While most NBA fans have been focused on the recently-concluded championship series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, those of us in Boston have been keeping a close eye a different NBA story (to the extent we’re not focused entirely on the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run): What will become the fate of beloved coach Doc Rivers, who helped bring a 17th championship to Boston after 22 long years? A press conference with Rivers and president of basketball relations Danny Ainge scheduled for this afternoon was abruptly cancelled and postponed until Monday.
Rivers has indicated his desire to leave the team, and the Celtics seem willing to oblige. There is one major issue getting in the way, however, and that is the fact that Rivers’ contract with the Celtics (which has three years and $21 million remaining) contains a non-compete clause that prohibits him from coaching for another team without the Celtics’ consent. This is different, and far more restrictive, than most NBA coaches’ contracts, which permit teams to negotiate compensation for coaches to switch teams before their contracts expire. The non-compete clause in Rivers’ contract also gives the Celtics far more leverage, and the ability to demand substantial compensation from any team who wishes to employ Rivers. Hence the on-again-off-again talks between the Celtics and the Clippers, in which the Celtics have allegedly demanded star players and the Clippers don’t seem inclined to part with any decent players or draft picks (although recent reports indicate that the talks are, perhaps, on again).
Of course, no team wants a disgruntled coach on its sideline, so there is little doubt that a deal will get done. Celtics fans can only hope that, unlike former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein (who the team allowed to leave for the Chicago Cubs in exchange for an injured relief pitcher and the promise of a “player to be named later”), the Celtics hold out for real compensation so that they can begin the process of rebuilding.