Days go by: Ainge's timeline on Rivers departure

Days go by: Ainge's timeline on Rivers departure
June 25, 2013, 10:30 pm
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WALTHAM, Mass. – When the Boston Celtics' season ended on May 3, there was the usual emotions of dejection and disappointment.

After all these years, Danny Ainge knew all too well not to read too deep into anything said during those times.

But as he would soon discover, the uncertainty that Doc Rivers shared about his return to Boston wasn't just some fleeting emotion unleashed in the painful moments following an end-of-the-season loss.

It wasn't just the end of the season.

It was the end of his time, in Boston, as the Celtics' head coach.

That point became official on Tuesday when the C's released Rivers from his contract to move forward and coach the Los Angeles Clippers, with the Clippers giving the Celtics an unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

Rivers was on his way to Los Angeles for a press conference with the local media, while Ainge held court at the C's Hall of Fame room.

Among the first topics Ainge tackled was the timeline for how Rivers' departure after nine seasons came about.


"Our season ended and there was some uncertainty as to whether Doc would return to the Celtics at that time," Ainge said. "I wasn't aware of it, but you guys made me aware of it. I thought he was certainly coming back, and had every reason to believe that he would come back. But coaching is hard; it's draining. And what people say at the end of a long season, I usually don't take to heart."

The two would gather for a conversation less than a week later.

Still no change in Rivers' decision, or rather lack of a decision, on his return to Boston as the C's head coach for what would have been a 10th NBA season.


"Doc and I had a conversation about his future," Ainge said. "I was curious as to which way he was leaning and why and what was in his head and his mind. He was uncertain then, and wondered what his options may be."


"We sent him a letter saying that we expected him to be our coach and to fulfill his contract, to be our coach for three more years," Ainge said. "That was our intention all along; that's what we hoped he would do."

The two continued to talk for weeks about life, golf, the Celtics ... you name it, and it was in their conversation. That's how it was between these two, a basketball marriage forged nine years ago that has seen its share of ups (2008 NBA title) and downs (franchise-record 18 straight losses) along the journey that has brought us to where we are.

Rivers going his way, while Ainge remains.

"We had a conversation, him and I, as friends and partners the last nine years, a guy that I really trust, we had a conversation that went ... we discussed the possibility of him getting the Clippers job," Ainge recalled. "There were other teams that were interested in hiring Doc that we didn't allow them to talk to Doc, that had inquired. But the Clippers was one that intrigued him a bit. I'm sure their young talent had a lot to do with that."

And so began the on-again, off-again negotiations between the three parties to work out a deal that would eventually end with Rivers as the Clippers new head coach.

"But with the idea," Ainge said, "that if it wasn't going to be a win-win-win situation, that it wasn't going to be good for the Celtics - which is what my job, to do what's good for the Celtics - and if it wasn't good for him (Rivers) and it wasn't good for the Clippers, we just wouldn't do a deal and he would come back and coach. And that was the way it was from that point on, all the way up until today when the deal was finalized."