Originally Published: December 11, 2013

1. Doc Rivers Embraced After Departure Grates

By Brian Robb | TrueHoop Network

BOSTON -- For the opening 10 seconds of his first postgame news conference back at Boston's TD Garden, Doc Rivers sat in silence. His new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, had just defeated the Boston Celtics, 96-88. However, as Rivers fought back tears when asked about his standing ovation from the Garden faithful, that result was the last thing on his mind.

Finally, he was able to compose himself and answer the question.

"It was just a really nice day."

Doc Rivers
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The joyous reunion felt between Rivers and the Celtics on Wednesday night seemed to be a long shot merely six months ago. Rivers left Boston on less-than-cordial terms, departing an aging roster that was on the verge of a rebuild for the greener pastures of a contender and a greater degree of front-office control in Los Angeles.

Boston received a 2015 first-round pick as compensation for allowing Rivers out of the remaining three years of his contract, but the ordeal took its toll on both sides.

Boston's president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, placed Doc's exit on his former head coach, declaring it was ultimately Rivers' decision to leave. Doc disagreed with that version of events, stating publicly he felt Boston had been on board with the move. As both sides played the blame game for the majority of the summer, an awkward cloud hung over the entire situation.

Rivers changed his tune this week. In a refreshing change of pace, he finally took responsibility for his departure.

"I didn't do anything wrong. I decided to leave at some point. It should be all good. I had a good, wonderful time here. I have nothing but good things to say," Rivers said before Wednesday's game.

It took six months, but time and perspective allowed Rivers to say the words most Boston fans, and Ainge, wanted to hear. He owned up to leaving. And that acknowledgment did wonders for the healing process between Rivers and the Celtics' fan base, as Boston's former head coach was greeted with a tribute and standing ovation by the TD Garden crowd.

"[The ovation] didn't surprise me because that's just the way -- you've got to live here to understand it -- that's just the way they are," Rivers said. "It's an amazing fan base. It really is. And I just want everything to go well for them."

As both sides have moved on, it's become clear that Rivers and the Celtics have both received what they wanted all along.

With Rajon Rondo sidelined with an ACL tear, Rivers knew that Ainge was looking to hit the reset button, and that was not a challenge he wanted to tackle again. When an opportunity to coach a contender arose, Rivers took advantage of the opportunity.

"I like our team. I'm enjoying it. I think doing the other stuff, besides just basketball, has been fun, probably a little more work than I anticipated. But it's been good," Rivers said.

The extra responsibility Rivers has been given is the title of vice president of basketball operations with the Clippers. The new role has enabled him to bring in his preferred choice of veterans to the roster, like newly signed veteran Stephen Jackson.

"It's nice," Rivers admitted. "It's not like I didn't have [a voice] here [in Boston]. I just wasn't the voice. I couldn't do what I wanted to do anytime I wanted to do it."

Meanwhile, based on the start of the 2013-14 season, there's little reason for Boston fans to harbor any ill will toward the coach who walked out on them.

Beyond receiving ample compensation for Doc's rights, a feat rarely completed in the NBA, the future couldn't look much brighter in Beantown.

To replace Rivers, Ainge landed Brad Stevens, a promising head coach who is elevating the play of Boston's young roster. That reality isn't loss on Rivers.

"I think Brad is doing a terrific job," Rivers said. "They started off slow. They've been playing good basketball. I think what he's done a great job of is letting people know that this is not a rebuild year. There may be rebuilding going on, but he has his team competing every night. I think they're one of the teams that, they compete every night and they can beat everybody."

By moving on from Rivers over the summer, Ainge was able to put in place one of the most important building blocks in the future of the franchise: a smart, capable head coach who NBA players will play hard for.

With Stevens at the helm and an assortment of future draft picks from the Clippers and Brooklyn Nets, Ainge is well-positioned to turn around this Celtics team in a hurry.

With any kind of bitterness set aside by both sides, only appreciation remains for what once was.

"The best decision I ever made was 10 years ago," Rivers explained, "When I decided to come [coach Boston]. That was the best decision I ever made."

Brian Robb's work appears regularly on Celtics Hub, part of the TrueHoop Network.

Dimes past: November 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | December 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 8 | 9 | 10

Around The Association


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.