Rivers Runs North

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

Before Isiah Thomas tapped Lenny Wilkens, there was speculation Doc Rivers would go to New York. Before Danny Ainge tapped him to run the Celtics, there was speculation he would go to Atlanta. It is now official. Doc Rivers is a mean green Celtic machine.

According toThe Orlando Sentinel, Rivers was drawn to the Celtics offer by three things:

1) His friendship with Danny Ainge
2) The great history of the Celtics
3) The relucatance to sit out another season

If he didn't coach next season, the Magic would have been on the ropes to pay him his $5.5 million salary. Since he has a job, however, the Magic only have to make up the difference between the lower Celtic salary and the $5.5 million.

There had been rampant speculation that Ainge would have picked either a coach or an assistant coach that he had played for in Phoenix, such as Paul Westphal and Lionel Harris, or former teammate Dennis Johnson, but Ainge surprised the world by picking the 1999-2000 Head Coach of the Year.

Rivers will have an opportunity to coach two offensive powerhouses in Paul Pierce and Ricky Davis, and he will surely draw on his experiences in helping Tracy McGrady emerge as an All-World talent to that end.

He probably also understands the need to have a vocal leader, someone like a Darrell Armstrong, and leave the Pierces and Davises to just worry about the game. So far, that player appears to be Chucky Atkins.

Rivers brings not only a great coaching mind but also some hidden benefits. Perhaps he would be able to help draw former Magic players to Boston's side. Would Drew Gooden or Juwan Howard like to play with their former coach again? The biggest question would come up if Tracy McGrady opts out of his contract or threatens to do so, thus triggering the Magic into looking for trades. Would Boston be a more attractive opportunity with Rivers there?

Surely it would, if for no other reason than that Rivers is an excellent coach. Magic fans will miss him, and Atlanta fans will continue to yearn for him, but it is Boston fans who now get the opportunity to appreciate him.

With both Ainge and Rivers likely agreeing that up-tempo basketball is the vision of the future, it is safe to say that from now on, Rivers runs north.

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Our own Jim Basquil of Basketball News Serviceswrites in Hoopsworld.com: Danny Ainge has made his fair share of questionable moves during his early reign in running the Celtics. His latest is not one of them. Doc Rivers is about to be the right man for the job of coaching this storied franchise.

I wrote about Celtics reported hiring yesterday: Could the signing of Rivers also have implications for potential trades the Celtics are considering?The Magic have two starting-caliber power forwards in Juwan Howard and Drew Gooden, but lack a solid point guard. Could Rivers also be used as bait to try to recruit some of his former players, polssibly in exchange for Chucky Atkins? On the wild side, if Tracy McGrady does decide to become a free agent after next season, could returning to his coach be a factor?

Tim Povtak ofThe Orlando Sentinelwrites: As much as he loves the Central Florida lifestyle, Doc Rivers loves basketball even more. This was an offer he couldn't refuse.Rivers, who was fired by the Orlando Magic 11 games into last season, has agreed to become the next coach of the storied Boston Celtics, according to various NBA sources. It could be announced in Boston as early as today. When reached at home Wednesday, Rivers declined any comment. Danny Ainge, Celtics executive director of basketball operations, also declined to comment Wednesday, but he did cancel a basketball scouting trip to Europe to finalize his coaching situation. Rivers was scheduled to make $5.5 million next season under his Magic contract, which he would have collected if he had remained out of coaching. He also was under contract with ABC for another $1 million as an NBA analyst. The Celtics contract, a four-year deal with a fifth-year option, is for less annually than what the Magic were paying him, forcing his former team to make up for the difference next season.

Tim Povtak ofThe Orlando Sentinelalso has a historical retrospectiveof Doc Rivers's time in Orlando, as well as the past six Celtics coaches.