Doc Rivers discusses the racial remarks made by Donald Sterling.

Doc Rivers discusses the racial remarks made by Donald Sterling.
Doc Rivers discusses the racial remarks made by Donald Sterling.

“I wasn’t at all ready. You’re not ready for it, really: you don’t know what to do with your staff.”

Head coach Doc Rivers was informed that there was no big thing when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was suspended by the NBA for making racial remarks. As it happens, it was not at all the case.

Rivers described what transpired following the release of the Sterling audio in a tell-all interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

You know, it’s kind of intriguing. The PR man shows me this movie while I’m in my room and says, “You should watch it.” “No, Andy [Roeser] told me it’s not a big deal,” I responded.

And he lets out a cry of, “It’s a big deal.” “That’s a big ——— deal,” he declared. I’m startled when I look at that, Rivers said to CNN.

I’m blown away, but I don’t know what to do. That is, you know, I look back on that two-week period where I was lucky.

I was really unprepared. I mean, you’re not prepared for that: On what to do with your team. And there’s so many steps that could have gone wrong that went right, overall, for our guys.

You know, the first step was, we had a team meeting right after it got out on ESPN. We called a team meeting and it was a misstep by me. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know, should I wear a Clippers shirt?”

The league also fined Sterling $2.5 million with NBA commissioner Adam Silver saying Sterling would never be able to attend any NBA games or practices. He also is not allowed to be present at any Clippers facility.

Rivers was unsure if he even wanted to represent the Clippers following the comments. Harlow asked him if he was worried what Sterling said would represent him.

“Yeah, yeah. And I’m the head coach and my players are going to have their practice gear on,” Rivers said.

“So I put it on, and I walk downstairs and half the players don’t have theirs on. And so I’m like, ‘Uh, OK, yeah, it’s mistake number one.’ And I’m talking to them about this.

And honestly, the first 10 minutes of the talk didn’t go right. And thank God I had the ability to read the room that day.”

Rivers said he noticed the particular way the players were standing. That’s part of what a coach notices.

I read bad body language and that’s something the coach looks for all the time. I saw folded arms and I felt like they in the middle of the speech thought I was part of them… and so, I remember that and I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want one of my players to say something that then becomes part of the story.’ I was panicked by that.”

As far as how Rivers believed the players should, or shouldn’t have reacted to the story …

“I didn’t want my players to say something that would become a bigger story than what Donald Sterling did. I was so mad at what he did. I wanted the spotlight to stay on him.

And so, I told them, I said, ‘Listen, we’re about to go do media.’ And I have to admit, this is what I meant by lucky. I thought it was a story. I didn’t know it was going to be a story, if you know what I’m saying. I thought it was a sports story — it was an American story.”

What Sterling stated—well, Magic Johnson declared on social media that he wouldn’t go to a Clippers game as long as he owned the team, and other incidents revealed Sterling’s involvement in discriminatory practices.









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