Rivers was the subject of weeks of rumors and speculation, beginning with the Celtics' elimination on May 3 and ending on June 24 when the C's finally completed their blockbuster deal to send the coach west. While Rivers was happy to finally land with the Clippers, he didn't appreciate the back-and-forth mudslinging that led up to the deal in Boston, and he wasn't shy about it tonight.
"I didn't like the way it played out," the coach said pregame. "I felt like, in that process, I had no voice. I had to not say anything and let the talk both ways go on. I couldn't play a part in it. When you have the nine years that I had and then have to have it talked about and bandied about like that, I didn't want that, and Danny [Ainge] didn't want that either. It's unfortunate, but in the league we're in, I don't know if there's another way."
Rivers did admit, however, that he began to want out of Boston toward the end. With Rajon Rondo injured, the veteran stars aging and a rebuild clearly on the horizon, the coach wanted to leave while his own stock was still high, and the L.A. opportunity was alluring. He also conceded that his presence in Boston was beginning to get stale.
"I think at times, you really start as a coach to feel like your voice has been heard," Rivers said. "That was my feeling toward the end of last year. Whether it's right or not, that's whatever your perception is of it. But the whole rebuild thing would have been very difficult for me to go through, so Danny and I and all of us worked together."
Returning to the building for the first time since his exit, Rivers had a few emotional reunions with his old Celtics friends - including old players like Brandon Bass, and behind-the-scenes allies like media relations VP Jeff Twiss. He's a competitor and he wants to beat the Celtics tonight, but Rivers has a soft spot for a few current C's.
"For nine years, they were my family," he said. "It's tough. You stay in touch, but when you don't see them every day, it's not the same. Now, you get to see them, and it's pretty emotional."
He's hoping to be warmly received when he takes the sideline tonight at the Garden. There will always be detractors who criticize the way he left town, but the coach maintains that there's no need for a negative spin on his new career outlook.
"When you think your voice has been heard too much, it's just time," Rivers said. "There doesn't have to be anything bad about that, you know?"