I’ve got a column coming on Doc Rivers tomorrow, assuming the team formally announces the deal with the Clippers and/or holds a press conference at which Rivers officially says goodbye.
After all, emotions are high right now, no one wants to overreact. At the very least, we should give Doc a chance to make some kind of statement before making one of our own about his departure and how it might affect his legacy.
But in the meantime, it’s pretty clear that the Celtics are in the market for a new coach. And according to reports, you can rule out high-priced options like George Karl, Lionel Hollins and (thankfully) Vinny Del Negro.
Why? Because once the team made peace with letting Rivers walk, they made peace with a total rebuild, and there’s no way they’re going to fork over the big bucks for another expensive coach when the best case scenario is a sixth or seventh seed and a first or second-round playoff exit. In that case, Wyc’s better off saving his money and throwing Antoine Walker a few bucks to coach.
For now, it looks like the more realistic option is second-tier guys like Nate McMillan, Lawrence Frank, and my personal preference, Brian Shaw.
If he’s still available by the time the Celtics get around to the interview process, Shaw really does appear to be the best fit. For one, he was drafted by the Celtics, and played the first three years in Boston (with a one-year stint in Italy). He shared a locker room with the original Big Three and of course, Danny Ainge, and has that Green blood line that the organization holds so dear. He won three titles as a player with the Lakers, and two more as an assistant coach (while learning under Phil Jackson). He’s spent the last two years as the lead assistant in Indiana, as they’ve made their charge toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
You want a guy who, like Rivers, garners the respect of players around the league? Well, Shaw was Kobe Bryant’s first choice to take over for Phil Jackson before the team hired Mike Brown. Shaquille O’Neal has called Shaw the teammate whom he respected most over the course of his entire career. You’re not going to find two bigger superstars (with superstar egos) than Kobe and Shaq, and they both love Shaw.
There’s also the fact that Shaw has a major chip on his shoulder, having been passed over for numerous jobs (Lakers, Nets, Clippers, to name a few) in recent years. The obvious question is: Why? What’s wrong with this guy? But in the three cases mentioned, there are legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with his abilities as a coach. With the Lakers, the owners (Jim Buss, at least) wanted to break free from Phil Jackson’s system, and Shaw is a direct descendant. In Brooklyn, the Nets were predictably looking to make a flashy hire and Jason Kidd fit that bill much better than Shaw. With the Clippers, he lost out to Doc Rivers, and there’s no fault in that.
The bottom line is that he can coach, he’s hungry to coach, even if it means taking on a rebuild, which is what he’ll hopefully have the chance to do in Boston.
But there’s one wild card, which is worthy of a mention: Last night on SportsCenter, Jackie MacMullan reportedly (I didn’t see it for myself, and can’t find the video) suggested that Ainge himself may consider descending from his executive perch to assume a spot on the sidelines.
Imagine that: Danny Ainge as the next head coach of the Boston Celtics.
Can you see it? I can. After all, he’s coached before, and was pretty good, too. He could save the Celtics a lot of money by stepping in and trying to clean up his own mess, or at least keeping things together until they can find the perfect fit (in the event that they don’t like Shaw or anyone else). Also, he’s Danny Ainge. This is exactly the kind of thing that he would do -- interview a bunch of candidates and then decide that no one can do it better than he can.
Is it a ridiculous stretch? Yes, but I’m not ready to rule it out.
In which case, the insanity of these last few weeks will just feel like a warm up.