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Why Is Doc Rivers Waiting to Confirm His Return to the Celtics Next Season? A Theory on The Wait


The waiting is the hardest part. At least that’s what the Celtics’ brass must feel like about their coveted head coach. A week after Danny Ainge confirmed to The Boston Globe that Doc Rivers would be returning to the Celtics’ bench next season, we’re still waiting for a direct word from the head coach himself.

Wyc Grousbeck chimed in yesterday on the situation on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, reiterating Danny’s comments, while also treading somewhat carefully.

“Our indications are that Doc is coming back. Typically — and it’s similar to Kevin Garnett, as an example — everyone is tired, burned out and frustrated (after the season ends); losing to the Knicks is something I never wanted to experience in my life,” said Grousbeck. “Everybody gets time to unwind and decompress. I expect Doc will help Danny with the draft workouts, to be in the war room June 27, and over the free agency period after that.”

And on Danny’s comments about Doc, Wyc had this to say.

“I think Danny really spoke for him. They had been in communication and I think Danny went ahead and said it. I respect Doc too much to speak for him at this point; I hope he’s back. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t, but he can change his mind on Labor Day. I hope he doesn’t do that.”

So this all sounds fine and dandy, except for the same somewhat troubling issue that Rivers still won’t come out and say he’s back publicly. Throw in the revelation that other teams are pursuing Rivers’ (hello, Brooklyn Nets) and the Celtics are denying those teams permission to talk to Doc and things get a bit more interesting…or worrisome if you are a Celtics fan.

So this all begs an important question: Why is Doc making the Celtics wait on a public confirmation of his return next season? And is there anything to be concerned about here?

I present to you, a theory on Doc’s motives.

Imagine you are Rivers right now. You’re one of the highest paid coaches in the league. According to Jackie MacMullan’s sources, other teams are after you, not only to run their team on the floor, but off the floor as well (hello, Orlando Magic).

You are also signed to a long-term coaching deal, in essence limiting your flexibility in looking at other options. According to the terms of the deal, Doc can’t coach elsewhere during the duration of the deal, without Celtics’ approval….and likely compensation from another team.

While picturing this though, it’s important to keep in mind how Rivers might view this Celtics’ team at a crossroads right now.

Doc heads into this offseason with a bit of uncertainty surrounding his roster for next season, in the sense that he doesn’t know what it will look like come October 2013. The veteran Hall-of-Famer he has been through everything with in Boston is on the trading block. Kevin Garnett could be following him out of town as well, or walking away to retirement, if The Truth is no longer by his side.

If Danny Ainge has his way, he’d trade both of those guys right now, for a package of first round picks and/or young players on cheap contracts with promise, in hopes of reloading the Celtics’ for the future.

While these moves may be attractive to the long-term future of the Celtics, just how attractive are they to Doc Rivers? Without KG and Pierce, Doc would be forced to coach a roster featuring Rajon Rondo coming off an ACL tear, Jeff Green, and a variety of youngsters and overpaid veterans in supporting roles.

We all know Rondo is no picnic to coach and Doc was yelling at Green probably more than anyone on the roster not named Fab Melo. With these guys at the helm, the Celtics would still be a playoff team, but probably one guaranteed for an early round exit.

So tell me, just how excited would Rivers be to coach a crew like this, assuming KG and Pierce are out of the picture? Doc isn’t really crazy about coaching young guys to begin with, unless your name is Jared Sullinger. A couple years ago, after signing his contract extension, Doc sounded ready to take the rebuilding plunge, as MacMullan pointed out in her piece.

“Well, I don’t think anyone is looking forward to [rebuilding],” Rivers said, “but I’m willing to do that. I’ve had a group that has been very loyal to me, and I think it would have been very easy to just run and go somewhere else and chase something else. … I just don’t think that’s the right thing to do. Coaches talk about loyalty and team, and I just thought it was time to show it.”

Those comments were from two years ago, and people’s feelings can change over time. Doc’s coaching clock is ticking and he might not want to spend it rebuilding in Boston for the next few years, without his favorite veterans. I can’t say I would blame him for that either.

Due to this, I feel like we’re seeing Doc potentially use some little leverage in confirming his return next season. Before he commits to anything, he wants to know what the roster will look like, wants to know if Pierce and Garnett will be back, and if they won’t be, wants to know just what the team will be getting for them.

In a way, he may be using the whole process as leverage to keep those guys around. He’ll have a say and probably always has in any trades being made, but Ainge has final say. If Doc tells Danny he’s walking away if Pierce and KG are gone, or if he doesn’t approve of the return Danny gets in a deal for them, you can bet that changes the equation a little bit for trader Danny this summer.

