The Los Angeles Clippers are out of the playoffs, and now, Doc Rivers is out of a job. After blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round, the Clippers -- one of the favorites to win it all prior to the season -- extended their conference finals-less streak to an NBA-worst 50 seasons.
Though Rivers is clearly a solid, well-respected coach, this was the third time in his career that he wasted a 3-1 lead in the playoffs, and the second time it happened with the Clippers. And despite all the talent he's had on the roster in his seven seasons in charge of the team, they never made it out of the second round.
Given their current situation, it's unsurprising that Steve Ballmer's patience with Rivers' inability to live up to expectations finally ran out. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are able to opt out of their contracts and become unrestricted free agents after next season, putting all sorts of pressure on the Clippers to win a title in 2021, especially after their collapse in the bubble.
With major changes to the roster unlikely, the only way to really shake things up was moving on from Rivers and hiring a new coach. So who might that be? Here's a look at some of the potential candidates to take over in Los Angeles.
Lue's career has been intertwined with Rivers' for nearly two decades. After briefly playing for Rivers in Orlando, Lue worked on his staff in Boston, and joined him in Los Angeles for multiple stints as an assistant. Now, Lue could be the man to replace Rivers at the head of the Clippers' bench.
In what comes as little surprise, Lue is one of the candidates to keep an eye on for this job, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Lue is already part of the team, which means, crucially, he has a relationship with Leonard and George -- something that will be a key factor as the Clippers are in win now mode with their two stars. Plus, Lue has championship experience, leading a Cavaliers team with multiple stars to a title just four years ago.
Jeff Van Gundy
Van Gundy hasn't been on an NBA bench since 2007, when he was fired from his job with the Houston Rockets, and is most well-known these days for his work as a broadcaster on ESPN. However, in the last few years, his name has floated around various vacancies, and in an interview with Charlie Ward in May, Van Gundy said he would be "open" to coaching again in the right situation.
Joining a Clippers team that's set up to contend for a title seems like a perfect situation, and Van Gundy is another name that Wojnarowski mentioned in his report.
Cassell has never been a head coach, but has over a decade's worth of experience as an assistant, including the past six seasons on Rivers' staff with the Clippers. While he doesn't have the championship pedigree that Lue brings -- at least not as a coach, though Cassell did win three titles as a player -- he also has an established relationship with Leonard and George, and hiring from within would allow for a smooth transition.
After extensive time on the sidelines, it seems Cassell will soon get his chance as a head coach, whether it's with the Clippers or elsewhere. He's also been mentioned as a candidate for the Rockets job, which would see him return to the team where he spent the first three seasons of his career, and won two rings.
Brown is another member of the recently fired coaches club, let go after seven seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. He saw them through "The Process," and into their new era as contenders, but for a variety of reasons, the team was never able to break through in the playoffs. Following his firing in Philadelphia, Wojnarowski reported that Brown is "well respected" around the league, and he doesn't figure to be without a job for long.
So far, there have been no direct links between him and the Clippers, but given his profile and experience, he deserves to be mentioned among the possible candidates here.
Admittedly, D'Antoni doesn't seem like he would be a great fit with the Clippers. They just let Rivers go because of his inability to get the job done in the playoffs, and that's something D'Antoni has struggled with his entire career. The Clippers are also in must-win mode, so they don't have any time to waste adjusting to D'Antoni's system. Plus, it seems like D'Antoni already has the inside track at the Philadelphia 76ers job.
Still, any time there's a vacancy, a high-profile coach like D'Antoni has to at least be included among the potential options.
Gentry has had three previous stints working with the Clippers, including as head coach from 2000-03, and most recently as an assistant under Rivers in his first season with the club. Recently fired from the New Orleans Pelicans job, Gentry has not had much success as a head coach, posting a lifetime record of 510-595, and making just three playoff appearances.
However, that has more to do with the talent he had around him, and he's one of the most respected people in the entire league. For a team that dealt with chemistry issues this season, Gentry's ability to manage a locker room could be enticing for the Clippers.