Doc Rivers wasn’t the only guy to speak today. General Manager Danny Ainge addressed reporters in Waltham, discussing a variety of topics including how the Rivers/Clippers deal went down, potential coaching candidates, and the future of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Brian Robb was on hand to capture the audio but good friend Chris Forsberg provided the heavy lifting by transcribing his over at ESPN Boston:
On Doc’s Departure:
“On May 3rd, our season ended [with a first-round playoff exit against the New York Knicks]. And there was some uncertainty as to whether Doc would return to the Celtics or not at that time — I wasn’t aware of it then, but [the media] made me aware of it… I had every reason to believe that he would come back, but coaching is hard, and it’s draining, and what people say at the end of a long season, you don’t take to heart.
“On May 8th, Doc and I had a conversation about his future and I was curious about which way he was leaning and why… He was uncertain still at that time, but wondered what his options were.
“On May 9th, we sent him a letter saying that we expected him to be our coach, and he was under contract to be our coach for three more years. That was our intention all along and that’s what we hoped he would do. And then in subsequent weeks, conversations started as he still had uncertainty as to what he would do.
“[Soon after], we had a conversation, him and I, as friends and partners over the last nine years, and a guy that I really trust, we had a conversation that we discussed the possibility of him trying to get the Clippers job. There were other teams that were interested in hiring Doc, [but] we didn’t allow any of them to talk to Doc that had inquired. But the Clippers was one that intrigued him a little bit. I’m sure their great mix of talent had a lot to do with that, and his friends Skip and Al — his golfing buddies out in Bel-Air — had a lot to do with that. But with the idea that, if it wasn’t going to be a win-win-win situation, if it wasn’t good for the Celtics — which is what my job is: Do what’s best for the Celtics — and if it wasn’t good for him, it wasn’t good for the Clippers, we just wouldn’t do a deal. And he’d come back and coach [the Celtics].
“That’s the way it was from that point on, all the way until today when the deal was finalized. So today a deal was finalized, we were compensated a first-round pick in 2015 from the Los Angeles Clippers, Doc was let out of contract and reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers. And we will move forward, and find a very good coach who can lead us into the next phase.”
CH’s Take: If you have been following the story, you knew all of what Ainge said already. The part I find most interesting is the concept of “win-win-win.” Is that purely political so that other teams will want to keep doing business with this front office? Because, let’s be real, Danny Ainge could care less about whether or not the Clippers, or any other team on the opposite end of the negotiation table, got a good deal. Ainge also says he wouldn’t do a deal unless it was good for all involved, but at the same time he didn’t exactly celebrate the Celtics compensation. Is this because the first rounder is likely still going to be a late first rounder? Is it because he felt like he could have gotten more? One of the best parts about this whole situation is that the notion of, “Doc and I had a conversation about his future and I was curious about which way he was leaning and why… He was uncertain still at that time, but wondered what his options were,” will just not be applicable to the next coach. It will likely be someone who’s happy to have a job in the league. Even though Doc’s status was up in the air after every season, you never think your coach is going to leave…UNTIL HE DOES.
On Coaching Candidates:
“I have not talked to one coaching candidate yet,” said Ainge. “I have thought, in anticipation that this could happen, [about potential replacements.] I do watch coaches often as I travel around… I do have some people in mind.”
Ainge said there is no hurry to install a coach (though he did zing Rivers a bit while noting, “We would have liked to have a coaching staff last month, that would have been nice.”)
Said Ainge: “We’re in no hurry. We’re just going to try to find the best available coach.”
He added, “We don’t need a coach for the draft; we don’t need a coach for summer league. We don’t need that to happen fast, so we’ll take our time, unless our No. 1 choice makes a quick decision.”
Asked if he might throw his own name in the hat, Ainge ended that speculation.
“No,” he exclaimed. “I’ve tried that; I’m done with that.”
CH’s Take: With Brian Shaw off the market, there are really only a few hot names left – George Karl, Lionel Hollins – and none of them are likely interested in inheriting a rebuilding team with a roster in this state of flux. The Celtics are likely looking at a first time coach or a coach who would take any job. Neither option is ideal but they both come with their upsides: they’re easy to fire, easy to replace. If they are terrible, the C’s could be in the hunt for a fantastic player in next years’ draft. If they are awesome, then the C’s have the hot new coach on the cheap. As it pertains to Ainge’s comments, I love that he’s not tipping his hand. I would rather the Celtics secure the guy they want than whip up a bunch of analysis on the front runner that could potentially scare him off or increase interest from other job openings.
On the futures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce:
“I’m anxious to go through the [rebuilding] process,” Ainge admitted. “We don’t know when that’s going to happen, if that’s going to happen this summer or if that’s going to happen next summer. We’ve been ready, we’ve been gearing up for that possibility.
“I love Paul and KG and we haven’t made that decision yet,” Ainge said when asked if he wanted to bring both players back. “KG’s under contract, and Paul we have an option on in five days from now, and those are very big decisions for us. But those decisions, I’m not certain about either one of those.”
“From my perspective, none of the decisions have anything to do with the other,” Ainge said.
CH’s Take: I can smell the malarkey from my computer desk. None of the decisions have anything to do with the other. Right. Because Kevin Garnett hasn’t made it perfectly clear he only wants to play for Doc Rivers. And Paul Pierce’s contract isn’t a ton of money to dedicate to one, aging star on a non-contending team. Garnett won’t get a chance to play for Rivers’ this season but there have been no indications, other than “I bleed green,” that he wants to play for Boston. Not to mention that quote from Garnett came well before Rivers started house shopping in LA. If both of these players are on the roster for game one, then I expect them to be gone by the trade deadline unless the Celtics are winning and both of them get along swimmingly with the new head coach; neither seem plausible right now.