WALTHAM — Celtics general manager Danny Ainge officially announced the departure of his coach of nine years Tuesday, reflecting on the tenure of Doc Rivers and answering questions about the future of the franchise.
“I’d like to thank Doc for nine years of friendship and great coaching,” Ainge said in his opening statement. “He was a great teammate. And the Clippers are getting a really good coach.”
Flanked by team president Rich Gotham, Ainge took questions about the deal that sent Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first-round draft pick. The teams had engaged in on-again, off-again negotiations for Rivers for more than a week. Ainge said that despite reports, the deal was not a sure thing until it was finalized Tuesday.
“I had planned on Doc being our coach all along,” Ainge said. “We had discussions about him being Gregg Poppovich or Jerry Sloan or Red Auerbach, getting the all-time wins record as a Celtic and being here for a long time. I never really had thought about this until May 8.”
Rivers and Ainge first spoke on May 8, according to the general manager, because Ainge was “curious as to which way he was leaning and why.”
“He was uncertain still at that time but wondered what his options may be,” said Ainge.
Ainge said the team sent Rivers a letter on May 9 saying they “expected him to be our coach and fulfill his contract. ... That’s what we hoped that he would do.”
When it became clear Rivers had an interest in leaving, Ainge said the pair discussed Rivers trying to get the Clippers job.
“If it wasn’t good for the Celtics — which is what my job is, to do what’s best for the Celtics — if it wasn’t good for him, if it wasn’t good for him, we just wouldn’t do a deal and he would come back and coach.”
Said Gotham, “Sometimes you’ve got to let your good people go and pursue what they feel like they need to pursue to make themselves happy, with a chance to fulfill their needs with regards to their career and their goals.”
Ainge said he has not yet reached out “to a single coaching candidate,” nor has he made decisions on the futures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.