Doc Rivers may have the best job in basketball. He lives in sunny California and was gifted a coach’s dream in acquiring a newly-minted NBA champion in Kawhi Leonard and one of the best small forward’s in the game in Paul George.
But after learning of the trials and tribulations Rivers underwent during his first week on the job as Clippers head coach back in 2013, it’s amazing he’s still at the helm of this Clippers 2.0 team.
In an interview with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times, Rivers reveals he nearly quit after just six days on the job when then-team owner Donald Sterling attempted to nix a three-team deal that brought JJ Redick to Los Angeles.
“I was on the job for six days and I quit,” Rivers said. “The deal went through and everyone said it was a great deal. I flew back home to Orlando for a couple of days and I got a call from [former Clippers president] Andy Roeser saying Donald Sterling decided he didn’t want to do the deal. I said, ‘What do you mean? The deal is already done. JJ is a free agent. He backed out of a deal to sign with us. If we don’t do this deal we’ll never get another free agent. It’s our word.’”
Redick had been acquired from the Bucks in a sign-and-trade after agreeing to a four-year, $27-million deal with the Clippers and had turned down comparable offers that had since expired.
Mind you, at the time, Rivers was not only head coach but also the vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers, so Sterling trying to big time him was a dick move.
“I got on the phone with Donald and he was telling me how great his word was,” Rivers said. … “I was in the airport parking lot screaming, ‘No, no, no, no! You’re not going to do this! This is my reputation!’ He just went on and on about his reputation and how great it was.
“Finally at the end of it I said, ‘If you don’t do the trade, I quit.’ He said, ‘You can’t quit, you signed a five-year deal, I’ll make sure you don’t coach anywhere!’ I said, ‘I’m fine with that. I’ll find a job. I’ll do something, but I’m not going to do this. I gave the guy my word. I shook his hand.”
Doc then claims that the next morning, Roeser told Rivers the deal was done.
The interview transitioned from Rivers bashing the team’s former owner to praising its new one. Here is a funny excerpt involving Kawhi.
Ballmer, Rivers said, has “been phenomenal to work with. He’s got more energy than anybody needs. After Kawhi signed, we had this meeting and Ballmer walks in punching the air and making all these sounds and Kawhi, who doesn’t say much, leans over and says, ‘That man has too much energy.’”
You don’t say.
[h/t The Los Angeles Times]