WALTHAM — Doc Rivers called Danny Ainge just before Ainge was set to meet with the media this morning to verbally agree to a five-year contract extension to continue coaching the Celtics, going over “a few small things” before Ainge made the announcement to reporters.
Team sources confirmed an earlier Yahoo! Sports report that has the extension worth $35 million.
The deal has yet to be signed, but the agreement all but finalizes what Rivers and Ainge had assumed since the Celtics’ season ended two days ago. Rivers has spent the last eight seasons in Boston, the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA behind San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. Securing the coach was a priority going into an uncertain summer with a possible lockout looming. The team is also facing a transition after falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
“I think Doc is the best coach in the league, so I think it’s great for us to have him around,” Ainge said. “There’ve been times over the last couple years I thought he was going to leave. I would have understood if he left. But we’re glad that he’s not.”
The process of bringing Rivers back began in training camp, Ainge said, and carried over into the playoffs. Rivers battled with his decision to return last summer, eventually agreeing June 30. This time, the decision was a quick one.
“Last year, when Doc was sort of contemplating whether he wanted to stay or not, I think those were more family issues. He had to resolve some things in his own mind with family. We tried to do a contract extension then, but we were just not on the same page and we were in more of a rush. He just wanted to come back this year and see how it was going to be. So we just did a one-year contract.
“Then, this year it was different. We had been talking since training camp periodically. He didn’t really want to be distracted early in the year. He wanted time and I left him alone. Then, it picked up about midway through the season. We had another conversation. No pressure, just another conversation. But Doc has always known that we wanted him and that an offer was on the table.
“As the playoffs were starting, we started that conversation again. He understood that it was sort of important for me to know what he wanted to do because it’s a long process and there’s a lot of things going on this summer. So he spent time with his family and made that decision a little earlier this time around.”
Falling in the second round has sent the Celtics into a different stage, regrouping for 2011-12 knowing that Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce can no longer be solely relied upon to lead them to a championship. Ainge said Rivers is willing to take on the challenge of coaching a team with changing goals.
“I think that Doc knows the circumstances of our team as well as anybody,” Ainge said. “He knows the players, the ages, the contracts. He gets it all. He knows. But he wants to be a part of this franchise. He wants to be working with us. We have a great relationship with coaches and owners and management that I think is unique. I think it’s hard to find in our business, and I think he appreciates that and preferred to stay regardless of where we are on the ability to win a championship.”