With the Los Angeles Clippers closing in on a deal to hire Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, fans in the Boston area expressed surprise, disappointment and some anger Sunday night, along with resignation about the seeming inevitable.
On the Fish Pier at the Boston waterfront, the staff was shutting down for the day at No Name Restaurant, which is to fresh fried clams what Ft. Knox is to gold.
“It’s sad to see Doc Rivers go,” manager Jimmy Klidaras told The Times. “We’ll miss him a lot. And they need a good coach.”
Klidaras had recognized Rivers on the street a couple of times: “He’s a gentleman. He’s a down-to-earth guy. He talks to you. Whatever he chooses to do, I’ll respect him.”
Boston, always a hot sports town, was literally steaming over the weekend, with temperatures reaching near 90 degrees accompanied by sticky humidity. And the lead sports story was actually a news story. A pack of reporters maintained a vigil outside the upscale North Attleborough home of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as investigators probed the death of an acquaintance whose bullet-riddled body was found nearby.
In a similar true-crime vein, the trial of accused mobster Whitey Bulger resumes Monday. In other local sports news, the Red Sox are licking their wounds from a tough weekend series against Detroit. And those Bruins will try to stay alive in the Stanley Cup finals as the team vies to win hockey’s top crown.
But the lead sports story on the Boston Globe website Sunday night was titled “So Long, Doc.”
Comcast SportsNet brought on Globe columnist Bob Ryan, who was clearly troubled. Ryan noted that when Rivers signed his most recent Celtics contract, he seemed to understand that the job would eventually include rebuilding an aging team.
Rivers, it seemed, had “fidelity to the idea of being a Celtic,” Ryan told the local television audience. But “something changed.”
“It doesn’t make him look good. The timing isn’t good,” said Ryan, who also offered a prediction: “I think when he returns next year as the Clippers coach, it will be a mixed reception.”
A mixed reception would be an upgrade from what was expressed by the cook/manager at Bill and Bob’s Famous Roast Beef in Revere, north of downtown Boston.
“Get out of here,” the man said, as if to Rivers, as he piled rare roast beef on an onion roll with more vigor than usual. “They give him $21 million for three years and he doesn’t want to stay.”
He was referring to the time and compensation remaining on Rivers’ contract. The cook declined to give his name because he was speaking without the restaurant owner's permission.
“We don’t care anymore for basketball,” he added, speaking for his crew. “We follow hockey. We like the Bruins.”
The server was more measured in his comments to The Times.
“He was a good coach,” said the much younger man, who, taking a cue from his boss, also declined to give his name. “He won a championship, but it’s the players, not the coach.” The youth cited the just-crowned Miami Heat as evidence. “Miami doesn’t have a great coach. They have players.”
Sam Forrest, 16, of Lynnfield said letting Rivers go “is probably not the best idea.”
He also didn’t like the much-rumored companion transaction, which would involve the Celtics trading perennial but aging all-star Kevin Garnett for Clipper center DeAndre Jordan. In exchange for releasing Rivers from his contract, the Celtics are widely expected to receive a future first-round Clippers draft pick.
“I’d be disappointed,” Sam said of losing Garnett. “K.G. is one of the best players.”
“He’s past his prime,” countered his friend Max Robert, a Garnett fan, but added, “I’d rather have DeAndre.”
“We’ve become spoiled by sports success,” weighed in Sam’s father, Gordon, who had taken the boys out for a sandwich.
He added: “Boston fans — we tend to cling to our aging sports figures. We remember the fact that Rivers brought us a championship a few years ago. Loyalties run deep to the point that it’s somewhat illogical. The Celtics came up short last year and this year. They’re not going to win the championship as currently configured. A lot of people don’t think that changing the coach necessarily is the right answer, but it’s a place to start.”
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