LOS ANGELES (AP) — The interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers testified Tuesday that coach Doc Rivers told him he will quit if Donald Sterling remains the owner of the team.
CEO Richard Parsons testified at a trial to determine whether Sterling’s wife, Shelly, can sell the team for $2 billion to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as the NBA looks to force Donald Sterling from the league over racist statements.
“Doc is troubled by this maybe more so than anybody else,” Parsons said about Rivers, who is black. “If Mr. Sterling continues as owner, he does not want to continue as coach.”
Parsons said he fears there would also be an exodus of key players, including team captain Chris Paul, who heads the NBA players union.
The judge stopped Parsons from giving an account of his conversations with Paul when an NBA lawyer objected over privacy issues.
Parsons is a former chief executive at Time Warner and Citigroup who took over leadership of the Clippers in May during the media blitz surrounding the banishment of Sterling.
Under questioning by Ballmer’s lawyer, Parsons said the departure of Rivers would “accelerate the death spiral” of the Clippers.
“If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster,” Parsons said. “Doc is the father figure, the one who leads.”
The discussion of Clippers players and coaches is new territory for the trial that has mostly explored the dealings between the Sterlings.
It wasn’t immediately clear what effect the new information might have on the narrow question under consideration — whether Shelly Sterling can sell the team under the family trust.
Messages left for team officials seeking comment from Rivers weren’t immediately returned.
Parsons, who is considered an expert in the management of major corporations, said he was certain that big corporate sponsors would pull out and season ticket holders would demand their money back if Donald Sterling remains the owner.