Clifford Ray (behind Dallas Mavericks head coach John MacLeod) has always been under the radar in the circles of NBA coaches.
While this news will not garner much attention, it is worth noting a month ago, the Boston Celtics announced Clifford Ray will not be returning to the Celtics' bench in the 2010-11 season. Subsequently, Boston hired Roy Rogers, a former New Jersey Nets coach and scout, to replace Ray.
Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe wrote in the Tuesday, September 14, edition that Ray has mentored numerous young talented players since 1987. This was when Ray received his first coaching offer from the Dallas Mavericks, but he had to also perform a janitor's workload.
Ray proved his worth by coaching big men such as Sam Perkins, James Donaldson, and Roy Tarpley in Dallas. Other organizations eyed him as an asset in teaching power forwards and centers. He coached in New Jersey, Golden State, and Cleveland. In Orlando, Ray became an assistant coach for a man named Doc Rivers, who had just landed his first gig as a head coach.
Before Rivers' second year with the Celtics in 2006, Ray was brought aboard.
All of this background leads to the story of how the Celtics conquered the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals to capture their 17th championship.
Ray was responsible for turning the Celtics 2004 first round draft pick, Al Jefferson, into one of the better offensive forwards in the league. Jefferson became a star and he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, and two first round picks for Kevin Garnett. In addition, Ray tutored the Celtics center, Kendrick Perkins. Perkins has become one of the best low-post defenders in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Other players Ray has coached in his long tenure is Magic superstar Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer (Cleveland), Chris Webber, and P.J. Brown (both in New Jersey).
Ray was considered a father-figure by these players, especially Brown. One of the biggest reasons why Brown signed with Boston during the 2007-08 season was because of Ray.
In fact, Benbow mentions Ray called Brown after Brown chose to leave the sport during the 2006-07 season when he played 10 games for the Chicago Bulls.Then Brown talked to Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in the 2008 All-Star Game. If Ray was not on the sidelines of the Celtics, perhaps Brown would not have played in the green and white uniform during the '08 NBA playoffs.
While Ray may not be a well-known commodity around the NBA, he will be missed by the talent he produced. He was partly responsible for helping the Celtics win their first title in 22 years.