Doc Rivers is out as head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, nearly two weeks after his team blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer said the decision was mutual, according to ESPN and on Monday, Sept 28, Rivers released a statement about his departure.
“Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and for all your support in helping make this a winning franchise,” Rivers tweeted. “When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination, and bring a championship to this organization.”
He continued. “While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won’t be able to see them all through. Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there, and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support. Thank you to all the players, coaches, and staff for helping us get here. Most importantly, thank you to the fans. We went through a lot, and I am grateful for my time here.”
Rivers is now the only coach in NBA history to have a team blow a 3-1 lead three times, first doing it in 2003 as coach of the Orlando Magic, then again in 2015 when the Clippers fell to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
While the loss five years ago surely disappointed Clippers fans, it didn’t seem to match the level of frustration felt after the team lost to the Nuggets this year, based on social media reactions.
That’s because the Clippers acquired Kawhi Leonard and Paul George during the offseason, apparently making the team instant contenders for a championship. Many also were rueful because the highly anticipated matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals did not come off. The Lakers beat the Nuggets in that series in five games this month.
In a post-Game 7 press conference, Rivers was asked if the pressure to win a championship this season was too much for his players, and he said that it wasn’t.
“We didn’t meet them,” Rivers said about expectations. “That’s the bottom line. I’m the coach, and I’ll take any blame for it. But we didn’t meet our expectations, clearly, because if we had, in my opinion, we’d still be playing.”
Rivers began coaching the Clippers in 2013 and compiled a 356-208 regular-season record in seven seasons, only missing the playoffs once in 2018. He later became president of basketball operations while still coaching but gave up that position in 2017.
“I am immeasurably grateful to Doc for his commitment and contributions to the Clippers and the city of Los Angeles,” said Ballmer. “I am also extremely confident in our front office and our players. We will find the right coach to lead us forward and help us reach our ultimate goals. We will begin the search and interview process immediately.”
The Undefeated reports that Rivers has already been contacted about open head coaching positions by the Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans.