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In what has become an increasingly odd offseason, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe he would “rather not say” whether he’s still in the decision-making process about returning for another season. This comes after multiple interviews in which Rivers avoided making any commitment to his future and tenure with the Celtics.
It can be understood that these ambiguous and rather cryptic comments have been met with angst from Celtics media and fans alike. Glenn Rivers is among the finest and longest tenured head coaches in the NBA, and his ability to manage personalities has long been lauded as a primary reason for which elite players have bought into Rivers’ team and defense-first philosophies. It has been said that Rivers, who has three years and 21-million left on his current contract, is also the Celtics’ greatest asset as it pertains to recruiting and the elite adjustments made during the course of a season and playoff series. The loss of Rivers to retirement this far into the offseason would constitute an unmitigated disaster for Boston’s front office.
For the first time since the formation of the celebrated New Big Three Era, Boston faces the reality of impending change on a broad level. With a buyout clause in the last year of a lucrative contract, Paul Pierce could be let go for a mere 5-million dollars, which would not count against Boston’s already cumbersome salary cap figure. Pierce’s buyout would be a move that would trigger wholesale changes, which may include Kevin Garnett waiving his no trade clause and would thus usher in a phase of rebuilding. With these realities on the horizon, it is understandable why Rivers may be on the fence about committing to a roster and franchise that faces such uncertainty.
With that said, it is highly unlikely that Rivers would walk away from such a lucrative contract so willingly. These comments come off as more of a power play, where the leverage of Rivers’ presence is being utilized to influence Danny Ainge to provide a competitive roster of Rivers’ choosing. Doc has long been loyal to his two veterans, Garnett and Pierce, and this is perhaps Doc’s last stand to provide a final year of play as Celtics to the two franchise cornerstones.
On a personal note, the entirety of this process has become a bit disconcerting. It has become an annual tradition now for Doc to remain coy about his future status with the Celtics, but this year has a different feel. With such an unstable roster, it would provide great peace of mind to know that one of the best coaches in our game is dedicated to leading the Celtics through this rebuild and beyond.
Perhaps Doc just doesn’t have it in him to continue on with this franchise after the last remnants of the Big Three move on into a new stage of their lives. I don’t believe anyone would begrudge Doc if he were burned out from the end of this run, which has certainly been a trying one as it relates to bad breaks and luck with injuries. He has been a true professional throughout the entirety of his tenure, and has absolutely earned our community’s collective patience and understanding. The only thing we could ask as fans and supporters of Doc, though, is that he be forthright about where he stands on this issue, as he has been with virtually every other subject and issue during his time as a Celtic.
We should know where Doc stands on his future in just a matter of weeks. But until then, the future is cloudier than it has been in many a year for Celtics fans.