Doc Rivers’ Tone on Draft Night Hints at His Departure, But Don’t Rule Him Out Just Yet

Doc Rivers' Tone on Draft Night Hints at His Departure, But Don't Rule Him Out Just Yet

Doc Rivers didn't show up at the TD Garden on Thursday night to talk about his own future. He was there to talk about the Celtics' draft picks, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody, and the bright future of a team that's getting younger every day under president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

But no, it wasn't about him. The man currently entrenched as the Celtics' head coach didn't take the opportunity to make any bold statements about his own personal plans — he simply laid out the facts and played close to the vest with his true feelings.

"I'm still an employee," Rivers said, plainly. "Danny wanted me to be here. It's where I wanted to be."

He's an employee. Fair enough. But how long will that be the case?

Rivers, just like his former player Rasheed Wallace, faces the possibility of retiring while still under contract with the Celtics, leaving money on the table. After he won the Celtics a championship in 2008, Rivers sat down with Ainge and hammered out an extension for $5.5 million a year that would carry him through the 2010-11 season. The two had visions of more championships in their future — but so far, that hasn't panned out.

Rivers, a devoted family man, now has the chance to walk away, leave that considerable chunk of change behind, and spend the next year of his life lying low, venturing out into the world to occasionally watch his kids play basketball and volleyball.

But he's not yet saying which way he's leaning.

"I don't know yet," Rivers said. "If I'm coaching, I'll be coaching [the Celtics], I can tell you that. But I just don't know yet.

"We'll make a decision very soon though. Very soon."

The key date on everyone's minds for this NBA offseason is July 1 — that's when free agency officially begins, and we can all expect a domino effect of personnel moves to follow shortly after the blockbuster decisions of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and his ilk.

For the Celtics, there are plenty of decisions to be made, most notably regarding the contract situations of veteran leaders Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. For everyone's sake, Rivers is hoping he's made up his mind by the start of Thursday's festivities.

"Oh yeah, I hope so," he said. "For a lot of reasons, that July 1 date is important. I think it would be good to make a decision before that."

Rivers'  two-week window to think things over began 14 days ago on Thursday, June 17, when the Celtics lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the L.A. Lakers, and it lasts until Thursday, July 1, when the offseason shenanigans get underway.

He's kept a low profile during that time. The Celtics' only activity since the end of the Finals has been working on draft plans, and Rivers has maintained that he personally has little sway in the Celtics' war room on draft night.

"Not much, and I didn't want it to be, honestly," he said. "I trust Danny so much, honestly. For me, the way I look at it, he's done the work all year."

You hear these quotes, and Rivers doesn't sound like a wholehearted Celtic. He's saying all the right things — because after all, he's still an employee — but he doesn't seem to care. At least not like he once did.

Can you blame him? He's days removed from probably the most painful loss of his career. It takes time for anyone, even the unflappable Rivers, to recover from that. Rivers needs these two weeks to keep to himself, to focus on him, to rediscover the strength within him. Eventually, he'll be back and ready to coach again.

Right now, Rivers is more than just an employee of the Boston Celtics. He's their leader. Give him a few days, and he just might find the courage to keep at it.

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