Los Angeles Clippers head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers is losing one of his titles.
According to Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and later confirmed by the team, Rivers will still have a say in front office and personnel matters, but he will cede control of basketball operations to Lawrence Frank, who moved to the front office as the team’s vice president of basketball ops in 2016.
“I’ve owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner’s responsibility is — and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs,” Ballmer told ESPN. “The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn’t the case. To be as good as we can be, to be a championship franchise, we need two functioning strong people building teams out beneath them. There needs to be a healthy discussion and debate with two strong, independent-minded people.”
The Clippers had seemingly been moving in this direction in an unofficial capacity ever since Frank took over as the VP of basketball operations last summer. Balmer told ESPN that Rivers put Frank “in charge of the non-coaching aspects of the front office last year.” The franchise also hired Jerry West as an adviser in June. The shift in responsibilities for Rivers had long been rumored, and is now official.
The move is also long overdue. Rivers had too much on his plate, and his performance in both of his roles had been underwhelming. With Frank capable of running the front office, it made little sense to keep Rivers inundated with split responsibilities. Ballmer also mentioned that a squad that could be welcoming as many as 10 new players — and one that lost its former franchise cornerstone, Chris Paul — will need Rivers’ undivided attention.
The Clippers are the second team this offseason to move away from what is becoming an outdated front-office structure. The Hawks did so earlier this summer, hiring Travis Schlenk to run basketball operations so that head coach Mike Budenholzer could do what he does best. As Wojnarowski pointed out, the Clippers’ restructuring leaves only three teams with coach-presidents: The Spurs (Gregg Popovich), the Timberwolves (Tom Thibodeau) and the Pistons (Stan Van Gundy).
The Clippers traded an unprotected first-round pick to Boston for Rivers in 2013, and subsequently named him both their head coach and president of basketball operations. The sides originally agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal that would task Rivers with overseeing both on-court and off-court operations. They then agreed to a five-year, $50 million extension the following year. (According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, Rivers will still make $10 million per year despite being relieved of his front office duties.)
The two contracts, though, were given to Rivers by two different Clippers owners. The notorious Donald Sterling was responsible for the first one, and for putting Rivers in change of a flawed front office. Balmer bought the team in 2014 after Sterling was forced out by scandal, and has been stabilizing the organization since. His re-assigning of duties between Rivers and Frank is just the latest example.
Per the ESPN story, both Frank and Rivers will report directly to Ballmer.