In a pretty ironic way, Doc Rivers had an idea of what his fate would be if he didn’t deliver with the Los Angeles Clippers after they traded for Paul George and signed Kawhi Leonard last offseason.
He’d been in that situation before, one of incredible expectation after bringing marquee players into a franchise, and knew that it was win immediately or worry about keeping your job.
So after the star-studded Clippers gave up a 3-1 series advantage over the Denver Nuggets and were upset in the Western Conference semifinals in the NBA bubble, Rivers and the team mutually agreed to part ways after seven years.
It played out exactly how Bill Belichick said it would when the New England Patriots coach was advising Rivers, then with the Celtics, how to handle Boston’s acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to fill out the Big 3.
“You either land the plane smoothly, or it’s a plane crash,” Belichick reportedly told Rivers at the time, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk.
Rivers left the Celtics during their short rebuild in hopes of coaching a contender.
So when Rivers found out the deal was done making Leonard and George members of the Clippers, he joked that everyone was getting fired if they didn’t win a championship.
And though L.A.’s lack of chemistry and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic can’t be placed on Rivers’ shoulders, he didn’t land the plane.