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What Doc Rivers’ return means to Celtics

It’s been two weeks since Celtics coach Doc Rivers [1] delivered his cryptic press conference [2] after the Game 6 loss to the Knicks, when he hinted at the possibility of foregoing the remaining three years on his contract.

Meanwhile, Stephen A. Smith speculated Rivers could join Paul Pierce [3] and Kevin Garnett [4] in a trade to the Clippers [5] — a notion C’s president Danny Ainge dismissed [6],¬†assuring Celtics nation: “I think Doc will be coaching the Boston Celtics [7].”

On Thursday, it appears we can remove the “I think” from that statement. Rivers will be coaching the Boston Celtics, Ainge told The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn [8].

So, what does that mean for the 2013-14 edition?

For starters, the Celtics will have one of the game’s great coaches on their bench. Rivers is on USA Basketball’s short list for good reason. If Seattle were granted a franchise tomorrow and had its pick of the litter, Rivers, former assistant Tom Thibodeau [9] and Gregg Popovich [10] would likely be the top three choices to lead a team into the future.

Of course, the future is where things get complicated. Rivers suggested that he, Pierce and KG would discuss their plans together soon after the season, but it’s unclear if that meeting has taken place. At the very least, the coach’s return is a sign that both veterans could also be back, since the opposite would have been true had Rivers left.

His return must also be welcome news to Rajon Rondo [11]. Although the two have had their differences since Rondo entered the league in 2006, their minds have essentially melded over the years, and Doc’s departure only would have further complicated his All-Star point guard’s recovering from ACL surgery.

Rivers also commands the respect of high-profile guys like Jason Terry [12], who came to the Celtics in part because of the coach. “When Doc calls, you listen,” Terry said upon arriving in Boston. The guy takes former players out to dinner when they come to Boston and gives them cookies before they leave town (except Ray Allen [13], probably). That’s important to note as the C’s attempt to lure name free agents for bargain prices this summer.

Obviously, Rivers isn’t without flaws, but they’ll take a coach whose Achilles heel is favoring veterans (which made the Jordan Crawford over Courtney Lee [14] move against the Knicks so strange). It’ll also be on him to reconstruct an offense that allows Rondo, Jeff Green [15] and others who thrived in the point guard’s absence to coexist.

And it’s not as though Doc hasn’t molded talent, which will be his primary responsibility should Pierce and Garnett not return. Rondo, Tony Allen [16], Avery Bradley [17], Glen Davis [18], Al Jefferson [19], Kendrick Perkins [20], Leon Powe [21] and Delonte West [22] all developed under Doc’s guidance, and Jared Sullinger seems a likely candidate to join that list.

When discussing Bill Belichick [23], people always ask: Name a guy who’s gotten markedly better after leaving? The same could be said of Rivers, which is why the first step of this Celtics offseason is a positive one.