Celtics notebook

Rivers’s deal is run through

He’s one of richest coaches in any sport

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / May 17, 2011

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The bond between Doc Rivers and Celtics management played a large part in getting the coach to return for another five years. But so did the size of the offer.

Rivers had been one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, hauling in $5.5 million last season, but the five-year, $35 million deal he agreed to last week makes him one of the richest coaches in any sport.

“I thought he was going to take some time,’’ said ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, the ex-Knicks and Rockets coach whose name often comes up when jobs open around the league. “But when he was given such an incredible offer, he’s worked long and hard to get that type of reward and I’m very, very happy for him.’’

Phil Jackson, who made $10.3 million a year as the highest-paid coach in professional sports, according to a list compiled by Forbes, retired after the Lakers were swept by the Mavericks two weeks ago. Larry Brown was behind him among NBA coaches, earning $7 million a year before being fired midway through the season by the Bobcats.

Rivers’s new annual salary puts him in the same neighborhood as Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s $7.5 million per year deal.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had worked since training camp to get Rivers to sign an extension. The sides talked at length in the week between the playoff series against the Knicks and Heat. Immediately following the Celtics’ Game 5 loss to Miami last week, Rivers announced that he was leaning heavily toward returning and eventually made it official.

“I think I was probably surprised because it happened so quickly,’’ said ESPN analyst Mark Jackson. “Doc was contemplating what his next move would be. But I was not surprised, because if you’re the Boston Celtics ownership or front office, you want to put all the pressure on Doc to make a decision. So many teams search for great coaches and when you have one, you want to make sure you lock him up. So great job by that organization for locking up a great coach.’’

Rivers and Ainge both have acknowledged that next season will be different from the past four, with an aging Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce no longer realistically able to solely carry the Celtics to the Finals. Jackson, however, said they still have enough talent to be a contender next season.

“I think the future’s still very bright because the one thing they have, they have guys that are going to compete, guys that are going to leave it on the floor, and guys that know how to win,’’ Jackson said. “So it’s still plenty of time for the Celtics to be a dangerous team. You just want to continue to build and add pieces because those guys are not getting any younger.’’

The Finals will not feature perennials in the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Chicago’s Derrick Rose, and Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are the faces of three of the four remaining playoff teams. Some consider the losses by the Celtics and Lakers a sign of changing times, but not everyone.

“I think the talk of [the Celtics’] demise — just like with the Lakers — is very premature,’’ Van Gundy said. “The idea that you have to blow it up and start all over again for either of those teams, I think, is short-sighted.’’

His two cents Ainge has said that while he didn’t consider the Kendrick Perkins trade a success, he didn’t see it as the reason the Celtics lost to the Heat. Rivers, however, yesterday questioned the timing of the trade.

During his weekly appearance on WEEI, Rivers said, “I would wait until after the year was over. I’ll put it that way.’’

Ainge traded Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City at the February deadline for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

“I do think Jeff Green has a chance to be a starter for us in the future and a hell of a basketball player, and Krstic can help, but making that trade at the time we made that trade, that made it very tough for us,’’ Rivers said.

“And not only that, we added other pieces as well that we tried to fit in, so it was just a lot of moving parts to a team that the advantage that we had was that we had continuity, everybody else was new, Chicago was new and the Heat were new. They couldn’t fall back on what we could fall back on with our starting five, and once we made that trade, we took that advantage away.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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