Losing Pierce and KG would be a major blow this offseason. Losing Doc along with those two cornerstones could be a devastating blow, especially from a marketing and ownership perspective. If Doc only wants to come back with his veterans intact, he needs some leverage.

Making the Celtics’ wait on him, as Ainge makes his decision might be the best weapon he has in this ordeal. Doc’s moves over the next few weeks will indicate just how valid, or invalid this theory might be.

The longer he waits to comment though, the longer we are left to wonder.

  • The Cardinal

    Losing Doc would be a huge loss that would have a huge snowball effect – none of it good for next season. However, the organization obviously wants a coach who is all-in, and Doc won't be allowed to dither indefinitely without Danny doing what he believes he needs to do.

    There could come a point where the organization grants Doc permission to pursue other opportunities and Doc will either live buy into what the organization does and stay, or move on.

  • janos

    if Net want talk on coach they can wait after title parade next yearfor autograph him, same is any other fan

  • GymRat

    I'd be fine with Doc leaving if it didn't mean that KG and Pierce would likely follow him.

    Doc is a good coach. But he refuses to take responsibility for his shortcomings and admit his mistakes. The organization under him has been consistently one of the worst offenses in the league. Doc wants to blame the roster, injuries, or even execution. But the reality is his system just doesn't work…even when everyone is healthy (we saw it briefly with ABs return before Rondo went down) and even when executed to perfection.

    The defense has also lost a lot since the departure of Thibs.

    I'm all for Doc staying, but I'm not for chasing him if he wants to leave. I don't think he's the best fit for the rebuild and his value without KG and PP is almost none.

    Not sure why the Nets would want Doc, other than they might think he's the one guy in the league that could finally get D-Will to subvert his ego and actually live up to his contract.

    • Anthony

      While I share your sentiments on Doc, I think Stephen A. made a valid point in saying players like to play for him. I'm not sure the Celts would command the same free agents if Doc isn't around.

      • elroz

        So, no Terry, J. O'neal, or Wilcox?

  • KG PP

    I had the same theory(exactly the same theory). The fact that Doc has not come out and said he is returning, just doesn't sit right with me. I remember that Kevin said after the final loss to NY that Doc pulled him and Paul aside and told them that they would talk later. I think if Danny trades Paul there will be a domino effect, KG i think will leave and there is a possibility that Doc may walk.

    There was one part of Jackie's quote from Doc that caught my eye; Doc said coaches talk "LOYALTY AND TEAM " and I just thought it was time to show it. Hmmmm…Danny(cough) Ainge(cough). Danny has not shown an inch of loyalty to probably anyone on this team. He tried to Trade Pierce, Ray, KG, Rondo and we could go on and on.

    Doc is a very loyal sentimental guy and I think this probable Pierce trade(amnesty or whatever Ainge is thinking of doing) might be the straw that breaks the camels back for Doc. Perk was like a son to Doc and Danny traded him. Ray basically walked bcuz Danny tried to trade him so many times. Rumors circled at the trade deadline that Danny tried to have KG waive his No Trade Clause and trade Pierce. Now Pierce has only has ONE year left for the only team he has played for in his career(LOYALTY LOYALTY LOYALTY) and Danny might trade him?!?!?!?….smh. I honestly don't think this sits with Doc very well!!!!

    Let's see how this one plays out….

    • Anthony

      Very good points. But I think people, myself included, sometime struggle to see is the BIG dilemma that DA will always face. Where does his loyalty lie, to the players or the organization? Isn't trying to trade and improve the team a sign of loyalty to the Celtics organization as a whole? DA gets scrutinized more than most GMs because Celtics fans' expectation are higher than the other 29 teams.

      The Pierce situation is so tricky. Is he worth bringing back for $15mil? Then again, I would love to see him play his entire career in the Celts uniform. There's no clear right or wrong.

  • hax

    We could open training camp with Stan Van Gundy as the Head Coach; Rondo, Gordon, Green, Bass, Jordan.

    • hax

      Even though 4 of those, excluding bass, look nice on paper, it just doesn't have the intimidating aura that pierce/garnett give, Doc as well.

  • check12check

    i think there is more uncertainty regarding the celtics team for next year than we even know. it seems like danny really doesn't want pierce back but is struggling to keep kg without him

  • silverbird

    I would like to see Doc, Pierce and Garnett back.
    These veterans are badly needed.
    What is Danny’s problem?????

  • MontrossDad

    Danny made the mistake last year, rebuild should already be a year deep….rivers has to go to preserve his great reputation- the celtics are headed in the wrong direction, and Danny’s ineffectual management will only serve to prolong the inevitable rebuilding period.

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