Philadelphia is the fourth stop of Doc Rivers’ coaching career. He’s nearly 300 games above .500 in the regular season (943-681) but struggled in the postseason in the rugged Western Conference while he was with the Clippers.
Rivers, 59, has taken over for Brett Brown as the Sixers take the next step toward ending a championship drought that is at 37 years and counting. The Sixers are about 20-1 to win the title this year, and 8-1 to get out of the Eastern Conference. So it’s not like Rivers is starting from scratch.
Rivers is the first man hired by the Sixers in more than 50 years who has won an NBA title as a coach. Here’s how he fared in his first season at his three previous jobs.
» READ MORE: Kicking around the James Harden rumors
1999-2000 - Orlando
Why he was hired: Chuck Daly, the oldest coach in the league, had resigned. The Magic were looking for a 180-degree philosophical change by making the 37-year-old Rivers the league’s second-youngest head coach. “When the substitute teacher comes to teach, you challenge her or him,” Rivers said when he was hired. “So now, I will be challenged.”
Stars he inherited: None really. Darrell Armstrong was his best player.
That first season: 41-41. General manager John Gabriel tore apart the roster in hopes of building around stars. Rivers, with duct tape, banding wire, and four starters who were undrafted, still managed to finish at .500 and come within one game of making the playoffs. Rivers was named the NBA’s coach of the year. Ben Wallace was shipped to Detroit after the season in the Grant Hill deal, and a free-agency run at Tim Duncan failed.
Bottom line: Rivers was up to the challenge, at least initially. But with Hill never able to stay healthy, Rivers was fired after a 1-10 start in 2003-04.
» READ MORE: 25 things to know about Doc Rivers
2004-05 - Boston
Why he was hired: Celtics’ boss Danny Ainge wanted his own coach, having inherited Jim O’Brien, who resigned midway through the 2003-04 season. He turned to Rivers, whom he had known for years as a rival when Rivers played for Atlanta and Ainge for Boston.
Stars he inherited: Paul Pierce.
That first season: 45-37. The Celtics improved by nine games and won the Atlantic Division. They lost to Indiana in the first round in seven games.
Bottom line: The Celtics were awful the following two years, but won the championship in 2007-08 after Ainge brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Pierce.
2013-14 - L.A. Clippers
Why he was hired: Clippers players reportedly soured on Vinny Del Negro, and L.A. wanted Rivers badly enough to trade a first-round pick to Boston.
Stars he inherited: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan.
That first season: 57-25. Though this job did not require massive roster reconstruction, it did test Rivers’ leadership ability after audiotapes surfaced of owner Donald Sterling making racially offensive remarks. Rivers held the team together, even winning a playoff series, as Sterling was forced to sell the team.
Bottom line: Rivers took the Clippers to the playoffs six times in seven seasons, but couldn’t get them past the second round. He wasn’t dormant long as the Sixers scooped him up less than a week after he was let go by L.A.
Still Processing ...
There’s plenty of angst that the Sixers haven’t won enough in the postseason with their young cornerstones. But perhaps patience is the key. Ha. Patience. In this town. Yeah, right. Didja hear the one about the second-round quarterback?
Touring the sportsbooks
Odds are as of Monday, Dec. 21. Payouts (in parentheses) are based on $100 wager, though smaller amounts certainly are allowed.
BetMGM’s over/under on Joel Embiid’s scoring average is 24.5 points per game. It’s 17.5 for Ben Simmons. Odds are -110 each way.
Simmons is +1100 to lead the league in triple doubles. Only odds-on favorite Luka Doncic (-118), LeBron James (+230), Russell Westbrook (+500) and Nikola Jokic (+800) have shorter odds.
Sixers to NBA title: FanDuel (+2200), BetMGM (+2000), DraftKings (+2000), PointsBet (+2000), William Hill (+2000)
Sixers to win Eastern Conference: BetMGM (+900), DraftKings (+800), PointsBet (+800), William Hill (+800), FanDuel (+700).
Consensus to win NBA title: Lakers (+275).
Leaders to win Eastern Conference: Milwaukee (+230), Brooklyn (+275), Boston (+650), Miami (+650).
Will the Sixers make the playoffs (at William Hill)? Yes -700, No +475.
DraftKings has Markelle Fultz at +3300 to win Most Improved Player, Matisse Thybulle at +5000 and Mikal Bridges at +8000.
Luka Doncic is the consensus favorite for MVP at around +400. Joel Embiid (+4000) and Ben Simmons (+6000) are on the boards as long shots.
Doc Rivers is the third choice at PointsBet for coach of the year at +1400. Boston’s Brad Stevens (+900) and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra (+1200) are favored to win.