Doc Rivers is going to be traded to the Clippers pending league approval, for the Clippers first round pick in 2015. Using information from the site prosportstransactions.com, this is the first time a coach has been traded for a first round pick (though the Stan Van Gundy trade had a conditional first that never materialized).
This isn’t the first time Doc Rivers has been involved in a coach trade. In fact, it appears that he was the first player selected as a result of a head coach trade (by just a few picks) in NBA history. A search of all previous draft archives reveals no draft pick trades listed as involving a head coach (I am not ruling out players traded who served as player/coaches).
On June 7th, 1983, the Atlanta Hawks traded Kevin Loughery for a second round pick from the Chicago Bulls. That pick, the 31st in the draft, was then used on one Glenn “Doc” Rivers. Loughery, of course, went on to coach Michael Jordan at the start of his career, before he was replaced by Doug Collins. On the same day as that trade, Stan Albeck was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the New Jersey Nets, after legal wrangling when a judge ruled Albeck had to honor the Spurs contract, and the sides worked out compensation of a 2nd round pick, the 46th overall selection.
Those weren’t the first two trades, chronologically, for a head coach in NBA history. Chuck Daly holds that distinction when he was a 76ers assistant and was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers mid-season in 1981. The pick involved, though, was a 1985 2nd round pick, so by the time the 76ers exercised it, Daly was already building the Pistons into a powerhouse. The other trades of a head coach for a draft pick (all second rounders or multiple second rounders) were Mike Dunleavy (1992; Lakers to Bucks), Dick Versace (1988, Pistons to Pacers), Jeff Van Gundy (2005, Knicks to Rockets), and Stan Van Gundy (2007, Heat to Magic).
Rod Thorn, then the Bulls GM, had this to say about the possibility of compensation for Kevin Loughery just five days before the trade back in 1983: “I’m getting the impression they’d want a good player, or maybe a draft choice. I wouldn’t even be interested in giving them a bad player. If that’s what this thing comes down to, they can keep him.”
It came down to giving a draft pick, and Doc Rivers turned out to be more than a bad player. In fact, he is easily the best player traded for a NBA head coach so far. Of course, no one else has given up a first round pick until now, and it is not even protected in 2015. The Clippers better hope that this move turns out to lead them to contention, rather than making history again.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]