LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Newly-appointed Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers arrived at his team’s practice facility on Wednesday in casual attire that showed just how surprised he was to be there.
Rivers, one of the most successful active coaches in the National Basketball Association, was wearing low-top sneakers and a short-sleeved shirt at his introductory news conference a day after he was acquired from the Boston Celtics.
Weeks of on-again, off-again talks between the two teams finally resulted in a deal on Tuesday that saw the Celtics release the 51-year-old former coach of the year from his contract in exchange for a 2015 draft pick.
“This was a strange ordeal over the last couple weeks, to the point, as you can see my attire, I don’t have any suits because they’re all in Boston right now,” Rivers told reporters.
“I flew in from Orlando, that’s where I stay in the off-season, and I basically wear shorts and T-shirts all summer.”
The Clippers did not release terms of the contract given to Rivers but multiple media reports say he agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal.
Prior to joining the Celtics in 2004, Rivers spent just over four seasons as head coach of the Orlando Magic, earning NBA Coach of the Year honors in his first season when he led a team that was expected to finish last to a playoff berth in 2000.
Under Rivers, the Celtics won six Atlantic Division titles in nine seasons and the league championship in 2008. He also owns the NBA’s third-best record since 2007 among active coaches, according to the Clippers.
Despite telling the dozens of reporters gathered at the Clippers practice facility that he was uncomfortable being the center of attention, Rivers was less bashful about his goals for himself and his new team.
“It’s nice to do a lot of winning, it’s nicer to be the winner and that’s why I’m here, that’s what I want to do,” said Rivers. “And quite honestly, at this point in my life, that’s the only reason I’m coaching, is to try to win titles.”
The Clippers won the Pacific Division last season with a 56-26 record but lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Shortly after, the team decided not to resign Vinny Del Negro as coach after three seasons.
The Clippers are led on the court by six-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul and the arrival of Rivers, a high-profile coach with proven success, is expected to help ensure the club does not lose their top player to another team in free agency.
“We’re just going to have to wait until he makes his decision and signs his contract, but all the indications are that he likes and respects Doc and I hope that helps,” Andy Roeser, president of the Clippers, told reporters.
Roeser called Rivers a “seasoned and steady hand that we’re going to rely on to take us to the championship level.”
Paul was not at the Clippers training facility on Wednesday, but teammate Ronny Turiaf was on hand to see Rivers.
“He might be one of the major missing pieces to success,” Turiaf told a small group of reporters on the edge of the gym.
“One thing that we as a team was lacking a little bit down the stretch was a couple (defensive) stops. One stop here, one stop there, our season is totally different.”
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge officially announced the departure of Rivers on Tuesday, but the veteran coach said as recently as a few days ago he thought the deal was dead.
“I called Danny I said, ‘I’m staying, I’m coming back, I’m coaching (in Boston), that’s what I am and let’s move forward.’ Two hours later he called me and said, ‘No you’re not staying. You’re going,’” Rivers said.
The coach also said that as recently as Sunday he was going over the Celtics player roster with Ainge for the upcoming NBA season, but that on Sunday night the deal was agreed upon.
“I’m hope this is the last time that I’m the center of attention here,” River said, “I can say that honestly. It will be about the players.”
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis and Ronald Grover; Editing by Frank Pingue