This past Monday the Philadelphia 76ers introduced Doc Rivers their new Head Coach.
The 76ers reached a deal with Rivers late last Thursday night, October 1, bringing Philadelphia’s coaching search to a dramatic end. Rivers beat out former Rockets Head Coach Mike D’Antoni and his former Clippers assistant Ty Lue for the job.
He replaces Brett Brown, who was unceremoniously fired after the 76ers’ disappointing playoff performance in the NBA bubble. Brown took over the 76ers Head Coaching position in 2013 and helped usher Philadelphia through the team’s rebuilding strategy, “the Process.”
However, Brown never proved he could coach the young team to a championship. After years of speculation that he lost the locker room, discussion that he wasn’t utilizing Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons properly, and consistent failures in the postseason, the 76ers decided to look in a new direction.
The decision wasn’t an easy one though. The 76ers are a team committed to winning now and they required a coach with a championship mentality. While they briefly considered promoting assistant coach Ime Udoka and flirted with the possibility of Jason Kidd, only two names emerged in the aftermath of Brett Brown’s dismissal, D’Antoni and Lue.
Both Mike D’Antoni and Ty Lue are respected coaches, but they also would have brought a host a negative discourse to the job. Sixers Twitter made their feelings very clear on the matter. D’Antoni was trolled because he never won a championship and failed to find a winning formula with multiple Rockets offenses. Lue was trolled because he rode the coattails of LeBron James when the Cavaliers won the NBA Finals in 2016.
Reports from inside the 76ers organization claim the front office was divided on who to hire. Reportedly, General Manager Elton Brand wanted Ty Lue and Owner Josh Harris and his managing partner wanted Mike D’Antoni. As the 76ers stalled their decision, an unlikely solution was about to present itself. On September 28, the Los Angeles Clippers fired Doc Rivers, sending a shockwave through the NBA.
Rivers, a celebrated coach, was the casualty of an early playoff exit. It took the 76ers only a couple of hours to reach out to Rivers’ agent. Doc Rivers was a name Elton Brand and Josh Harris could agree on and the 76ers concluded contract negotiations in 72 hours.
Doc Rivers brings a championship pedigree to Philadelphia, as well as a history of working with star players. Yet, his work is cut out for him. With his hiring, the 76ers face an increase in already high expectations, plus a roster that needs overhauled. Al Horford, a questionable free agent acquisition last summer, is still owed $81 million over the next three seasons. Tobias Harris and Ben Simmons were given extensions that owe them $147 million and $178 million respectively. Those contracts make any significant changes unlikely. Despite Elton Brand surely shopping Horford hard, the number of interested teams will probably be around zero.
That means Rivers will largely have to work with those already on the 76ers current roster. His priority will be creating an offense that benefits both Embiid and Simmons. Rivers’ previous history suggests he may make Ben Simmons the primary ball-handler and keep Joel Embiid under the rim.
Many people want to see Embiid with the basketball in his hands, but how Rivers handled Blake Griffin and Lob City in Los Angeles might point to his solution. Doc Rivers also needs to incorporate Tobias Harris better into the offense. Harris had his best career numbers under Rivers in LA and their reunion in Philadelphia offers Tobias Harris a second chance to become a focal point.
Additionally, Rivers likes to use off-the-ball shooters as his fifth starter or sixth man. If that transitions to the 76ers, Furkan Korkmaz and Alec Burks may see larger roles in the offense next season.
At his introductory press conference, Doc Rivers appeared enthused to be taking over as Head Coach of the 76ers. “I love coaching. I absolutely love it,” Rivers said to the media. “But I was not going to just coach anybody…it just depended on the team that was available, and if that team in my opinion was ready to win.”
Rivers also praised the 76ers players, stating they were the reason he had to take the job. “You look at these players, these young players, and their potential. The fact that they’ve had so much success in so many ways at the ages they are already, and where I think they can go, for me it’s a job you just couldn’t turn down. That’s why I’m here. Just really excited about it.”