AP Sports Writer
---- — LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers is the Los Angeles Clippers’ new coach and senior vice president of basketball operations.
The Clippers finalized the championship-winning coach’s move from the Boston Celtics yesterday after weeks of negotiations and reversals. Rivers also will have a prominent role in the Clippers’ front office with his additional title.
Boston will get a future first-round pick from the Clippers for Rivers, who went 416-305 and won the 2008 NBA title during nine seasons with the Celtics.
With Boston likely to spend the next few years rebuilding its aging roster, Rivers seized the chance to take over one of the league’s most exciting young teams. The Clippers are coming off the best regular season in franchise history with a roster built around Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, an impending free agent.
The Clippers will introduce Rivers at a news conference today.
Rivers is likely to be the NBA’s highest-paid coach in Los Angeles, with his new deal expected to be similar to the three years and $21 million that remained on his contract with the Celtics.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling will expect impressive results for such an investment, but his long-suffering franchise has never been in better shape on the court — providing Los Angeles re-signs Paul, who is eligible for a five-year contract worth nearly $108 million in July. Paul is widely expected to stick with the Clippers, and Rivers’ arrival might cinch a deal.
The 51-year-old Rivers replaces Vinny Del Negro, who wasn’t re-signed after the Clippers won a franchise-record 56 games and their first Pacific Division title last season. Los Angeles’ first-round playoff loss to Memphis likely cost Del Negro, who went 128-102 over three years and became the only Clippers coach to post consecutive winning seasons in 35 years.
Rivers played one season for the Clippers in 1991-92 during his 13-year NBA career, and they made the playoffs that season for the first time since the former Buffalo Braves moved to the West Coast in 1978. Los Angeles has made only five playoff appearances and won just two rounds since that season.
But the Clippers are coming off the best two-season stretch in club history, and Rivers’ arrival further alters the franchise’s decades-long reputation.
Rivers will be an intriguing match with the high-flying Clippers and their Lob City acrobatics, but his coaching pedigree and leadership skills will provide him with immediate credibility in his new locker room.
Rivers’ Boston teams played at a more deliberate pace than last season’s Clippers often used last season, but the veteran coach is likely to adapt his offensive plans to fit the Clippers’ talent. Rivers’ impact on Los Angeles could be felt most on defense, where the Clippers often struggled last season despite their lofty record.
After his playing career ended in 1996, Rivers went into broadcasting before serving as the Orlando Magic’s head coach for just over four seasons from 1999-2003, going 171-168 and winning an NBA coach of the year award. He is one of four active NBA coaches who have won a championship.