Steve Ballmer called it a “mutual decision,” but reports are coming out that Doc was surprised. The fact Rivers wasn’t fired the same day the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead with this roster is a testament to his standing in the league. Almost any other coach would be out of there with the last whistle. Still, Doc didn’t see this one coming.
This creates another major job opening and another desired coach on the market. The 76ers, Rockets, Thunder, Pelicans, Pacers, and Clippers are all looking for a coach. Rivers joins Mike D’Antoni, Jeff Van Gundy, and Ty Lue as potential candidates for the openings.
Rivers already received calls from the 76ers and Pelicans. His desire to get right back into the game is unknown, and this may be a rare occasion where he could get some time to make that decision. The beginning of 20/21 is not certain yet, and teams are not rushing to hire a head coach. The Pacers already interviewed 20 candidates, and are still surveying the field. If one of these teams believes Doc is the guy, he will have a bit of time to make up his mind.
In Rivers’ seven seasons at the helm, the Clippers went 356-208, winning 63.1% of their regular-season games — the fifth-best record in the NBA and the best by any team without a conference finals appearance. That’s stat is crucial – with Lob City and Kawhi & PG, Rivers never got the Clippers to the Conference Finals. Yes, injuries and the Warriors had a lot to do with that, but certain losses (blowing 3-1 vs. the Rockets comes to mind) can’t be excused.
When it comes to the Clippers, this will be a crucial decision for the direction of the franchise. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could leave after next year. Even Pandemic P would have to agree that makes it a championship or bust season. Ty Lue is an obvious candidate, as he was Doc’s lead assistant this year, knows the team, and has championship experience. Jeff Van Gundy also got immediate traction with the vacancy. Mike D’Antoni would be hilarious, but I don’t see it happening.
The main question here is how much do the Clippers want to accommodate Kawhi and Paul George in the coaching search. Kawhi famously told Ballmer Doc Rivers was one of the main reasons he came to the Clippers. They will surely run by the main candidates by Kawhi and PG, but it remains to be seen how much the fact they could leave after the next season influence the decision.