Doc Rivers' relationship with Danny Ainge was often characterized as a partnership. The Boston Celtics' head coach and president of basketball operations would work together -- on personnel moves and hires and the like -- but Ainge retained final say.
Now with Rivers serving as both the chef and the guy that buys the groceries for the Los Angeles Clippers, he dismisses the idea that there is any discernable difference between his old and new arrangements. Except for the most important part.
"There really is no actual difference in the two roles except when you do disagree," said Rivers, who is in his second season as Clippers head coach and president of basketball ops. "And Danny and I would disagree at times. At times he would say, 'I need to do this, can you go with me?' Or, 'You know what? I'll go with you.' And it's almost the same.
"[Clippers executives] Kevin Eastman, Dave Wohl and Gary Sacks -- it's no different. They'll come in and say they like a deal, and I'll say 'I don't like it.' They'll sit there and say they really like it and, 'You should do it.' One day, I'll go with you and one day I'll disagree. The only difference now is if I really disagree, I get my way."
Rivers might have said this with a wink and he'll continue to maintain there's no substantive difference, but he fully understands that ultimate authority is an enormous privilege -- and he's not going to apologize for that. It's no big deal but, yeah, since you asked, I have veto power.
The job of NBA general manager has advanced mightily over the past decade. As the salary cap has evolved from a polite restraint to a gnarly beast, taming it has become an essential task for every front office. In many respects, ignoring this reality of long-range planning might have as much to do with the state of the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks as anything else. Players still win and lose basketball games, but the guys in control of the machinery that assembles those players have never been more important.
It's in this environment in July 2013 that the Clippers acquired Rivers from the Celtics in exchange for a protected 2015 first-round draft pick and the three years and $21 million that remained of Rivers' contract. Though he absorbed a fair amount of criticism for his disinterest in coaching during a rebuilding process in Boston, Rivers was installed not only as head coach, but as senior vice president of basketball operations. Team president Andy Roeser, who had counseled Donald Sterling for 30 years, would still be the primary conduit to ownership, but Rivers would effectively own the general manager title, and the final say.