Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made one thing perfectly clear: Doc Rivers did not quit on the Celtics.
“He felt like it was time for a change. He felt like we all needed a change. That was his justification of him going to the Clippers,” Ainge said at a news conference Tuesday. “. . . It’s a place he chose to go and a place he wants to be.”
Ainge said it wasn’t until Monday that he came to believe Rivers would be going to Los Angeles. Ainge also said he has yet to contact other coaching candidates . . . though he did shoot down one prominent rumor -- that he would coach the Celtics.
“I’m not coaching. I’ve tried that gig. I’m done with that,” Ainge said.
As for the on-again off-again negotiations with the Clippers, Ainge said, “If it wasn’t going to be a win-win-win situation, we wouldn’t do a deal and he would come back and coach. That was the way it was from that point on until today when the deal was finalized.”
Ainge said the Celtics were hoping Rivers “would become the next Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan or Red Auerbach.”
“I had planned on Doc being our coach all along,” Ainge said. “We really were never close to a deal with the Clippers” until Monday.
In exchange for Rivers, the Celtics will receive an unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft. The teams reportedly had discussed a deal in which Boston would send forward Kevin Garnett to L.A. along with Rivers, but Ainge said the league mandated that no deal for Garnett would be approved for a full year.
Ainge also said he was ready to welcome Rivers back to coach the Celtics, and that he did not allow any other teams to contact Rivers.
Rivers went 416-305 (.576) in his nine seasons with the Celtics, including six division titles, two Eastern Conference championships and an NBA championship in 2008.
“We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers in 2008,” Ainge said. “We wish him the best in Los Angeles.”