With a settlement attempt stalled, Donald and Shelly Sterling returned to court Tuesday to continue the trial to decide the fate of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The team's interim chief executive officer, Richard Parsons, said in a Los Angeles probate court that Clippers coach Doc Rivers would not return for the upcoming season if Donald Sterling still owned the club.
"Doc has been the guy who has had to stand up and deal with the media (regarding the controversy over Sterling's inflammatory comments that led to his lifetime ban from the NBA)," Parsons testified. "He has told me he doesn't think if Mr. Sterling remains that he wants to continue as coach. He's told me that at least three times.
"If Doc were to leave, that would be a disaster. Doc is the father figure of the team. Chris (Paul) is the on-court captain of the team. But Doc is really the guy who leads the effort. He's the coach, the grown-up, he's a man of character and ability -- not just in a basketball sense, but in the ability to connect with people and gain their trust.
"The team believes in him and admires and loves him. If he were to bail, with all the other circumstances, it would accelerate the death spiral."
Parsons added that the continued presence of Donald Sterling in ownership would prompt sponsors to distance themselves from the Clippers.
According to multiple media outlets, a meeting with prospective Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was held Monday at Donald Sterling's home. No progress was made in talks geared toward a settlement.
All three sides were represented by attorneys, and Ballmer and Donald Sterling attended, though Shelly Sterling was not present.
Shelly Sterling was expected to be called to the witness stand on Tuesday to defend the claim by her husband's attorneys that Donald Sterling was removed from the family trust due to questions of his failing mental capacity. Two doctors certified he should be classified as mentally incapacitated.
The NBA franchise could be sold to Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, for more than $2 billion, but the sale by the trust is on hold while the court settles Donald Sterling's stake in the matter.
Sterling was removed from ownership and contact with the team by NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league's Board of Governors. The league cannot approve the sale while it is being contested.