Report: Clippers' Steve Ballmer Wanted 'Dramatic Change' After Playoff Exit

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2020

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and team chairman Steve Ballmer introduce Paul George and Kawhi Leonard at a press conference at the Green Meadows Recreation Center in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer reportedly sought "dramatic change" after the team's elimination in the Western Conference Semifinals, which led to the "mutual decision" of Doc Rivers' vacating his role as head coach Monday.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday on Get Up the Clips' postseason collapse at the hands of the Denver Nuggets was the main reason for Rivers' departure.

"Blowing a 3-1 lead to Denver in the conference semifinals," Woj said. "Not as simple as that, but this is an owner, Steve Ballmer, this is a win-now team, certainly, with the Clippers. He was not willing to just run this thing back next year without some dramatic change, and that started with Doc Rivers yesterday."

Rivers compiled a strong 356-208 regular-season record (.631 winning percentage) across seven years as the Clippers' head coach. The team couldn't match that performance in the playoffs, going 27-32 (.458) and failing to advance beyond the conference semifinals.

This year's exit stung a little more for a couple of reasons.

First, L.A. held the 3-1 advantage over Denver and led by 12 points at halftime in Game 5 and 16 points at halftime in Game 6 before blowing both leads.

Second, the Clippers spent all season hearing about a likely showdown with the rival Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals. They then watched as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Co. breezed past the Nuggets in five games to reach the Finals, where they'll meet the Miami Heat.

Rivers posted a statement on Twitter about his departure:

doc rivers @DocRivers


Now the question becomes who will replace the former Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics coach, who won a title with the C's in 2008.

Vincent Frank of Sportsnaut reported four early contenders to fill the vacancy:

  • Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue
  • Lakers assistant Jason Kidd
  • Former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson
  • Former Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni

Regardless of who's hired, Ballmer is clearly setting championship-or-bust expectations with the tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in place for at least one more season. Both superstars have a player option in their contract following the 2020-21 season.

Meanwhile, Rivers is likely to draw immediate interest as a coaching free agent.

The Rockets, Pacers, Pelicans, Thunder and 76ers are the other teams looking for a new head coach.