- Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN Staff Writer
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By most objective measures, Doc Rivers is among the best basketball coaches in the world. He's one of only four active NBA coaches who has won a championship. Just over a year ago, a survey of NBA players named Rivers the coach they'd most like to suit up for, and there’s reportedly at least one Hall of Famer in Boston who would rather retire than play for another NBA coach.
Rivers has devoted himself to basketball his entire life. He played for four NBA teams and coached two others. He’s a 51-year-old man who has raised four children, and much of that parenting has been performed from 1,000 miles away. Rivers has spoken about this challenge, not as an expression of self-pity, but as a window into his feelings about some of the tougher compromises we make in life.
After nine seasons with the Boston Celtics and two years into a five-year contract, Rivers decided that his work life needed a change. Fortunately for him, his desire to leave his current job in Boston for a new one in Los Angeles coincided with the interest of several other parties. This doesn’t happen very often, but a combination of circumstance and goodwill created a confluence of mutual benefits for just about everyone involved in the transaction.
The Celtics will save in the neighborhood of $15 million over the next three seasons by releasing Rivers from his contract and signing a younger, more affordable head coach while they rebuild their roster. The Los Angeles Clippers will not only obtain the services of an elite coach, but also likely will guarantee that Chris Paul remains with the team for a long time. Surrendering assets for a coach is dicey, but at a critical juncture of the franchise’s evolution, the Clippers acquired the gravitas and leadership they badly need. For Rivers’ part, he gets to take a crack at answering one of pro basketball’s most difficult riddles -- taking a franchise that’s been a historical laughingstock and delivering it a title.
One of the privileges that comes with being an industry leader is the freedom to define career goals along the way -- as well as the terms of employment in pursuit of those goals. That’s how it works in virtually every sector on the professional landscape, where talented people navigate their careers and make choices that feed their sense of professional fulfillment. But not in sports, where a sincere change of feeling about the job is often interpreted as treason.
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By most objective measures, Doc Rivers is among the best basketball coaches in the world. He's one of only four active NBA coaches who has won a championship.