December 11, 2013

Former Celtics coach returning to Garden for first visit with Clippers

Doc Rivers has Los Angeles atop its division while Boston is also leading the East.

By Howard Ulman
The Associated Press

BOSTON — The building will be familiar, the bench not so much.

Doc Rivers, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, will be at TD Garden on Wednesday night, this time working from the visitors’ bench. It will be his first visit since May 3, the last game of his stay with the Boston Celtics.

“It will be very nice for me,” Rivers said. “I put nine years in there, nine wonderful years. So that’ll be really cool.”

He led the Celtics to their 17th NBA championship in 2007-2008 when they compiled a 66-16 record, and to the seventh game of the 2010 NBA finals.

He had a 416-305 regular-season record as coach of the Celtics and took them to the playoffs seven times.

They were eliminated in the first round of last season’s playoffs by the New York Knicks, losing the deciding sixth game at home 88-80. Afterward, Rivers, who had three years left on his contract with the Celtics, wouldn’t commit to returning.

“Honestly, I just can’t even think about that right now. So I don’t know,” he said. “I need to just detox, and we’ll find that out.”

Rivers was reluctant to be part of a rebuilding project with the Celtics, and on June 25 was traded to the Clippers for a 2015 first-round draft pick.

He has the Clippers in first place in the Pacific Division. His successor, Brad Stevens, has led the Celtics to the top of a weak Atlantic Division even though they have a losing record.

Rivers coached the Celtics to the championship in their first season after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce. Allen left as a free agent for Miami before last season, and Garnett and Pierce were traded before this season to the Brooklyn Nets, who hosted the Celtics on Tuesday night for the first time in the regular season. The Nets play for the first time in Boston this season on Jan. 26.

The Celtics’ makeover has been so thorough that only seven of their 14 players were on the team that Rivers coached last season. And one of the holdovers, point guard Rajon Rondo, hasn’t played all season while recovering from ligament surgery on his left knee.

But Rivers expects to see some familiar faces.

“The security guard, Don, who meets me at the door every time I come in,” he said. “It’ll be really nice for me. I made some great friends there, friends for life, and it will be good to see them.”

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