the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes and Gary Washburn respectively. Maybe you tipped them off that you're “peacing out.” Or, maybe they just want to jump ship before you have to face the idea of keeping it afloat.
Can confirm that Celtics assistant coach Mike Longabardi has interviewed with Phoenix. Currently mulling options.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 18, 2013
It's OK, though. As fellow coach and (loyal) New England Patriot Bill Belichick often says, “It is what it is.”
Celtics Nation just hopes they get something in return before the door hits you on the backside.