Doc Rivers was understandably skeptical when the Los Angeles Clippers initially expressed interest in prying him away from the Celtics. Rivers spent one awful year with the Clippers as a player in the 1991-92 season, when the team went through three head coaches, several minor player revolts and still somehow made the playoffs, where they lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round.
The Clippers organization was a mess, and Rivers knew it firsthand.
Before Rivers could turn down the opportunity to coach Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, though, one of his former players stepped in. Grant Hill was a member of the Magic for three-plus injury-plagued seasons under Rivers, and concluded his 18-year NBA career with the Clippers this season. Hill’s message was that the Clippers have changed.
“According to an involved source, it was Grant Hill who made the case for the Clippers, the team with which he spent his final season this past year,” wrote Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “Hill, whose injuries threw a wrench in his and Rivers’ hopes when the two were with the Magic, told Doc to forget his old notions about the Clippers.”
Hill apparently raved about the new practice facility and a more positive environment, from the players on up. In the process, he allayed many of Rivers’ fears about working under mercurial owner Donald Sterling.
“What [Hill] said made a real difference,” the source said.
Thus, the idea of coaching the Clips no longer seemed scary to Rivers, and the Celtics and Clippers began discussing terms of releasing him from his contract with Boston.
Hill is retired now, so he will never return to TD Garden as a player. That is probably a good thing, because it appears Hill was the person who ultimately convinced Rivers the grass was greener somewhere other than with the Green. Celtics fans might not take too kindly to him for that.