Doc Rivers Out as Head Coach After Clippers Blew 3-1 Lead vs. Nuggets

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 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

The Los Angeles Clippers and head coach Doc Rivers have mutually agreed to part ways, the club announced Monday.

doc rivers @DocRivers


"Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times," Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement. "He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Rivers had two years remaining on his contract.

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

Doc Rivers had two years left on his contract, sources tell ESPN. This is a challenging coaching search for Clippers, who are the ultimate win-now team. Among top candidates in the marketplace: Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Rockets and Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy. https://t.co/Ov02RYNbK9

The Clippers finished with the second-best record (49-23) in the Western Conference during the regular season but suffered a collapse for the ages in the playoffs. They threw away a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the conference semifinals.

Some changes were to be expected. Los Angeles' flameout exposed the team's lack of scoring depth behind Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and the roster struggled to find cohesion while leaning too heavily on its talent advantage.

Still, jettisoning Rivers isn't something many considered to be on the table. The 58-year-old compiled a 356-208 record during his seven seasons in charge, and the Clippers reached the playoffs in all but one of those years.

Rivers is likely paying for his inability to get the franchise over the hump, though. Los Angeles has still yet to reach the Western Conference Finals, and the fact that he has coached three different teams that blew 3-1 series leads can't as easily be chalked up to coincidence anymore.

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Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi

Doc Rivers has now lost six series after being up 3-2 and three after being up 3-1.

The Clippers might have felt some pressure to move on now, lest they watch assistant coach Tyronn Lue move on. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported Lue will interview with the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, though he appears to be the Sixers' second choice behind Mike D'Antoni.

Lue helped lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 and successfully managed a roster that included LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. He would be a natural replacement for Rivers.

Hardwood Paroxysm @HPbasketball

Clippers coach needs to be Ty Lue. Unless there’s an issue with the players I’m not aware of, anything else feels like overthinking it.

Regardless of whom the Clippers hire, the question is whether a new coach represents the extent of their offseason business.

Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris are free agents, with the former posing a particularly tough call. Los Angeles had a minus-11.6 net rating with Harrell on the floor in the playoffs, per NBA.com, and Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported the Sixth Man of the Year got into an argument with George on the bench during the second round.

Replacing Harrell wouldn't be that easy, though, since the Clippers will have little to spend in the offseason.

The Clippers may not be able to keep leaning on Lou Williams to the extent they have, either. The Athletic's Sam Vecenie and Jovan Buha explained how Williams became a liability in the postseason when the Nuggets attacked him on defense. The 6'1" guard also saw his three-point percentage fall from 35.2 in the regular season to 23.5.

If ownership and the front office were willing to be this cutthroat with Rivers, then it hints at some serious roster restructuring to come.

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