After a disappointing playoff run for the Los Angeles Clippers, Doc Rivers is no longer the head coach of the team, he said Monday.
“Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and all your support in helping making this a winning franchise,” Rivers said in a statement posted on 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.”
A statement from the team referred to parting with Rivers as “a mutual decision.” Steve Ballmer, the Clippers’ owner, said he was “immeasurably grateful” to Rivers.
“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Ballmer said. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”
The Clippers, who have never made it to the conference finals in the playoffs, entered the season with arguably their best roster ever, stretching back to the 1970-71 season when they were known as the Buffalo Braves. Last summer, they acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, giving the team a fearsome duo to go toe-to-toe with the other starry Los Angeles pair, LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Lakers.
But the Clippers seemed to have difficulty gelling all season. Even so, they were the second seed in the Western Conference and were on the doorstep of the conference finals, up 3-1 on the Denver Nuggets. But for the second consecutive series, the Nuggets reeled off three straight wins to advance to the next round, shocking the Clippers.
Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013, five years after winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. In his first year, Rivers led the Clippers to 57 wins and a first-round playoff win. This would be his most successful season.
The next year, Rivers was promoted to president of basketball operations — giving him the rare authority over personnel decisions and on-court play. But in 2017, Rivers lost the front office job after the Clippers continued to falter in the playoffs, even with the All-Stars Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan in their primes.
Rivers has been an N.B.A. coach for two decades and compiled a regular-season record of 943-681. In 2000, his first year as coach, he won the Coach of the Year Award with the Orlando Magic. With the Clippers, Rivers went 356-208, a .631 winning percentage. He led the franchise to its best stretch in its history: six playoff trips in seven seasons, and three postseason series wins. But Rivers also has a dubious distinction: He is the only N.B.A. coach to ever lose three seven-game series after leading, 3-1.
He cemented a reputation as a players’ coach after the 2008 championship with Boston, when he melded three All-Stars — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen — who hadn’t found success leading their own teams separately. He also won plaudits for guiding the Clippers after Donald Sterling, the former team owner, was recorded making racist statements and was forced to sell the team to Ballmer. Rivers also played point guard in the N.B.A. from 1983 to 1996 and made an All-Star appearance in the 1987-88 season.
The Clippers job will be highly sought after. It is likely that the candidates will include current team assistants Tyronn Lue and Sam Cassell. Lue won a championship as coach of the James-led Cavaliers in 2016. Cassell played for the Clippers for almost three seasons starting in 2005, and has been an N.B.A. assistant for more than a decade. Just this month, Cassell received a vote of confidence from Rivers himself.
“Sam Cassell should be a head coach, period,” Rivers said.
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