At the start of a conference call with the Boston media on Wednesday, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked the question most fans are still trying to get an answer for: Why did he leave?
"Honestly, that is one of those [questions] that there's no answer to it," said Rivers. "It's not like I was looking for change. This kinda came about, and I think [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] talked about that yesterday. Let me start by saying this, I didn't go into this whole process, I never went into Danny's office and we never had any conversations like, 'If you don't bring Kevin [Garnett] and Paul [Pierce] back, I don't want to come back.' I never went into his office and said that, 'If [Rajon] Rondo is there, I don't want to come back.' Rondo and I, our relationship has really grown and it's good. Danny and I, our relationship was great.
"It's just the same thing that I go through every year. At the end of the year, I just don't know if my time has run its course and if it's time for a change. Two years ago I thought it and I ended up signing because, literally, at that time, I thought I had to sign. I just thought it was the right thing to do in the part where our organization was at. ... I just thought it would be the wrong time to leave. Last year, I thought about it some more, and this year, right after the year, right after the Knicks game, I told everyone, 'Thank you,' because, in my mind, after that game, right after that game, I was probably going to take a break, because I never thought that I could just leave and go somewhere else.
"I didn't even think that was something that was in the cards or possible, and I didn't push for it. But when Danny told me that there was an opportunity to do that, as long as he can take care of his end, then that's what piqued my interest, honestly. I've been here for nine years, I loved it there. I just didn't know if it wasn't time. Listen, I could have been wrong about it, but that's just how I felt."
Rivers was asked if he thought his players might be getting to the point where they might tune him out.
"I didn't think they had tuned me out, but I thought it could be time for that," said Rivers. "Yeah, I was concerned by that. I thought they were very coachable, the group that I had. But that was a concern. Just having a new challenge, that was something, as a coach, you just don't want to feel like you're just there. I also knew we were going to rebuild. And Danny and [ownership], this is one part that Danny and them knew as well: Danny and I have a great relationship, and I think Danny understood that to pay a coach $7 million per year for the next three and maybe not win, that's a lot. And so I think, ownership, [co-owner Steve Pagliuca] and I talked on Sunday and he basically said, 'Listen, we'd love for you to stay, and I've heard you decided to stay, but obviously if we get a [first-round] pick [as compensation] and we can get off your contract, too, that's good, too. I agreed with all that, so let's just see where it goes. That's just the mode I was in ... and if it goes that is beneficial for them, and beneficial for me, then we should look at it, and this came up."
Rivers had once desired to plant long-term roots in Boston, saying after he inked a five-year, $35 million deal two summers ago that he desired to mimic San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Utah's Jerry Sloan. So what changed?
"That was my intentions," said Rivers. "I don't know what changed. It wasn't anything that Danny or [owner] Wyc [Grousbeck] or ownership did or anything the players did; clearly it wasn't the city. I just felt like I needed change for my voice, I needed change for a challenge standpoint. I don't know what changed there, but it was me, in that regards. It was just something that I thought was the right thing to do. Again, I wasn't willing to do it, unless I thought I was doing the right thing by Danny and Wyc and his group. As early as Sunday, I called Danny and said, 'Hey, listen, I'm staying. I'm coming back. I'm going to give you everything I have in rebuilding. But I just told him I hope you understand, I have to do it year to year.' And Danny was fine with that. Then two hours later he called back and said the deal is done. It's not like they didn't get anything out of this; if they didn't, they could have said no to the deal. And they didn't because Danny thought it was a good thing for the franchise and he also thought it was a good thing for me. Danny and I, our relationship is terrific, so this is not a one-tricky pony deal, where I was the only one fueling this. I never pushed this deal. It did happen, and I thought it was a great opportunity and I took the opportunity."