WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge thought Doc Rivers was going to be the next Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan or even Red Auerbach — coaches who stayed with one team for decades.
Rivers got the nine-year itch.
"He felt like it was time for a change. He felt like we all needed a change," Ainge said on Tuesday night after the deal to allow Rivers out of his contract to coach the Los Angeles Clippers was final. "That was his rationalization, or justification, for going to the Clippers: that this was better for everybody."
After weeks of negotiations that at one time had Boston stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce joining Rivers in Los Angeles, the Celtics announced on Tuesday that the NBA approved the deal to allow their coach to go to the Clippers in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015. Ainge said in a news conference that he had not begun looking for a new coach because he couldn't believe until late in the on-again, off-again process that Rivers was actually leaving.
"I haven't thought in anticipation of this," Ainge said. "It really, probably still hasn't hit me that this has happened. Probably because I thought it wasn't going to happen. I have not talked with one coaching candidate to this point."
One person who's not an option is Ainge himself.
"I'm not coaching," said the former Celtics point guard, who had a 136-90 record in three-plus seasons as the Phoenix Suns coach. "I've tried that. I tried that gig. I'm done with that."
Rivers had a 416-305 record in nine seasons in Boston, third in the history of the NBA's most-decorated franchise only to Auerbach and Tommy Heinsohn. But his tenure was really broken into two different eras: Before the New Big Three, and after it.
Rivers was 102-144 in his first three years in Boston, including a 2006-07 season in which the Celtics lost 18 straight games while plummeting to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings in search of a star in the draft lottery. That summer, despite drawing the unfortunate fifth pick overall, Ainge acquired Garnett and Ray Allen to go with Pierce.