MIAMI — For the immediate future, Doc Rivers and Pat Riley are rivals on opposite sides for the 76ers vs. Miami Heat Eastern Conference semifinal series.
But when it comes to coaching, Rivers will tell you he learned everything from Riley, who is now Heat president.
Riley was one of the NBA’s most renowned coaches before moving to the front office full time. Rivers played for him for 2 ½ seasons with the New York Knicks during the early 1990s.
“I guess I would say I’ve been a lucky player,” Rivers said, “because I played for Mike Fratello, who’s a defensive genius. I followed that up with Larry Brown. I followed that up with Pat Riley. And I go to San Antonio and [Gregg Popovich] is in the front office. That’s where our relationship started.
“So I’ve been around some pretty good guys. But Riley clearly had the biggest impact. It’s not even close.”
Rivers had no thought of coaching until he played for Riley.
But he initially thought Riley and Fratello, his former Atlanta Hawks coach, were crazy for thinking he should coach.
So toward the end of his 13-year playing career, he thought about broadcasting NBA games — not coaching in them. He spent three years as an analyst for Turner Sports after retiring as a player.
“He was the one when I did TV for three years, every day he would call me or challenge me, ‘When are you going to get in the fray?’ Stop,” Rivers said of Riley. “”He would belittle me, literally. Because I did the  Miami and New York playoff series. Every day, he got me. I thought he was wrong, but he ended up being right.”
Rivers heads into Game 1 against Riley’s Heat with 102 playoff victories. That ranks fourth on the list for all-time postseason wins for an NBA coach behind Phil Jackson (229), Riley (171), and Popovich (170).
In conjunction with the NBA 75th anniversary, Rivers was named one of the 15 greatest coaches in NBA history before the All-Star break.
The 60-year-old passed Rick Adelman for ninth all-time in NBA regular season coaching victories during the Sixers’ 2021-22 finale. He has compiled a 1,043-735 record in the regular season during stops with the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, and Sixers. And he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title.
All of his success is a result of Riley’s vision.
“He inspired me, he really did,” Rivers said. “Just his speeches and his belief in conditioning, which I was always in pretty good shape anyway. He has you believing that you are different than anybody else in the league.”
Tyrese Maxey: “I’m adaptable”
Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey was asked how much more of a workload he expects to carry with Joel Embiid sidelined. The MVP candidate is expected to miss at least the first two games of the series with an orbital fracture near his right eye and a concussion.
“I would say I’m adaptable,” Maxey said. “I’ve been saying it since the year started. And I will do whatever they ask me to do. If they ask me to play more, do more offensively, more defensively. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
The second-year player averaged 21.3 points and 4.8 assists in the opening-round series against the Toronto Raptors. Maxey, Tobias Harris, and James Harden are expected to increase their workout while Embiid is sidelined.
Sixers vs. Heat playoff series
This marks the third time the Sixers and Heat have squared off in the playoffs. The Sixers defeated Miami in five games in the first round in 2018. In 2011, the Heat won the best-of-seven first round in five games.