Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson both believe that Doc Rivers will eventually be headed to the Hall of Fame. Before doing so, his latest stop is in Philadelphia as the new coach of the 76ers.
Rivers, who was fired Monday by the Los Angeles Clippers after seven seasons, was named to replace Brett Brown as Sixers coach Thursday.
During a conference call before the Sixers hired Rivers, Van Gundy and Jackson spoke about him in glowing terms.
“He is a future Hall of Fame coach, and outstanding coach, he has done an incredible job everywhere he has been,” said Jackson, who played in the NBA 17 seasons and was the head coach of the Golden State Warriors for three. “He is a tremendous leader and [I was] obviously surprised that he was let go.”
Van Gundy, who was an NBA head coach for 11 seasons, most recently with Houston in 2006-07, echoed Jackson’s praise.
“I think the entire basketball community was shocked,” Van Gundy said, referring to his ouster in Los Angeles. “I think Doc, over his entire career starting in Orlando and through Boston to the Clippers, has done a great job in leading his team and maximizing their talents.”
Van Gundy said his leadership was never more evident than during this year’s playoffs after the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott a playoff game against Orlando, protesting racial injustice and the shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, by police in Kenosha, Wis.
Other professional leagues followed suit in postponing games.
There was some speculation that the NBA wouldn’t start up again, but all the professional leagues returned to action. The NBA missed three days of games before returning.
Rivers was among the key voices who talked about what steps to take following the boycott.
“I think his leadership qualities during this bubble experience really helped show the way, how everybody -- teams, players, coaches -- can maximize their platform for change,” Van Gundy said about Rivers. “And as far as with coaching in the future, obviously as Mark said he is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach. He can have his pick of jobs for sure.”
His pick was the Sixers.
“I think Brett Brown did a tremendous job in Philadelphia and they have some good returning pieces,” Van Gundy said. “Their roster on the perimeter needs work. But I think Doc or anybody there is going to be very successful.”
It will be Rivers, who has a 943-681 career record and won a championship with Boston in 2008 while losing in the NBA Finals with the Celtics in 2010.
Added Jackson: “He is an outstanding coach and tremendous leader and the game certainly needs him.”