LAS VEGAS — A few weeks removed from the chaos, both Doc Rivers and the Celtics have moved forward. The ill feelings from Rivers’s departure are dissipating, especially since the Celtics have responded with the stunning hire of Brad Stevens and have amassed four first-round picks.
Rivers is in the process of putting together pieces for a championship run in Los Angeles, taking everything he learned from his nine-year experience in Boston and attempting to build chemistry quickly, as the Celtics did in summer of 2007 after they formed the Big Three.
In the past few weeks, the Clippers have re-signed Chris Paul, acquired J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley, and brought back Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins to join an already stacked team.
And Rivers, as senior vice president of basketball operations, participated in those moves. Sources close to the Clippers say Rivers has taken more organizational control, an indication that he perhaps wanted more personnel power in Boston, something that wasn’t going to occur with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge present.
“It’s important. It’s nice,” Rivers told the Globe about his new role. “Danny and I had a great working relationship. There are times where Danny wanted to do things and I absolutely didn’t want to do it. As far as not being a GM, I was in the best position with Danny because he was pretty good. But this is better, obviously you can build your own team, you have a chance to really put your imprint on a team more than just coaching-wise. That’s a lot of fun and it’s something I’ve never done and I may find out it’s something I don’t want to do, but I may find out it’s something I’m good at.
“It’s different, but it’s really good.”
Although Rivers made it clear he didn’t want to rebuild in Boston, perhaps a big reason for his departure was his lack of power in the organization. Rivers wanted to try more than coaching. He felt he could contribute mightily to building a franchise. Los Angeles brings a welcome change of scenery, an opportunity to golf more often and work with a team ascending toward a championship.
The Celtics’ rebuild didn’t look so attractive, especially since it meant Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce being shuttled out of town.
Rivers said he wasn’t surprised the Celtics turned over the roster so quickly and found his replacement within 10 days of his departure.
“Nah, nah, nah, I knew all that was coming, so that didn’t surprise me at all,” he said. “You know, like I said many times, the summer’s gone exactly the way Danny wanted it to go and he’s done a heck of a job.”
Rivers said he doesn’t know Stevens well, but former Celtics assistant and current Clippers assistant Kevin Eastman is very familiar with Stevens through coaching clinics.
“Kevin likes him a lot and always has,” Rivers said. “He’s one of the guys Kevin has spoken highly of. They had the relationship that way.”
It’s becoming more apparent that the challenge of bringing the Clippers to a level they have never reached was more attractive than the arduous task of resuscitating the Celtics. While the organization grew impatient with Rivers’s monthlong wavering about his status, that period allowed him to consider other possibilities, especially when Ainge told him he planned on trading Pierce.
“It’s an absolutely different challenge,” Rivers said. “When I look at Boston, I was going to the best organization, the best history in the league. You’re going to the Celtics. That challenge there was trying to add to something that has already been built, prior to rebuilding. Just get them back to what they were and we did that and that was amazing.
“This is different. This is a challenge of taking a team somewhere they’ve never been, ever, in their history. To me that’s a whole different challenge. The organization in Boston, when I took the job, Red Auerbach was still there and there’s still a lot of people who knew what winning looked like. Here [with the Clippers], none of that exists. No one knows what winning looks like except for me and my staff. We’re trying to build a whole new culture here and it would be amazing if we could pull it off.
“That’s one of the reasons this job has really intrigued me.”
Rivers fully embraces the impact he had on the Celtics. He speaks glowingly of the players, the fans, and the region that embraced him, even when he was on the hot seat during that painful 18-game losing streak in 2006-07.
“It’s amazing how many people I’ve talked to, all my friends, the fans, everywhere in Las Vegas, people come up and just say, ‘Thank you,’ ” he said.
“For nine years we had an amazing time. I have nothing but good things to say about their organization, about Danny. Listen, I had a great nine-year run. We did a lot of good things, in a lot of ways put them back on the map. And I was a part of that. That is something that can never be taken away from me. That will be with me forever.
“The city and people, I will have friends for life and that will never go away.”