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Doc Rivers: Winning titles is ‘only reason I’m coaching’

06.26.13 at 3:39 pm ET
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Doc Rivers has Clippers fever!

Doc Rivers has Clippers fever!

As the Clippers introduced new vice president of basketball operations and coach Doc Rivers, he sat stone-faced for most of the press conference, offering no objection to former Celtics colleague Danny Ainge‘s version of events the past two weeks.

“Quite honestly,” said Rivers from L.A., “at this point in my life, that’s the only reason I’m coaching — is to try and win titles.”

After watching him coach in Boston for nine seasons, it was strange hearing Rivers using “we” and “us” when referencing the Clippers, but clearly he’s moved on from a team he no longer believed to be a contender. As C’s owner Wyc Grousbeck said Wednesday morning, “I don’t think he wanted to rebuild with us; I think he wanted to make his win-loss record better.”

Over the past 24 hours, Ainge and Grousbeck both stated their desire for Rivers to fulfill the three years remaining on his coaching contract in Boston, and Rivers never actually disputed their claims, although he deflected a bit.

“After the year, I had no plans of leaving and didn’t give it a lot of thought, honestly,” said Rivers. “After every year — and Danny knows me as well as anyone — I put everything I can into a season, and then, if you ask me immediately after the season, I’m not coming back. I’m going home. I’m just burnt out. I’m tired.

“This lasted a little longer, and so when Danny and I talked, I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and we just basically sat around as a team and talked about what’s the best way at that time to improve the Celtics, and we went into talking about different scenarios. A couple other teams came up, and Danny talked about assets — me and Kevin Garnett at the time — and then the name Clippers came up, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’ and you’d be amazed how — from that point on — I really kind of stepped back. Danny kind of did the talking and would report back to me. I didn’t talk to you or anybody, so I was kind of left out. It was really interesting.

“One thing I would like to make clear: There were never any threats. ‘If you don’t get me here, I’m not doing this.’ ‘I’m not coming back.’ There was never any of that. It was just kind of a negotiation with Danny and [Clippers president] Andy Roeser, and if it all worked out, then I would consider it. That’s basically where it went to, and the closer we got to this thing actually happening is the more I got interested in it.”

Still, both Rivers and Ainge believed they would continue working together until early this week.

“On Sunday, Danny and I were talking about our roster, and then on Sunday night this deal was agreed upon, so that’s how volatile this whole thing was and has been,” said Rivers. “I always think teams find their path, and I think this just took a long, winding path, but it found its way, and so I’m happy about that.

“I thought it was over, so it was easy for me to just tell Danny, ‘Let’s just start with the rebuild.’”

Instead, Rivers found himself in Los Angeles sans jacket and tie — but with a Clippers jersey.

“This was a strange ordeal over the last couple weeks,” added Rivers. “As you can see by my attire, I don’t have any suits, because they’re all in Boston right now. I flew in from Orlando. That’s where I stay in the offseason, and I basically wear shorts and T-shirts all summer. This is a new challenge for me.”

That challenge includes a fancy new title that gives him (some) control over personnel decisions.

“It is nice having more input, and that’s something every coach wants, obviously,” said Rivers, who Ainge affirmed never asked for a title change in Boston, “and I’ve been afforded the trust and the opportunity to do that.”

In classic Clippers fashion, Roeser didn’t exactly relinquish much of his power in front of the cameras.

“I think titles don’t mean that much,” said the Clippers president. “I think what matters is we are all going to sit down together and work on this, and we’re going to be making this team better. We have a lot of work to do, but Doc has a lot of experience as a player, as a coach. He’s been to the Finals, he’s won championships, and he’s going to have input to our roster and how we go about it. Quite frankly, I don’t think he wants to be bothered or should be bothered with a lot of detail work and scouting, so I think his focus should be on coaching.”

Regardless, the Clippers got their man, giving up an unprotected 2015 first-round pick to get him.

“This is truly one of the biggest moments in Clipper history,” added VP Gary Sacks. “I’m definitely excited to be here to introduce Doc Rivers. We feel he’s the best coach in the NBA and a perfect fit for this organization. Doc is a championship coach who brings a unique basketball mind to our team and to our organization, and I think that he has not only the respect of everyone in our organization but all of our players and staff.”

Well, until the Clippers are no longer a contender, at least.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
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