If Doc Rivers decides to walk away from his 3-year, $21 million contract with the Boston Celtics, general manager Danny Ainge already has a possible replacement lined up: Vinny Del Negro.
Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald reports that Ainge has considered a backup plan:
Two league sources with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed yesterday that if Rivers does indeed leave, former Clippers coach Vinnie Del Negro will receive serious consideration as his replacement.
Del Negro was fired following a season in which the Los Angeles Clippers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies. Owner Donald Sterling intimated that free agent point guard Chris Paul was the reason behind the firing.
Del Negro, a native of Springfield, Ma. and former champion with the San Antonio Spurs, has compiled a 210-184 record in five seasons as an NBA coach. He spent two seasons a coach of the Chicago Bulls before he was fired and three more with Los Angeles.
CelticsTown has gotten an exclusive look at the rest of Ainge’s shortlist of potential replacements for Doc. Let’s examine each candidate:
- Mike Rice- Sources say Ainge really likes the former Rutgers coach’s fierce competitiveness, fiery demeanor, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Rice is believed to be the type of strong-willed disciplinarian that Rajon Rondo needs to reign him in.
- Phil Jackson- Ainge has placed a call to the Zen Master, according to a source close to the situation. The general manager felt he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t place a call to the most respected hoops coach alive. Jackson showed strong interest in the position. Sources say Jackson and his girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, are upset with her brother, Lakers owner Jim Buss, and are out for some competitive revenge. Jackson is also enamored with the idea of winning 10 consecutive championships, one more than the legendary Red Auerbach, in honor of his former coach Red Holzman.
- Kevin Garnett- Under the current rules of the CBA, a player-coach is not allowed, so Garnett would have to retire to coach the Celtics. Garnett, however, does not want to play for another coach and will retire if Rivers leaves, according to an anonymous source. Garnett has kept a close eye on Jason Kidd’s recent hire in New Jersey and has exchanged text messages with Kidd. Garnett has already reached out to Flip Saunders to be the associate head coach on his hypothetical staff. At the age of 36, Garnett has been thinking a lot about his legacy and wants to pass on his knowledge to the ‘young ins’ coming into the league.
- Rick Pitino- Larry Bird is not walking through that door, but Pitino may be. Multiple sources have noted Pitino is Ainge’s No.1 target, should Rivers walk away fro his deal. Pitino, however, is coming off an NCAA national championship and his price tag will reportedly be roughly $10 million per season. The Lousiville coach has a history with Boston, and Paul Pierce has particularly strong feelings for his old coach. The full-court trap did not work the first time around but Ainge is confident that, with Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Jeff Green, the Celtics have the personnel to make it work.