Doc Rivers took one route to the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham in his nine years as the team’s coach. He went the same way countless times, exiting 95 at exit 27A and taking the curvy streets to practice. In Los Angeles? Rivers figures he already has taken at least 20 ways to the Clippers’ facility because of the legendary traffic.
Rivers has changed coasts, changed cultures, and changed responsibilities, leaving the Celtics’ rebuilding plan for an opportunity to take the usually downtrodden Clippers to new heights. It’s been six months since Celtics fans went through Rivers’s departure from Boston, and there is still confusion regarding how badly Rivers wanted out, or whether president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, gazing at Brad Stevens and the opportunity for a new start, nudged Rivers west.
The fact that Rivers’s departure was so sudden and unceremonious may prompt some boos Wednesday night as he returns to TD Garden to face the Celtics for the first time since taking the Clippers job. But Rivers said his relationships with the Boston brass have all been smoothed over and his return will be an emotional one.
“Danny and I have had some great talks about it,” Rivers said. “I think Danny and I are pretty much on the same page but I don’t want to get into that whole thing. Listen, I had nine unbelievable years and that’s what I keep saying to everyone. Danny is a good friend. We didn’t get along 100 percent all the time but we have always ended up friends and we’re very good. I’m thankful that I had Danny in my life and there’s no doubt about that. I wouldn’t be here without Danny Ainge, there’s no doubt.”
Ainge and Rivers essentially needed each other and leaned on each other to resurrect the Celtics. Ainge gave Rivers another coaching opportunity after Rivers was fired following a 1-10 start in Orlando in 2003. And Rivers’s relationship with the players, his selling the franchise to free agents, and his managing of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo were good enough to win a championship and reach Game 7 of another Finals. The Celtics’ reputation and mystique rose exponentially under the duo.
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