The Clippers and new coach Doc Rivers have agreed to a three-year deal. (CJ Gunther / EPA )
Doc Rivers is considered one of the best coaches in the NBA, and now he'll be coaching the Clippers.
It just took a while to make that happen.
Almost two weeks of haggling, negotiating and wrangling were required for the Clippers to finally pry Rivers away from the Boston Celtics, for the price of a first-round draft pick in 2015 that will not be lottery-protected.
And it took several more hours for Rivers and his representatives to finalize the deal Tuesday with Clippers owner Donald Sterling before the NBA was able to approve it.
There were details and language in the contract that needed to be cleared up before Rivers agreed to a three-year, $21-million deal — the same number of years and dollar figure that were left on his Boston contract.
According to NBA executives, Rivers had to make sure he had the standard NBA coach's arbitration clause in his contract. The executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said the clause states that if Rivers is fired and has any disputes, Sterling has to pay all the legal fees.
Rivers signed the contract Tuesday before he boarded a flight to Los Angeles, the executives said.
Rivers, 51, was also given the title of senior vice president of basketball operations, meaning he'll have a significant role in personnel decisions. Gary Sacks remains in his role as the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations.
The Clippers scheduled a news conference Wednesday to introduce Rivers as the man replacing Vinny Del Negro, who was fired last month.
Rivers is one of only four active coaches who have won an NBA title — with Boston in 2008. His Celtics also reached the Finals in 2010, losing to the Lakers in seven games.
"Of all the coaches that were available, he was the best in my opinion," All-Star forward Blake Griffin said by phone from a plane bound for Europe. "I'm really excited about this. I haven't been this excited in a while. It gives us a strong guidance from a coaching staff."
With Rivers officially on board, the Clippers' next priority is to re-sign Chris Paul, who will become an unrestricted free agent Monday. They are expected to offer the All-Star point guard a maximum five-year contract worth $107.3 million. Rivers' hiring almost certainly enhances the team's chances of retaining Paul.
When the Clippers and Celtics first began negotiations, the proposed deal had Rivers and forward Kevin Garnett coming to L.A. for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and a first-round pick.
But NBA Commissioner David Stern rejected that deal, saying it was illegal under the collective bargaining agreement for a player to be traded for a coach.
Danny Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations, confirmed to reporters in Boston on Tuesday afternoon that the NBA will not allow a trade between the Celtics and Clippers involving players until after next season.
So for now Jordan, who averaged 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds and made only 38.6% of his free throws last season, is with the Clippers.
"I don't want Doc to be like, 'Oh, we couldn't get KG here.' As long as Doc wants me here, I want to be here," Jordan said. "I know he's one of the best coaches out there. I want to play for Doc. I feel like Doc can help me become the defensive player of the year. I know he really preaches defense."
Rivers is hoping to hire former Phoenix Suns and Clippers coach Alvin Gentry and name him associate head coach, executives said. Gentry also is being pursued by the Lakers for an assistant's position.
Rivers will bring assistants Kevin Eastman and Tyronn Lue with him from his Boston staff to the Clippers.
"I think the Clippers organization is showing that they will do whatever [needs] to be done to put us in position to compete for a championship," guard Jamal Crawford said. "Obviously Doc is one of the top coaches in the league and has championship pedigree, so it should be fine."