Steve Ballmer got his team. Now he's locked up his coach.
In his first major move since acquiring the Clippers two weeks ago, the new owner Wednesday gave Coach Doc Rivers a five-year contract that runs through the 2018-19 season, replacing his previous deal with more years and enhanced terms.
Yahoo Sports reported the total value of the contract was more than $50 million, making Rivers the NBA's highest-paid coach, though he is also the Clippers' president of basketball operations.
Rivers had two years and $14 million left on the contract he brought with him from the Boston Celtics last summer. Under his new contract, Rivers, 52, will make more money a season than every Clippers player except Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Ballmer had identified "supporting Doc in every way he needs" as a priority last week in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.
"This is an important day for this organization," Ballmer said Wednesday in a statement. "I am excited to work with Doc for a long time as we build a championship culture that will deliver results both on and off the court.
"Not only is Doc one of the best coaches and executives in the game, but he continually embodies the hard-core, committed and resilient character and winning culture that the Clippers represent. It was one of my top priorities to ensure that he was firmly in place as the long-term leader of this team."
Rivers' new contract rewards him for guiding the Clippers to a franchise-best 57-25 record in his first season and shepherding the franchise through the tumult of Donald Sterling's final months as owner.
The Clippers were in the midst of a first-round playoff series against Golden State when audio recordings surfaced in which Sterling implored a friend not to bring black people to games.
Rivers served as team spokesman through that period and soothed team employees who were forced to deal with fan and advertiser backlash. He openly contemplated the possibility of quitting if Sterling remained owner but managed to steer the Clippers past the Warriors in an emotional seven-game series.
Oklahoma City defeated the Clippers in six games in the Western Conference semifinals after the Clippers lost a seven-point lead in the final 49.2 seconds of Game 5.
Rivers' future was in doubt until the $2-billion sale of the Clippers to Ballmer closed this month. The coach and his new boss appeared to have an immediate bond last week during a welcome rally for Ballmer, playing off each other's high-energy approach.
"Steve has shown a clear and determined desire to make the Clippers one of the most elite, first-class and championship organizations in all of professional sports," Rivers said in a statement. "We know we have work to do to get there, but I am motivated by the challenge and thankful for the opportunity to stand together with Steve as we continue to move toward our goal of winning an NBA title."
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford told The Times he was thrilled Rivers will be part of the team's title quest for years to come.
"Knowing you have that kind of leadership in place for a while helps put everyone at ease," Crawford said. "I'm ecstatic for him and our team."
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