- The Los Angeles Clippers and coach Doc Rivers parted ways last Monday after six seasons.
- Team owner Steve Ballmer consulted key personnel including stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George before letting Rivers go.
- Tyronn Lue is the betting favorite to replace Rivers.
Many were stunned and some still are shocked about Doc Rivers’ departure from the Clippers.
Rivers was one of the most respected locker room leaders and he has been instrumental in transforming the Clippers from second class citizens of the Staples Center to a perennial playoff team. Sure, the Clippers’ ouster from the 2020 playoffs was just as stunning but Steve Ballmer’s decision to make a change still felt too drastic.
The decision was said to be mutual but as we all know, that has always been the spiel to prevent further intrigue. In the case of the Clippers, the party that initiated the split was Ballmer and he did so by consulting several people, including key players.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 29, 2020
Ballmer Consulted Kawhi and Paul George
According to a report from ESPN, Clippers team owner Steve Ballmer consulted stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George before making the decision to let Rivers go. According to the report nothing that the players told him changed his mind about parting ways with their head coach. Ultimately, the decision to separate from Rivers was Ballmer’s decision.
We can only speculate on what Leonard or George said about Doc. But for Ballmer, the stakes are much higher and entering the next season with a clean slate was probably the right move. For a team that came up short of lofty expectations, there had to be a scapegoat and it couldn’t be the two players whom they mortgaged their future for.
Ballmer gave up a lot to facilitate the Paul George trade. They wanted Leonard so badly that when he asked for a superstar teammate to play with, the Clippers gave up tons of draft picks to make it happen. As it stands, the Clippers’ next first round pick will be in 2027 and that class is still in sixth grade. Ballmer also forked out $400M to buy the Forum so that the Clippers will have their own home in 2024.
Could Not Get Clippers Over The Hump
Despite taking the blame for the Clippers’ debacle, very few in the organization suspected that the hammer would fall on Rivers. He was such a huge figure in the Clippers organization. When he arrived six years ago, the franchise didn’t have any credibility. Not only were the Clippers the doormat of the league, they were embroiled in an ownership scandal with Donald Sterling.
Rivers helped the franchise get through all those and then gave the Clippers the consistency they never had. He gave them the respect that they were so desperately looking for. Rivers was a voice that players around the league respected. He wasn’t just a coach but a leader as well.
But while he led the team easily to the playoffs each year, Rivers could not take the Clippers past the second round of the playoffs. When he couldn’t do it with Lob City, the Clippers traded Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. Then they got Leonard and George. They were one win away from ending that drought but as he did twice before in his coaching career, Rivers blew a 3-1 lead and the Clippers are back at square one
Favorites To Replace Doc
Tyronn Lue is the sportsbooks’ odds on favorite to replace Rivers. At +125, Lue has the edge over the other potential candidates. He was an assistant for the Clippers this season and is already familiar with their players. Lue also has NBA head coaching experience as he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2016-18, helping the Cavs win the title in 2016.
After Lue, there is a murderer’s row of candidates listed at SportsBetting.ag. Jeff Van Gundy is second at +450 and he is followed by Chauncey Billups at +500. Even former Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson makes the list at +600. Mike D’Antoni (+700), Mark Jackson (+750), Brett Brown (+800), and Sam Cassell (+900) round out the Top 8.
There is a belief that the Clippers will interview as many top names as possible but Lue has the inside track. The 43-year old former Lakers guard is also one of the top favorites to land the other coaching vacancies in the league. So instead of watching him leave and succeed elsewhere, Steve Ballmer might just want to hand him over the keys to his team. But then again, Ballmer is hard to read as an owner so we’ll never know until he makes that announcement.