Doc Rivers strikes me as a low-maintenance guy.
I don't think he's the type to drag out a "Will he or won't he?" for the summer. Just not how he does things. Can't think of a single example over the 2,000-plus days that Glenn Rivers has been HC of the BC where he has been the story.
Until now. The future of Doc Rivers is Topic A, B and C in Celtics land as we speak (sorry-- not feeling the Daniel Orton buzz). The folks await an answer.
And if you draw up the ol' pro and con list there isn't really much of a contest.
Time for Doc to take a walk.
Let's get the reasons to stay out of the way. I have no clue if Doc Rivers needs the $5.5 million he's owed next season. I'm assuming that he doesn't, for the sake of this column and for the simple reason that he doesn't seem the type that would blow through the $25 million or so he's earned as a player and coach. I guess you never know, but I suspect he steered clear when Antoine Walker tried to lure him into a can't miss deal on 40 timeshares and a chain of Wiggle Burger restaurants.
What else? Loyalty? OK, I'll buy into that one. The Celtics gave Rivers a contract extension in April 2007 after winning 33 and 24 games the previous two seasons (if you want an idea as to how Doc was viewed at that time in Boston read the comments here). And this was after the Celtics made Rivers one of the highest-paid coaches in the NBA when he was hired in 2004, which didn't make a whole lot sense at the time when you consider that he had been fired after four-plus seasons in Orlando without winning a playoff series. So I can understand why he might feel compelled to honor the rest of his deal and stick around for one more year.
But this is an easy spin for Doc, isn't it? Hasn't he more than paid the Celtics back for their loyalty by winning a title and getting to Game 7 this season? And there is actual loyalty and pro sports loyalty. He can't take a hit for this if he decides to leave.
So there's a lot of money still kicking around and he feels an obligation to the franchise. All fair. So why do you and I and everyone else think he's a goner?
Well, first there is this: Do you think the Celtics are going to win another NBA title with this crew of players? Probably not, right? The better question might be this: How many players are going to be better next year? Pierce and Garnett, each with about 150,000 NBA miles on the tires? Ray Allen, if they bring him back? Think Rasheed Wallace (if he doesn't retire) is going to show up to camp looking like Stallone in the second Clubber Lang fight? It's just hard to shake the idea that this team just finished its last real run. Does Doc want to stick around for the inevitable decline?
And it's not as if this is going to be a straight rebuilding job, either. That might be the kind of challenge a coach like Rivers could enjoy, a change of pace. This is going to rough, filled with the kind of junk that caused so many headaches for the coaching staff in 2009-10. Pierce, Garnett and Allen (if he's back) aren't going to roll over and just give the keys to Rondo. There is tension there, and it's not going to lessen after as Rondo continues to move up the NBA ladder and passes the Big Two or Three on the food chain. This will be fascinating to watch, it's never really happened with the Celtics. Russell was the unchallenged man until he retired in 1969. Hondo never played with Bird, and Reggie Lewis wasn't a true threat to Larry Legend. The passing of the torch is new ground with this franchise, and I still think it's going to be far from smooth. Egos abound and not a lot of love lost. Six months of battles to go 47-35? If I had the choice I'm going with Door No. 2, which is a winter in Orlando watching my kids play hoops and volleyball without worrying about who is pissed at who about stuff that can't be solved as long as all the characters in the play are still around.
And if you buy into the George Costanza "getting out on a high note" theory then doesn't Doc have to load up the car and take that Waffle House-sponsored ride down 95 South to the Magic Kingdom? His stock will never be higher than it is today. Unlike 2008, where almost all the credit and praise went to the Big Three, this playoff run co-starred Rondo and Rivers. Even kicking away a 3-2 lead and 13-point lead in Game 7 didn't seem to stick to Doc. And you know how it works -- a year or two away from the NBA and he'll only be more attractive to owners looking for a guy to take a veteran team to the next level. The no-doubt first choice on every wish list.
And is that worth risking by coming back? I know -- you think I'm overstating the issue. A 45-win season and second-round loss in the playoffs won't diminish Doc's status, at least not much. Don't be so sure. And if you're playing the odds isn't a first-round flameout more likely than another title next year? If the worst-case scenario happens, I bet you'll hear the whispers (some of which could be from ownership, who you hear aren't as firmly entrenched with Team Rivers as, say, Danny Ainge).
"Doc can't win without the best players."
"What did he ever do without the Big Three?"
"You know, maybe Thibodeau was the brains behind the operation."
"Why does ESPN let Chris Berman work the US Open?" (sorry-- doesn't fit but needs to be asked)
Again, is it worth it? Is this team going to be worth ignoring your head and your heart? It just seems too simple, doesn't it? Doc quits, spends the next year or two with his family, maybe does a little TV to stay in the picture and waits for the best job to open. And you know what? That's exactly what will happen if he goes that route. Maybe LeBron won't mesh with whoever he winds up with. Maybe Phil Jackson will sign a two-year extension with the Lakers and retire at the end of the deal. My favorite? You watched the playoffs this year -- how strong do you think the Stan Van Gundy/Dwight Howard marriage is at this point? Don't think it'll survive another postseason unmasking? Me neither. Well, do you think the chance to be the highest-paid coach (and he will be) in the league for a team with a franchise center just entering his prime might be tempting? A second shot with the Magic in his hometown? I've got that at 4-1 in the Doc sweepstakes.
A sweepstakes that will happen. All this talk about staying or leaving isn't a ploy for another contract, for more power, a new title.
Nope, it's just time for Doc to go.
Bad timing from a Celtics perspective, but it could not work out better for a good guy that will leave the franchise better off than it was when he got here.
Guess we can score one for low maintenance.