The 76ers fired coach Doc Rivers, the team announced on Tuesday, two days after Philadelphia fell in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Celtics. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Sixers’ semifinal loss marked their sixth consecutive year of reaching the postseason but failing to advance beyond the second round.
- Rivers has led Philadelphia to a record of 154-82 in the regular season and 20-15 in the playoffs in three seasons.
- Philadelphia has not reached the Conference Finals since 2001.
the Athletec instant parsing:
What does this say about Sixers ownership
There are many reasons the Sixers gave up Rivers, and the precedent for this ownership group was already there. Brett Brown had three legitimate chances to knock out the Joel Embiid-led Sixers after the second round of the playoffs, and when he fell short, he was let go in 2020. After the Sixers’ Game 7 debacle in Boston on Sunday, Rivers found himself in the same position: 0 for 3.
Reasonable minds can disagree about how wrong Rivers was in a series that saw his best players struggle in the most important moments, but he was brought to Philadelphia to take the Sixers even further than he’d go. This did not happen.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty heading into the off-season, but firing a coach is always the easiest lever to pull. Bringing Rivers back after a three-burn tiebreaker was untenable. Rivers said after Game 7 that he planned to return, but by that point, the writing was on the wall. He still has two years left on his contract. – Hoffman
What did the Philadelphia stars say about Rivers?
When asked about Rivers after the Sixers’ Game 7 loss, the two-star linebackers gave different answers. Embiid called Rivers “fantastic”, saying: “You look at the way he handled the whole (Ben Simmons) situation we had a year or two ago, he kept the team afloat. He was a great leader for all of us, a great motivator “.
James Harden took a different tack when asked if the coach should come back, simply saying, “Our relationship is fine.” It felt like a short answer for now.
With Harden on the horizon as a free agent this summer, possibly a trip risk to Houston, it doesn’t look like both Harden and Rivers will be back with the Sixers next year. Now the question turns to whether either of them will return. – Hoffman
What is Philadelphia looking for in an alternative?
It should be noted that this will be Daryl Morey’s first official training with the Sixers, as Rivers was brought in just weeks before Morey officially took over as President of Basketball Operations in the whirlwind of 2020. As long as Embiid is on the roster, the most likely outcome is that he turn Sixers need a coach with experience to try and get the over-the-top roster.
Just in the past few weeks, three experienced NBA Finals coaches (Nick Nurse, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams) have hit the coaching market. Williams was an assistant in Philadelphia under Brown. Mike D’Antoni has always loomed as a candidate due to his ties to Morey and Harden, and he had a brief stint as a Sixers assistant during one of his early career Embiid years. There are other names with experience, too.
Whoever ends up hiring the Sixers will be judged on their playoff record. Rivers’ regular season record with the Sixers was good enough, especially under some adverse circumstances. Embiid has taken his game to another level in the past three years. But they continued to fall short in the playoffs. – Hoffman
Rivers, 61, was hired by Philadelphia in 2020 with the expectation that his championship experience would help the Sixers advance past the postseason hurdles they faced under former head coach Brown. Instead, these shortcomings persist despite major overhauls in the menu.
Under Rivers, the 76ers traded Simmons for the net in a deal for Harden, Embiid was developed into a key player, Therese Maxe was drafted and developed into a reliable 20-point scorer and the team rounded out its roster with veterans like PJ Tucker, Montrezel Harrell and Galen McDaniels.
Dating back to 2008, when Rivers was coaching Boston, the teams he leads have reached the playoffs in 15 out of 16 seasons. But not since 2010, when the Celtics reached the NBA Finals, has a team led by Rivers advanced beyond the second round.
Rivers resigned as head coach of the Clippers in 2020 after the team lost in the semi-finals. The following year, under new head coach Ty Law, Los Angeles reached its first conference finals in franchise history.
what are they saying
He called Morey Rivers “one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, a future Hall of Famer, and someone I respect very much.”
“We’re grateful for everything he’s done in the three seasons he’s been here and thank him for the important impact he’s had on our franchise,” Morey said. “Having had the opportunity to reflect on our season, we have decided that some changes are necessary to advance our goals in championship contention.”
(Photo: Winslow Townson/USA Today)
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