Doc Rivers has resigned as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers in what Steve Ballmer, the team’s chairman, describes as a “mutual decision.”
The team had high hopes this year including an anticipated championship run after expectations this season after acquiring two hot commodities last summer: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
However, despite ending the regular season with a 49-23 record, the fourth-best in franchise history, the Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals against the Denver Nuggets. In fact, they surrendered leads of 16, 19 and 12 points, missing the conference finals for a record 50 years.
“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Ballmer said in a statement Monday, Sept. 28. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”
Rivers, who had two years left on his contract, expressed his appreciation to the team’s fans.
“Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and for all your support in helping make this a winning franchise,” Rivers said in a statement posted to Twitter. “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.”
“Thank you to all the players, coaches, and staff for helping us get here. Most importantly, thank you to the fans. We went through a lot, and I am grateful for my time here,” Rivers wrote.
Rivers becomes the only coach in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in three playoff series, having previously done so with the Clippers in the 2015 West semis against the Houston Rockets and with the Orlando Magic in the first round against the Detroit Pistons in 2003.
But this team, as noted earlier, was considered a championship contender from the moment the Clippers signed Leonard in free agency and traded for George.
“We didn’t meet them,” Rivers said of the expectations. “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.”
Rivers took over as Clippers coach in June 2013 and was later promoted to president of basketball operations in conjunction with his coaching duties, before giving up that post in August 2017. In seven seasons at the helm, the Clippers went 356-208, winning 63.1percent of their regular-season games — the fifth-best record in the NBA and the best by any team without a conference finals appearance.
With his departure, the Clippers become the sixth team without a head coach in the NBA, joining Houston, Indiana, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
In addition, Rivers’ departure decreases the number of Black head coaches to four: Lloyd Pierce, Atlanta; J.B. Bickerstaff, Cleveland; Monty Williams, Phoenix; and Dwane Casey, Detroit. Rivers counts as the third Black coach to either step down or be fired this offseason, joining Nate McMillan in Indiana and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans.