Doc Rivers Out As Clippers Coach

Getting rid of Doc means the players are out of excuses.

Jim Rome
September 29, 2020 - 10:46 am
Doc Rivers

USA Today


Doc Rivers is out as the Clippers head coach. He stepped down yesterday in what Steve Ballmer referred to as a “mutual decision.”  Sure it wasn’t. Because Doc was just going to quit after one of the most embarrassing choke jobs ever. Sure he wasn’t. Just as Ballmer wasn’t coming for somebody after witnessing one of the biggest choke jobs ever. Sure he wasn’t.    But doc is a beloved figure in the sport and Ballmer did him a solid by saying it was a mutual decision. Even if it wasn’t.

Rivers posted a statement to twitter that read in part: "Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and for all your support in helping make this a winning franchise. When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination, and bring a championship to this organization.

"While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won't be able to see them all through. Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support.”

As you would expect, that is a thoroughly gracious statement from one of the best people in the sport. Or in any sport. And while he’s taking the fall for the way the team choked and underachieved, let’s not forget a couple of things here: Doc Rivers saved this organization. That is a flat out fact.

He saved the Los Angeles Clippers in the Donald Sterling organization. Because when all of that bleep was coming down, he was the one who was stepping up and leading. Not only did he save the organization, he took it to a new level. Because there were plenty of good coaches who been the head coach of the Clippers before him and the team was still a joke.

He held the team together after Sterling and as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were traded. That’s not easy.

Think about this – the Clippers are moving on from a head coach because he didn’t win an NBA title. That’s a sentence that has never been said before, ever

He changed that. There have been countless times, on numerous issues, when things have been hard, Doc Rivers has stepped forward when others look for the exit. 

And now he’s heading out the exit. He knew the expectations for this season and as he said after they lost Game 7 to Denver, "We didn't meet them. That's the bottom line. I'm the coach, and I'll take any blame for it. But we didn't meet our expectations, clearly, because if we had, in my opinion, we'd still be playing."

Is it the right call? If you’re the Clippers, it better be. Someone had to go. That’s a fact. You can’t lose the way they did and just run it back again next year with the exact same group, despite Paul George thinking that this was just year one of a multi-year project.  BY THE WAY, AN ALL TIME BAD TAKE PAUL, AND EVEN WORSE NOW THAN WHEN YOU FIRST SAID IT. 

But is Rivers the right guy to go? There’s no guarantee you’re going to get someone better, but he probably makes sense as the guy to go because they weren’t going to dump Kawhi Leonard and George.

But Kawhi and PG better wear a ton of this. They should not be skating. Kawhi was supposed to be the ultimate closer. A terminator who doesn’t feel pressure and battles no matter what. And he absolutely disappeared in the fourth quarter with the season on the line. Not only did he not play well, he didn’t even look like he wanted to play at all.

And Paul George was shooting balls off the side of the backboard. 

Doc Rivers wasn’t vanishing in the fourth quarter and bricking shots off the side of the backboard. The two stars were. The two stars were completely outclassed, and outplayed by Jamal and the Joker.

If either Kawhi or PG shows up in the fourth quarter of any of those games, Doc Rivers might still have a job right now. But they choked and now Rivers pays the price.

And I know this Clippers team faced challenges. They had players coming and going from the bubble, but so did the Denver Nuggets.

The Clippers had some new players this season. So did the Lakers. Seriously – have you seen the Lakers roster? They had to integrate key new pieces like Anthony Davis and Danny Green, but they also have some characters like Dwight Howard, JR SMITH, and DION WAITERS. And they all seem to get along fine. Better than fine, they’re in the finals, where they are heavy favorites.

And that’s not to say that Rivers was perfect in these playoffs. He wasn’t. And he has the ugly track record of losing three series with a 3-1 lead. He’s not perfect. But neither was Kawhi. Or PG. or Montrez. Or Lou Williams. I could keep going…

It takes a village to choke that badly. When you gag away a 3-1 series lead and three straight double-digit leads, that’s never on one person. That’s a group effort. A collective commitment to choking. And this group was determined to choke. If Kristaps Porzingis was healthy for the Dallas series, there’s a good chance LA doesn’t get out of the first round. That’s how dysfunctional they were.

And the chemistry issues that everyone knew about all year didn’t get resolved and some of that is going to be on Rivers. But it’s also going to be on the players too. For some reason, a collection of grown ass men, alleged professionals couldn’t figure out their differences over the course of a very extended season. Couldn’t figure out how to show up and do their job to the best of their abilities. 

I don’t know if the Clippers will find a better coach than Doc Rivers. But they better.

And the players better come back better from this too. They need to be better leaders. They need to be better in the locker room. They need to be better on the floor. And when the going gets tough, they better not vanish. Because that’s their rep right now.

Getting rid of Doc means the players are out of excuses. This was already on Kawhi, PG, and the fellas. And next year, it really will be. There will be nowhere else to hide. Close won’t be good enough. Better step up, guys. Welcome to the real world of having expectations and needing to meet them. That wasn’t about all their personal struggles and adversity and the bubble life: that’s about a team that choked under the big expectations: major underachievers: and it got their coach fired and a rap that none of them want but pretty much all of them deserve.