Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has expressed interest in reuniting with the Orlando Magic, where he began his coaching career in 1999. Rivers coached Orlando for three-full seasons, until early in 2003-04, as they were a team who were still moving forward from the Shaquille O’Neal era.
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Rivers had the opportunity to coach a few phenomenal athletes such as Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. However, the overall timing for him to have consistent talent on the roster wasn’t exactly there. Some of the NBA’s greatest players — who were in the back-end of their careers — were on the roster while Rivers was at the helm:
- Patrick Ewing spent his first-fifteen seasons for the New York Knicks. He then went on to play for the Seattle Supersonics in 2000-01, then his final season in 2001-02 with Orlando — at 39 years of age.
- Shawn Kemp, who spent eight years with Seattle, went on to play three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1997-00, two with the Portland Trail Blazers, then his final with Orlando.
- Horace Grant, a three-time champion with the Chicago Bulls, had the chance to play alongside O’Neal during his earlier years. Grant was younger and more productive than both Ewing and Kemp, as he spent two of his final three seasons with the Magic.
Rivers finished with an over .500 record (171-168) with Orlando, which was highly acceptable if you consider the injuries, as well as the underwhelming talent he had.
- 1999-00 season: 41-41 record; missed postseason.
- 2000-01 season: 43-39 record; eliminated (1-4) by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.
- 2001-02 season: 44-38 record; eliminated (1-4) by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round.
- 2002-03 season: 42-40 record; eliminated (3-4) by the Detroit Pistons in the first round.
But after a disastrous 1-10 start in the 2003-04 season, Rivers was fired by Orlando. Replacing him with interim head-coach Johnny Davis, who finished the season with a record of 20-51. Though this mark was only the beginning, for what would be a lengthy and productive career for Rivers.
After Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics hired Rivers as the team’s sixteenth head coach in the franchise’s history, it didn’t take for them to become a winning team. The Celtics won the 2007-08 NBA title with Rivers as well as one of the greatest core of players in NBA history — consisting of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo.
The Magic are currently a team who are still finding the right identity under current head coach Frank Vogel, who was formally coaching the Indiana Pacers. It’s unlikely that Rivers will return in any short distance, and even so, his current contract with L.A doesn’t expire until the 2018-19 season.
But for all stories, there are roots, and a return to Orlando would be a comfortable way to end Rivers’ coaching career.