Doc Rivers’ future is in limbo if Donald Sterling stays


Doc Rivers also happens to be coaching a basketball team in the NBA playoffs. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

The more intriguing part of the Donald Sterling decision may be what happens to the man who has been called the perfect person to be coaching the Los Angeles Clippers in the midst of their tumultuous week.

Just what will Doc Rivers do after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announces how the league will respond to racist comments allegedly made by the Clippers owner? For Rivers, the decision whether to remain as coach of the team will hinge on matters both professional and intensely personal. Rivers’s son, Jeremiah, alluded to that much in a series of thoughtful tweets when the story broke Saturday.

Rivers first endured a racial firestorm as a freshman at Marquette when he was a player at Marquette. He spoke of those days and their impact on him in a conversation recounted by the Orlando Sentinel’s Brian Schmitz. Rivers, a freshman, had fallen in love with Kris Campion, who happens to be white.

Doc and Kris didn’t see their relationship as an issue. But judging from the slashed tires on Kris’ car and the crank calls and the racial epithet scrawled on the sidewalk in front of her parents’ house, others clearly objected.

“It was a long time ago, and interracial dating was not all that acceptable. It was the hot talk on campus,” Rivers told me.

Complicating matters was that Kris’ former boyfriend, who was white, was a member of the basketball team.

Then-Marquette coach Hank Raymond, hearing the rumblings on campus and among his players, called Rivers into his office as tension mounted.

“Do you love her, Glenn?” Raymond asked Rivers, referring to him by his real first name.

“I think so, Coach. I’ve never been in love before,” Rivers said.

“Then the hell with everybody,” Raymond replied.

Recalls Rivers, “What Hank said — that made me feel like a 7-footer.”

Jeremiah tweeted Saturday about his parents’ difficulties. In 1997, when the Rivers family was living in San Antonio, their house burned to the ground and they lost everything. The family was away, but the fire was suspicious and one of the family’s dogs was killed.

Rivers told reporters Monday that he believes Sterling said “those things” on the audio recording and is “disappointed,” but he’s taking the high road with his team in the NBA playoffs. For now, he isn’t interested in dissecting Donald Sterling’s best decision: hiring him.

“I think this is a defining moment, but I think we’ll have more defining moments,” Rivers said. “I think this is a very important decision. I hope that it’s a very strong message, and I believe that it will be. But other than that, I’m just going to let the league do what it needs to do. And then after that, I think the players and myself will have a reaction.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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