PLAYA VISTA, Calif. — Doc Rivers emphasized over and over again as he was introduced as the Los Angeles Clippers head coach and vice president of basketball operations here Friday that he had no intentions of ever leaving his post as coach of the Boston Celtics.
“It was not like I was leaving somewhere,” Rivers said to a large contingent of media gathered at the Clippers practice facility. “I enjoyed where I was at.”
Rivers said that on Sunday, he had committed to return to the Celtics. Then he went to an AAU tournament in Florida to watch his son play. He turned off his phone. When he turned it on again, he saw that he had several calls from his agent, Lonnie Cooper, and from Danny Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations.
Rivers was told that a deal had been completed in which the Clippers would give the Celtics an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick in exchange for letting Rivers out of his contract with the Celtics so that he could become the Clippers coach.
“On Sunday, Danny and I were talking about our roster, and then on Sunday night, a deal was agreed upon,” Rivers said.
Later, Rivers said on a conference call with Boston media, “This is not a one-trick pony deal where I was the only one fueling this. I never pushed this deal. It happened.”
But Rivers also indicated that at his age — 51 — he was very interested in coaching a team that had a chance to contend, which the Clippers certainly do with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
“Quite honestly, at this point in my life, that’s the only reason I’m coaching, is to try to win titles,” he said.
Retirement, though, was not an option, he said.
“I just thought, after nine years, I didn’t know if my job had run its course in Boston,” Rivers said.
From the Clippers’ perspective, they believe they finally got their man — one who will ensure that the team is able to re-sign Paul when he becomes a free agent next month.
“We feel he’s the best coach in the NBA and a perfect fit for the organization,” said Clippers general manager Gary Sacks.
Said Rivers: “It’s really good to be here. This is a new challenge for me. I had nine absolutely amazing years in Boston. So before I do anything, I have to thank Danny and Wyc [Grousbeck] and the ownership and the fans there, because it was an amazing run.
“When I look back on that and where I’m sitting now, that’s where we want to go. We want to get to that level of winning.”
Rivers said he has spoken to several Celtics players, including Rajon Rondo. There has been speculation that Rivers left Boston, in part, because of Rondo, who’s a high-maintenance player.
“I did not leave because I did not want to coach Rondo,” Rivers said. “That’s silly.”
Rivers said he wasn’t sure what would happen now with Kevin Garnett, who was involved in previous forms of a deal that could’ve sent him to the Clippers but who does not have that option now.
“I think he’ll play this year for sure,” Rivers said. “I don’t know that, but that’s my gut.”
Rivers also said he hasn’t made any final decisions about which members of his assistant coaching staff in Boston he’ll bring to Los Angeles, but he did indicate that he’d “probably” take most of them.
And as for Celtics fans, Rivers said, “I hope they’ll remember me as somebody who gave that city everything he had.”