MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after tonight's game that he plans to return as coach of the team next season, though he has not made his final decision.
"I'm leaning heavily toward coming back," said Rivers. "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'm competitive as hell and I have a competitive group."
Celtics players urged Rivers to stay last offseason, when the team had even more uncertainty with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce not yet signed to long-term deals. Pierce said after the game that RIvers is a huge part of anything the Celtics do going forward. Celtics guard Rajon Rondo said it's imperative Rivers comes back.
"I don't even want to imagine [not playing for Rivers]" said Rondo. "I really want him to come back ...I'm going to put this on record. Doc already committed, said he's coming back. He can't go back on his word."
In other words, on a team with as many big personalities as players, Rivers's value is not lost on the players. The Celtics have the same core group of players signed through next season, with veterans Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal candidates to return or to retire. Jeff Green, Delonte West, and Glen Davis are free agents. Rivers is the only other wild card. Both Rivers and Rondo said they like the Celtics' chances again next season if the team adds a couple of other pieces.
"We probably look at it as a failure that we didn't win a championship, but the core will be here," said Rondo. "We'll be fine."