Doc Rivers is leaving Boston for Los Angeles in the National Basketball Association’s first swap of a coach for compensation since 2007.
The Celtics agreed to release Rivers from the final three years of his contract in exchange for a 2015 unprotected first-round draft pick from the Clippers. He’ll sign a three-year, $21 million deal with the Clippers, ESPN said, citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify. The Clippers didn’t disclose contract terms on their website yesterday.
“Sometimes you’ve got to let your good people go to pursue what they need to pursue to make themselves happy,” Celtics President Rich Gotham said. “While it’s tough to see Doc go, I think we feel good about what he did here. We will be lucky to find as good a coach as Doc was.”
The transaction requires league approval and Rivers’s move already has drawn scrutiny. ESPN said last week that the Clippers and Celtics were working on a second trade that would send 37-year-old forward Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles. NBA Commissioner David Stern said such parallel deals would violate league rules.
Getting Rivers as coach may be a key to the Clippers retaining Chris Paul, their All-Star guard who becomes a free agent on July 1. Yahoo Sports, citing unidentified people, said Paul had urged management to get Rivers as the successor to the fired Vinny del Negro.
Rivers, 51, coached the Celtics for the past nine seasons, guiding the team to seven playoff appearances and the 2008 championship.
“We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers coaching,” said Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations. “He has a long history of great success with us in the last nine years, and we wish him the best in Los Angeles.”
The last time an active NBA coach went to another franchise was in 2007, when the Miami Heat received a second-round draft pick for letting Stan Van Gundy join the Orlando Magic.
Rivers succeeds Del Negro, who was let go by the Clippers last month after leading the team to 56 wins and a division title for the first time in its 42-year history.
Rivers has a 587-473 record over 14 seasons as an NBA coach with the Celtics and Orlando Magic. His 416 wins in Boston rank as the third most in franchise history behind Red Auerbach (795) and Tommy Heinsohn (427).
Rivers won the championship in his fourth season in Boston with a team led by Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and returned to the NBA Finals two years later. The Celtics had their run of five straight division titles end last season and they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Knicks, four games to two.
Pierce is 35 and the rebuilding Celtics have the option to buy out his contract for $5 million by June 30. He is under contract for $15.3 million next season and is coming off a campaign in which he averaged the fewest minutes per game of his 15-year NBA career, all in Boston.
The Celtics have been seeking to trade Garnett, who’s set to make $23.5 million over the next two years, ESPN said. Garnett last season averaged his second-fewest points and rebounds since his rookie year in 1995-96.
While trading a coach is unusual, it’s not the oddest deal involving these two franchises. They were swapped for each other in 1978, when the Clippers were based in Buffalo, New York, and nicknamed the Braves. After the trade, the club was moved to San Diego and became the Clippers, then transferred to Los Angeles in 1984.