Since the Boston Herald reported months ago that Doc Rivers might step down at the end of this year, we’ve heard very little about the C’s coaching situation going forward. The original Herald warned only of a possible Rivers departure, and Doc himself downplayed it, saying he thinks about his future after each season.
Danny Ainge pushed the narrative forward a bit today on WEEI. According to ESPN, Ainge said two significant things:
1) He thinks Rivers will return. (Exact words: “I think Doc will come back.”)
2) If Doc steps down, the team will consider Tom Thibodeau for the job.
The media coverage of the hot pursuit of Thibodeau has mostly ignored the possibility that Doc Rivers may step down, opening the Boston job for Thibs. As you probably know, Thibodeau has been offered the New Orleans Hornets vacant job, but Thibodeau has put off giving New Orleans a definitive answer, perhaps in hopes getting another offer on a team he prefers.
The Hornets originally wanted a yes or no from Thibs prior to Game 1 on Thursday, but Thibodeau held out, a move that prompted Yahoo!’s veteran NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski to label Thibodeau’s handling of the Hornets offer “disgraceful” on Twitter.
Some Boston fans weren’t thrilled with that, and some appear to have pushed Wojnarowski to explain why Thibodeau wasn’t entitled to wait and see what Rivers decides. Wojnarowski’s response:
“For those suggesting Thibodeau has stalled to see what Doc does at season’s end, odds of GM Danny Ainge promoting this assistant are slim.”
Ainge certainly didn’t commit to giving Thibs the job in the event that Rivers steps down. But he did say this, according to ESPN:
“[If Rivers leaves] then we’ll put the search out and put Tom at the head of the class,” Ainge said. “[He is] somebody that we would consider and interview but we would also look at all the viable candidates and take our time if [Rivers walked away]. But I don’t anticipate that happening.”
Thibodeau has interviewed with the Bulls and Nets, and the Chicago Tribune has reported that the Bulls are leaning toward making Thibodeau their top candidate.
Honestly? Thibodeau coaching the Bulls is a frightening thing. A defense featuring Noah, Hinrich, Deng and Free Agent X under Thibodeau’s tutelage could be brutal to play against.
For my money, the Chicago job is clearly the best one out there, including the Boston job, but all four would be good places to coach in the near future. The Nets have a nice young core, cap space both this off-season (and possibly the next two) and an exciting owner who blows $20,000 on lunch. The Hornets have two talented young guards whose presence will make things interesting as Chris Paul comes closer to being a free agent after the 2012 season. (The final year of Paul’s deal, 2012-13, is a player option). They’ve also got Peja Stojakovic’s expiring deal to play with next season.
It’s hard to blame Thibodeau for looking out for his own interests, though I don’t know what’s going on with closed doors or whether Jeff Bower, the New Orleans GM, feels particularly burned for some reason. Thibodeau’s stock might never be higher, and he’s only doing what most folks would do when they feel the leverage swaying their way.
But the thing about leverage: It can sway back the other way pretty fast, especially when you’re a career assistant with no head coaching experience. Thibodeau’s playing a risky game, but I’m betting he comes out ahead.