Now that the NBA’s prime coaching pool is shrinking by the day as Doc Rivers contemplates his Celtics future, Danny Ainge has no choice but to consider a backup plan if his coach of the last nine seasons leaves.
Two league sources with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed yesterday that if Rivers does indeed leave, former Clippers coach Vinnie Del Negro will receive serious consideration as his replacement.
Clippers management, known to be interested in Rivers now that his reluctance has become public, was denied permission to talk to him earlier this week, according to one of the sources. Celtics management has now denied two teams permission — the Clippers and Nets. Memphis is also said to be interested, though Grizzlies management has not approached Ainge.

But Rivers’ prolonged deliberation has forced Ainge to at least consider alternatives. The Celtics president of basketball operations is an admirer of the Springfield-born Del Negro and his up-tempo philosophy, even if Del Negro reportedly didn’t mesh with his biggest star, Chris Paul.
“As a stopgap for that situation, sure,” said one source. “Vinnie would be the perfect person for what they need. All of the all-star coaches, or whatever you want to call them, are going, and knowing how Danny feels about him, (Del Negro) would be a good fit.”
Though Ainge could also turn to a member of Rivers’ Celtics staff as a short-term solution, that course of action is said to be secondary. But the Celtics are unlikely to pay much for their next coach. Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million contract two years ago, making him the highest paid coach in the NBA. San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich averages $1 million less per season than Rivers.