The smell test.
It’s the barometer for all things holy when it comes to sports, politics, celebrity drama. Things either pass the smell test or they don’t. If they pass, then we’re cool with it. Why? Well because it passed the smell test. Case closed.
But if something doesn’t pass the smell test, then we have a problem.
Doc Rivers leaving the Celtics for the Clippers? That does not pass the smell test.
Not at all.
Listen Doc, I love you, and only a few short weeks ago, so did the majority of New England. You helped bring our beloved Celtics back to relevancy. This started even before the Big Three era dawned in Beantown, when you took over in 2004 and led the C’s to their first Atlantic Division title since the early ’90’s. You became one of the best coaches in the league; one of the best coaches in the history of the Celtics. You showed class throughout and became one of the strongest voices after the Boston Marathon bombings. You really could do no wrong.
Until you did do wrong.
You quit, Doc. Plain and simple.
You quit on the Celtics, on Danny Ainge, on Boston, on the fans.
It’s as simple as that.
Two years ago, Rivers signed a five year extension to stay with the Celtics; an extension that would pay him $35 million. Upon signing it, Rivers acknowledged the looming threat of a re-building process as the team’s aging roster was on borrowed time. He echoed those statements at the end of this year, after his over-achieving team lost to the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. He looked forward to the process. He was excited about the challenge. He kind of, sort of was not telling the truth.
He was looking for a way out.
He was, like most restless New Englanders, looking west.
Now in all fairness, the Celtics weren’t exactly devastated by the potential of Rivers moving on. Paying a coach $7 million a year during a rebuilding effort doesn’t make much sense. True Doc would be a stabilizing force amidst the transition, but that was a lot of money- money that could be spent elsewhere. And on a team with few trade-able assets, Doc proved to be the best one the Celtics had, especially with Rajon Rondo recovering from a torn ACL and his reputation of being a little bit prickly to work with. So if Doc did want to leave, it wouldn’t really be the worst thing in the world. The Celtics had a chance to be opportunistic and save a few bucks in the process. They were fully prepared to turn lemons into lemonade.
And lemonade is delicious.
But sour grapes are not and that’s all I can taste this morning.
I fully understand that there is absolutely no loyalty in professional sports. Maybe there once was, but there certainly isn’t anymore. Sports is business- just ask Darren Rovell. So with that in mind, it’s not lack of loyalty that has me feeling this way about Rivers. No. Loyalty is the drunk plans of virtues- fun to talk about, but usually passed over for something easier to do.
It’s the quitting, Doc. That’s what bothers me. That’s what doesn’t pass the smell test.
The quitting- it’s why Doc wouldn’t have been back with the Celtics regardless of how this whole Celtics/Clippers thing would have turned out. You can’t quit on a team, especially if you’re the coach. How would have the players responded to a coach who wanted to ditch them for the greener pastures of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and better golfing? I don’t think they would responded well at all. How could they have?
I will always appreciate what Doc Rivers did for the Celtics while he was here. It’s impossible not too.
But I’ll also never forget the terms under which he left.
The passing of time will help Doc in the long run. But right now he’s the victim of the What Have You Done for Me Lately society we live in.
And lately? Doc ain’t done much good.
He done wrong.
And that will be hard to forget.