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.