COMMENTARY | Danny Ainge has always seemed to show plenty of confidence in Doc Rivers as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. He is a coach who always gets his players to buy into whatever he sells, and one that many players around the league would surely love to play for. This is clear through the fact that the Celtics organization has been willing to pay Doc $7 million per year, a fairly high amount for an NBA head coach.
During their search for a new coach, the Brooklyn Nets requested permission to speak with Rivers. To nobody's surprise, the Celtics denied the request, assuring that they would like to keep him in town.
Rivers has a reputation as a player's coach, and one who earns the respect of just about everyone on the team. You never hear stories about his players quitting on him or tuning him out, as you do with a few coaches every year. Surely, his career as a tough, gritty point guard is a part of why he is so respected. The players see him as one of the guys, which can be a great thing.
On a competing team, there is no doubt that Doc Rivers is someone that you would love to coach your team. He has won a title, meshed together three superstars who had never played together in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, and managed difficult personalities like that of Rajon Rondo. Also, through his different experiences in the league, Rivers is certainly no slouch when it comes to the tactical aspect of the game.
That being said, is he worth $7 million if the Celtics head in a rebuilding direction?
As previously mentioned, $7 million per year is a hefty price to pay for a head coach in the NBA. If you believe he is enough of a difference maker to make you a title contender, it's probably a fair price. However, most ownership groups will not be willing to write that big of a check for a coach of a team that isn't competing.
There would certainly be benefits to keeping Rivers around in a rebuilding effort. His strong personality would be an asset in developing and making some of the younger players more mature, and they could definitely learn a lot from Doc. Much of Rondo's development could be attributed to Rivers, who has taught his young point guard how to effectively manage games and keep his teammates involved. In this sense, Rivers would certainly still have value.
Unfortunately, the NBA is a business. Ownership might not keep him through a rebuilding phase, and Doc might not even want to coach through one. He has expressed his concerns multiple times regarding wanting to spend more time with his family, which includes New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers. As such a competitive person, Rivers may not be willing to coach anymore if he isn't competing for a championship. Coaching certainly takes a lot out of anyone, and it would be more than understandable for him to leave if the Celtics head in a new direction.
The reality is that if the Celtics decide to blow up their core, there is a good chance that Doc Rivers will leave the Celtics in one way or another. However, even if this is the case, it would still be worth trying to keep him around. While his salary is a lot for a coach, it could pay huge dividends in the form of development of whatever younger players are on the roster. As previously mentioned, we've seen this through the growth of Rajon Rondo, and we could continue to see Doc maximize the development of players such as Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, and Fab Melo. The wrong coach can stunt player development, which is a risk the Celtics should not be willing to take.
The bottom line is that Doc Rivers is worth keeping, regardless of the direction of the team. He is a good enough coach to be valuable in a variety of situations, and Danny Ainge shouldn't let a coach of his caliber walk. While it would be easy to cut ties with Rivers and his salary if a rebuilding phase is on the horizon, replacing him with the wrong coach could prove to set back the franchise a few years.
Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings .
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- Doc Rivers
- Boston Celtics
- Rajon Rondo
- Austin Rivers