The Los Angeles Clippers suffered a humiliating defeat in the second round of the playoffs, blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets, in which they had double-digit leads in all three of the final games. That epic collapse made them the laughing stock of the league, and now it has cost Doc Rivers his coaching job.
After seven seasons with the Clippers, Rivers has been fired. He confirmed the news shortly after it was reported, releasing a statement on Twitter which read:
Thank you Clipper Nation for allowing me to be your coach and for all your support in helping make this a winning franchise. 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. 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 joined the Clippers in 2013, when he was actually traded to the club from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a first-round pick. He led the team to the playoffs in six of his seven seasons in charge, making his tenure easily the most successful period in franchise history. Before he arrived, they had only made the playoffs nine times in 43 years.
But despite an abundance of talent, both this season and in the past, Rivers was never able to get the Clippers past the second round. Injuries were a factor, especially during the Lob City era, and the Western Conference was a gauntlet. Still, the Clippers had their fair share of chances to make a run at a title, and underachieved time and again.
This season, in particular, the Clippers were one of the favorites to win it all after acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the offseason. When even this group, with arguably the most talented duo in the league, failed to live up to expectations, and Rivers blew a 3-1 lead in the second round for the second time in six seasons, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer decided to make a change.
Unfortunately for Rivers, the easiest change is always getting rid of the coach. Of course, he didn't do himself any favors by watching over another collapse, but if Los Angeles was going to make a big change this offseason, he was always going to be the one to take the fall.
Though he leaves the Clippers under unfortunate circumstances, Rivers should have little trouble finding another job if he wants to stay in the coaching business. In 21 seasons as a head coach, he has a .581 winning percentage, led the Celtics to a title in 2008, and has only missed the playoffs five times. In fact, the New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have already reached out to Rivers about their vacancies, according to a report from Marc Spears of ESPN.
As for the Clippers, they have a huge decision ahead of them in regards to their next head coach. With Leonard and George both able to opt out and enter free agency in 2021, they only have one guaranteed season left with that partnership. George claimed after their loss to the Nuggets that it wasn't championship or bust for them, but it absolutely will be next season.
With the team in win-now mode, they'll likely turn to a coach with plenty of experience, and Ty Lue and Jeff Van Gundy are names to keep an eye on, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Lue is currently on the Clippers' staff as an assistant, and has been the subject of numerous teams' coaching searches in recent months. Van Gundy, meanwhile, currently works as a broadcaster for ESPN, and hasn't been on the bench since 2007, when he was fired from the Houston Rockets job.