Magic need to keep eye on Doc Rivers

Rivers won't commit to returning as Celtics' coach

The Magic need to keep an eye on a game-changer who might be available at any time — or by the time they have big money to spend in a few years.

He's a champion, a defensive whiz, a motivator, a leader to the stars.

He knows the ins and outs of the point-guard position.

And most important, Glen Rivers could one day be the key free agent in Orlando's rebuild — as their coach. Again.

Why are we even mentioning a Rivers' reunion and causing Jacque Vaughn offseason heartburn?

Let's answer the question with another question: What's up, Doc?

That's what Boston Nation wants to know, along with Tim Tebow's favorite color.

Rivers has yet to publicly confirm that he's coming back to coach the team despite having three years and $21 million left on his contract.

ESPN quoted someone close to Rivers on Wednesday as saying Rivers feels "it may be time for a change." Asked Sunday by the Boston Globe about his plans, Rivers said, "I'd rather not say."

Hmmmm.

For Doc to deliver a "no comment" about anything is an upset. Saying he'll talk about his future "soon" can't help but heighten the drama.

Then again, it's not a big surprise.

The Celtics need retooling, given there is not enough anti-aging cream to cover Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Various reports indicate Rivers is waiting on what GM Danny Ainge will do with Pierce, which could influence a decision by Garnett.

Pierce is in the last year of his deal, with only $5 million of the $15 million guaranteed. Subtracting Pierce and perhaps KG leaves moody Rajon Rondo as the lone star — and he's coming back from an ACL injury.

So life back in his Winter Park digs would be far less stressful for Rivers, along with wintertime golf and a weekend TV gig. At least for a while.

Doc would feel a backlash in Boston if he wasn't willing to endure another reconstruction. He survived the losing early in his tenure before the Big Three (Pierce, KG and Ray Allen) came together, steering them to a title in 2008.

The Celtics haven't been quite good enough or healthy enough since then.

The way coaches are being treated in the NBA lately, no one should get too upset about Rivers bolting after nine seasons. Loyalty? Vinny Del Negro, Lionel Hollins and George Karl posted terrific seasons and are in the unemployment line.

Celtics fans, drunk on lore and leprechauns, don't want to hear about rebuilding. Doc would take the brunt of the blame.

Depending on whatever deal he works out with the Celtics, he could be available at some point.

Rivers instantly would become a candidate for openings with the L.A. Clippers, Denver and Memphis — all playoff teams.

There are better jobs than Orlando's, but only one in Orlando. Rivers might not want anything to do with the Magic again. But the Magic should monitor Doc's movements anyway.

They gave him his first coaching job in 1999 during a reorg and then presented him with Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. Hill's health saga sabotaged the plan — and Rivers.

Doc was deeply hurt when Orlando fired him in 2003, although the storied Celtics gladly brought him aboard.

Such speculation isn't fair to Vaughn. The business isn't about being fair. By design, Vaughn likely will have another 60-loss season on his résumé. How many coaches survive that despite the situation? It's as if Vaughn is cheerfully playing the part of a foreman during this construction mess.

Wasn't all that fair to another young promising coach nicknamed Doc a decade ago.

The Magic are rebuilding again, but they can afford marquee free agents after this season. And who better to attract those stars in his adopted hometown of Orlando than Rivers?

If the club is serious about winning, wouldn't he be the perfect coach at the perfect time this time?

Déjà' Doc?

bschmitz@tribune.com

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