MIAMI – Doc Rivers received a contract offer from the Celtics three months ago, but invoked one of his favorite rules: No contract talk during the season. So the issue was tabled, the future of the Big Three era Celtics on hold.
Over the past couple of weeks, Rivers came to the conclusion that he wants to come back and coach the Celtics next season as opposed to taking a year off to watch his son, Austin, play at Duke. On Tuesday night, after the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs with a 97-87 loss to the Heat, Rivers revealed what he concluded during Boston’s latest playoff run.
“I’m leaning heavily toward coming back,” Rivers said. “I haven’t made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will. I’ve kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. You know, I’m a Celtic. And I love our guys and I want to win again here. I do. I’m competitive as hell, I have a competitive group, and so we’ll see. But I can tell you that’s where I’m at today.”
On his way out of American Airlines Arena, Rivers said Celtics management came back to him after the playoffs started to press for a decision. There was a meeting after one of the opening games of this series in Miami.
“Danny (Ainge) and Wyc (Grousbeck) and them have been on the other side of patience,” Rivers said in the hallway of the arena. “And it gave us a long time to talk about it as a family. So I haven’t signed anything or done anything. But it’s there and I probably will sign it.”
The Lakers losing to Dallas and facing an uncertain future without Phil Jackson and speculation about the team being broken up contributed to Rivers’ desire to get his status resolved quickly.
“I know after listening to the Lakers being broken up after they lost, I’m sure, hell, we’re all done, our team,” Rivers said. “We have to add some people, but other than that I love that locker room. … I don’t believe this team is done.”
Rivers' decision isn't final, though he gave Ainge the go-ahead to speak with his agent, Lonnie Cooper -- a gesture that was understood to mean Rivers is serious about staying.
"I just told them, 'You can just talk to Lonnie,'" Rivers said. "'I don’t want to hear nothing, I don’t want to see nothing. I just want to do my job.' And then we talked last week ... and I told them, 'Whatever you work out with Lonnie, I’ll probably do it."
The pause gave Rivers time to focus on the task at hand and also speak with his family; his wife has only one child still at home, Winter Park High School senior Spencer.
"And he told me he doesn't want me home," Rivers said with a smile.
Rivers' decision has massive implications for the future of the Celtics' veteran core. Kevin Garnett, who has said previously he wouldn't play for a coach other than Rivers, has one year left on his contract. Ray Allen has a player option for next season, and he said Tuesday night, "I don't have any plans of going anywhere else." Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are under contract for three more seasons.
Rivers staying in Boston also takes him off the market for any number of teams that may have been hoping he'd take a sabbatical and be ready to return to the sideline in 2012. New York, where Rivers played, and Orlando, where he coached, were two of the most logical landing spots.
But sources say Rivers has not forgotten the loyalty Ainge and the Celtics showed him when they stuck with him through one losing season after another before the 2007 trades that brought Garnett, Allen and Pierce together.
"It would be hard for him to leave," one person close to Rivers said. "He wants to show the same loyalty they showed him."