Doc Rivers knows more than most what Danny Ainge means to the Boston Celtics organization.
Rivers, now the Philadelphia 76ers' head coach, was hired by Ainge to be the C's coach in in 2004. He was asked Wednesday what Ainge meant to him during his time in Boston.
"It means the world," Rivers said. "I did a pretty good job in Orlando, good enough to get fired at the end of it. ... Literally, within a week of me getting fired, Danny Ainge is the guy that called. ... At the end of the day, he just said, 'You're the guy.' He believed in me.
"Listen, we had the worst stretch. First year was good, we actually won our division. But we decided to go in another direction and people don't realize how hard that is for two years trying to rebuild, getting booed, your team getting mauled every night. You know the plan, but the plan hadn't manifested itself. You have to go through that. Brad had to go through that for years and the fact that Danny just maintained, every day he would come in and say, 'I'm sorry' to me. 'We're gonna get this right, I promise you. Don't leave.' He was just as good as you could have to work for."
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Rivers added that he enjoyed working for Ainge even though sometimes he and "Trader Danny" would butt heads on certain decisions.
"He was a gambler, man. I loved it," Rivers said. "Like, he would take some chances. There were times where we disagreed completely on things, but I trusted him. I'd say, 'Go for it, man. I can see you want to pull the trigger on it, let's do it.' Some of those worked out for us and some didn't.
"We made a pact that we would leave together and I told him, 'What the heck is going on? This is not right.' But Danny's in a great place, I can tell you that. I talked to him today and he's in a great place. So I'm happy for him, I really am."
With Rivers' successor Brad Stevens taking over for Ainge, the C's will be on the search for their next head coach. Whoever it is, Stevens will hope they can bring a championship back to Boston just as Rivers did in 2008.
As the Celtics begin their offseason following a Game 5 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Rivers and the Sixers currently lead their first-round series over the Washington Wizards, 3-1.