Echoing the sentiments offered by president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck stressed Wednesday that Doc Rivers' decision to join the Los Angeles Clippers started with the coach, which left the team disappointed in his departure, but energized for the next chapter.
Appearing on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM), Grousbeck raved about Rivers' nine-year tenure, but admitted he had hoped to see the coach finish the three years remaining on his contract.
"Nine years is a long time, no question, but 12 years is longer," said Grousbeck. "And so we were planning for the long-term with Doc, because we think he’s one of those foundational guys. It was a good run, a couple of Finals appearances, but [his departure] was not our idea."
Later Grousbeck added, "I think Doc wanted to coach the Clippers' roster and have a better chance near-term of a ring. I don’t think he wanted to rebuild with us. I think he wanted to make his win-loss record better. That’s what it is with coaches. They are talent; they are not management. They are basically players who have retired, and certainly in Doc’s case, he’s a player who retired and became a coach, and he’s very conscious of the right here and now, whereas Danny and [ownership] are looking to the future, and that’s our job."
Grousbeck said he did not attempt to talk Rivers out of his desire to coach in Los Angeles and admitted he had the right to pursue other opportunities after nine years in Boston, and the fact that the Celtics got a 2015 unprotected first-round pick as compensation eased his departure slightly.
"I talked to Doc the other day and I said, 'We’re all square, you’ve given us your heart and soul for nine years, we’ve given you a lot of support; I feel great about it. And I took some of your money on the golf course, buddy, so we’re all good,'" said Grousbeck. "I don’t feel he owes us more, I don’t feel he owes us the next three years. I think he’s entitled to take a look at the next three years, and he left in a way, and on terms that got us some benefit back. So I don’t feel misused or that we’re not even. I think we’re even. I just would have been willing to go forward with Doc, and now that we’re not, it’s energized Danny, he’s got a list of coaching candidates, which we’re not going to discuss today, but he’s got a list of guys and hes got a new spring in his step, and it’s energized Danny to rebuild, which is what’s necessary."
Pressed on that potential rebuild and the futures of veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Grousbeck said the team faces tough decisions over the next three weeks with the draft, a coaching search, and free agency all looming.
"I’m not going to get into individual players, a lot of decisions will be made today and tomorrow, and between now and July 10; It’s the busiest time of the year every year," said Grousbeck. "We have kept the core together since mid-07 when we put the core together. And that's been a really nice run. The times I remember before 08, are the tougher times. And actually building these things is why we are here, we’re not just here to enjoy the years when everything goes right. When you own a team, what you’re asking to do is to have the right to build it, and be proud of it when it goes well. We’ve got some building to do, and it’s going to start now.That doesn’t mean everybody’s gone, it means we’re looking at what we have, and looking hard at it, and figuring out who’s going to coach the team and who’s going to be playing for the team. This is actually the fun part, and if you look at Danny and hear Danny, he’s pretty fired up about it. We got a good thing going here, and we’re going to keep it going."
Asked about Rajon Rondo, Grousbeck downplayed any rumblings about a strained relationship with Rivers, but said simply of the player's future, "We believe Rondo is part of the Celtics and a big asset for us."
Grousbeck didn't shy away from the suggestion that the 2013-14 season could be a transition year and said the team is making no promises about its ability to remain competitive, but Grousbeck hopes that, with Ainge at the helm, the team can accelerate through the rebuilding phase.
As for the next coach of the team, Grousbeck wouldn't tip the team's hand of potential candidates, but said they were looking for a pure leader.
"We want a coach that can take this team forward," said Grousbeck. "I’ve been coached in the past, I was a college athlete, many many years ago... so I know what it means, in my mind, to have a winning coach. And I’ve spent time with some of the other coaches in town here, the other teams, and you know it when you see it. Presidential doesn’t have anything to do with it, it doesn’t have to do with age, it doesn't have to do with particular background, it has to do with leadership and having guys that want to follow you into hell and back. That’s what the essence of what a coach is and that’s the essence of what Doc brought. It’s not about Xs and Os, although those are good. It’s about him saying,’Guys, here we go. We’re doing this together. I’m working as hard as you. And we’re going to do this thing together. That’s leadership.’"
Click HERE to listen to the full interview.