Clippers' Doc Rivers Says He Was 'Blindsided' by Donald Sterling Scandal

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers coaches during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers opened up about a number of topics during an interview with NBA on TNT's Ernie Johnson on Monday, including the fact that he was "blindsided" by former team owner Donald Sterling's racism.

"I was blindsided, No. 1," Rivers said. "But I did my research on Donald Sterling ... I knew he wasn't trustworthy. I knew he had a lot of flaws ... I didn't really find out about the racial stuff" during the research.

Rivers revealed his "ego" contributed to his decision to take the job even with concerns about Sterling because the Clippers were such a notoriously poor team at the time.

"If I can turn this organization around and we become a champion, this would be the ultimate challenge."


“Within weeks of taking the job, I knew I was in trouble.” @DocRivers opens up about his time coaching under former owner Donald Sterling and details how the LA Clippers locker room came together to make a stand. #NBATogether https://t.co/hVhbzQmP5y

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN noted Sterling was eventually ousted from his position after recordings of him making racist statements leaked. Players threatened to boycott playoff games if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver did not remove him, and current Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer eventually bought the team.

Rivers told Johnson he spoke to his players after the recordings leaked and said Sterling was never part of the championship dream he envisioned when he took over as the team's coach.

That wasn't the only concern Rivers had when it came to Sterling and the Clippers. He even told Johnson, "Within weeks of taking the job, I knew I was in trouble."

This is not the first time Rivers has suggested as much. During a September 2019 interview with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times, the head coach said he almost quit one week into his tenure in 2013 because Sterling wanted to cancel a three-team deal that sent JJ Redick to the Clippers:

"I was on the job for six days and I quit. The deal went through and everyone said it was a great deal. I flew back home to Orlando for a couple of days and I got a call from [former Clippers president] Andy Roeser saying Donald Sterling decided he didn't want to do the deal. I said, 'What do you mean? The deal is already done. JJ is a free agent. He backed out of a deal to sign with us. If we don't do this deal, we'll never get another free agent. It's our word.'"

Rivers told Sterling he would quit before he allowed the move to be canceled, and the Clippers eventually landed Redick in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.

When speaking to Johnson, the head coach said he was told Sterling didn't want to make the move because he didn't like white players on his team.

While Rivers has not completed the turnaround of the Clippers from bottom feeders to champions just yet, he is still in his position as head coach and has the team on the short list of contenders this season.

Before the 2019-20 campaign was suspended because of COVID-19 concerns, Los Angeles was 44-20 and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with the dynamic duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George leading the way.

If and when play resumes, Rivers will have a chance to complete that dream his "ego" envisioned at the start of his Clippers tenure.