Doc Rivers had just lost in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday. His perennial underperforming Los Angeles Clippers had been jettisoned by a Utah team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2012.
This is what he said as he closed out his press conference following the bitter loss: “Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.”
Jazz fans complain about his harping on the referees. They rail on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. But it’s hard not to respect a coach who thanks the same media that will be dissecting his job performance all summer, some calling for his outster.
“We’ve been reading about our obituary for about three months now, so I’m sure everyone will have that,” Rivers said.
Rivers had a moment early in L.A.’s series with the Jazz where he chided a reporter for “the dumbest question I ever heard.” But even then, it was more incredulity than ridicule.
Some reports said Rivers, who is also the Clippers’ vice president of basketball operations, might go to the Orlando Magic. He still owns a home in that area. But the Orlando Sentinel’s George Diaz on Monday said that won't happen.
It’s true Rivers hasn’t done well in the playoffs, and that he could lose top players in free agency. On the other hand, he’s a charismatic man, in a location that free agents will always consider. He won a championship in 2008 in Boston. So it’s not like he can’t coach.
His team was slammed by playoff injuries to Griffin and, to lesser extent, to Paul.
Sometimes it’s just time for a change. That seems to be a strong sentiment in Los Angeles. But if Rivers ever leaves, via his own choice or the owner's, the franchise will be poorer. He knows how to win championships; he just hasn’t done it in L.A. Meanwhile, he’s a dignified, classy face for a franchise that has always wanted to measure up to its crosstown-rival Lakers — who, by the way, didn’t make this year’s playoffs.
The Clippers will look different next year, thanks to free agency. But they’d be wrong to lose the non-player face of the franchise. Positive people get positive results. The Clippers just need to remember that as they review what happened against the Jazz.