Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers will experience something new in 2017-18: he will only act as coach.
Rivers had been serving the Clippers as president of basketball operations, a role that is now occupied by former NBA head coach Lawrence Frank. Rivers will continue to have a say in the team’s personnel decisions, but the final say-so will come down to Frank and general manager Dave Wohl.
The move allows Rivers to focus on coaching the Clippers, without the rigors of handling personnel as well. “I've owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner's responsibility is–and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs," owner Steve Ballmer told ESPN. "The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn't the case.”
Rivers joined the Clippers in 2013 and signed a lucrative five-year, $55 million extension the following year to remain with Los Angeles. The head coach has amassed a 217-111 record with the Clippers, but the team has gone just 18-22 in the playoffs over that time period.
Rivers is seen as one of the league’s better coaches, and he won a title in that role with the Boston Celtics. His success there led to him acquiring many hats with the Clippers. The team has not reached the next level yet, as Los Angeles has failed to reach the Western Conference Finals, despite boasting some of the NBA’s best talent.
By focusing solely on coaching, Rivers should be able to better maximize his team’s talent, and contribute to improved scouting reports. There is also the possibility that other owners follow suit, splitting the two jobs between two employees. The Atlanta Hawks made a similar decision this offseason, relieving head coach Mike Budenholzer of decision-making responsibilities.
As far as coaching, Rivers will get help from a capable staff. Mike Woodson, a former head coach himself, will serve as Rivers’ right-hand man, while Sam Cassell is rising in the coaching ranks. Cassell will surely play an integral role in helping point guard Milos Teodosic adapt to an NBA-style offense.
Brendan O'Connor, Armond Hill, Patrick Sullivan, and John Welch round out the coaching staff. Former NBA player Dee Brown will also assist the Clippers with player development.
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