Doc Rivers' immediate impact as the new Sixers coach will be providing much-needed credibility | Mailbag
In Rivers, the Sixers get a coach who is widely known and respected around the league to become the face of the organization.
This is the 30th edition of the weekly 76ers mailbag.
Each week, Inquirer.com followers may submit questions to be answered.
Missed out on the party this week? No worries. Submit question(s) for next time by following me on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers and tweeting your inquiry with the hashtag #PompeysMailbagFlow.
Question: What immediate impact will Doc Rivers have? — @hatty215
Answer: What’s up, man? Thanks for this question. The immediate impact that Doc Rivers brings is credibility to the franchise. This organization is taking hits for various reasons, including a lack of accountability and front-office blunders.
In Rivers, the Sixers get a coach who is widely known and respected around the league, to become the face of the organization.
As mentioned in Friday’s Inquirer, the 58-year-old was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2000 with the Orlando Magic. Eight years later, he led the Boston Celtics to the NBA title. Rivers had a hand in changing the culture and perception of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Rivers has compiled a 943-681 regular-season record in stops with the Magic, Celtics and Clippers. He is two victories shy of passing Bill Fitch for 10th place on the NBA all-time wins list. With the Clippers, he had a 356-206 mark, with the top winning percentage (.631) in franchise history.
Over his 21 seasons as a head coach, Rivers coached a ‘Who’s Who' of standout NBA players, including Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Tracy McGrady. McGrady actually turned into a megastar under Rivers in Orlando. Not only was McGrady an All-Star is all four of his Magic seasons, he won back-to-back scoring titles while recording the top three scoring seasons of his 15-year career.
That alone should give him credibility with All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. His presence alone should start to bring some credibility to an organization in desperate need of it.
Q: What up, KP? What kind of expectation should we set for Doc next year? The East is stacked with the Heat, Bucks, Nets and C’s. If we end up in the fifth spot, will that be good enough for the front office, fans and media? — @RobertoSixersFan
A: What’s up, Roberto? Thanks for the great question. I know some people are jumping back on the Sixers bandwagon and saying Eastern Conference finals or bust. But it’s honestly too early to predict how the Sixers will perform next year. Like you said, the East is stacked with the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics. You have to add the Toronto Raptors, and possibly the Indiana Pacers, to that list. Rivers is one of the league’s best coaches, but he has inherited a roster where the pieces don’t fit.
I’ll have a better answer to your question once we know who’s going to be on next season’s roster. The Sixers still have a lot of needs, and not enough cap space to sign the A-list free agent needed to give them a lift. So we will have to see if Sixers are capable to make trades. Now I do think Rivers makes them better than the conference’s seventh-best team as I predicted in August.
How much better? That will depend on the roster.
Q: With the hiring of Rivers as head coach, who do you think the candidates will be to make up the rest of his staff? — @quietstorm12_
A: What’s up, Stacy? I hope you and your young ladies are well.
Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is a candidate to join the staff. He would be a great addition. However, he’s also a candidate to become the associate head coach of the Sacramento Kings. So Gentry will have to make a decision. Gentry was the Clippers associate head coach during Rivers' first season in Los Angeles.
I would be surprised if Baltimore native Sam Cassell doesn’t follow Rivers to Philly. It would be close to his hometown, and Cassell has been a Clippers assistant under Rivers since Sept. 29, 2014.
Armond Hill is another possible assistant coach. Hill has been one of Rivers' assistant coaches since his first season with the Celtics in 2004-05. Like Cassell, this would be sort of a homecoming for Hill, a former Princeton standout and Brooklyn native.
So there are three of several possibilities that come to mind.
Q: Doc had a lot of power in L.A. Does he have any power here besides just being the coach? - @agriffinmitsu
A: What’s good, Al? Rivers is listed as the head coach. However, one has to believe that he has more power than a traditional coach. It wouldn’t make much sense for a man of his stature to come to the Sixers organization known for questionable decision-making without having any power. That would be career suicide.
Rivers gave up his president position in August 2017 in Los Angeles, but continued to split responsibility for basketball matters with Lawrence Frank, the executive vice president of basketball operations.
With that, I think Rivers could serve as a mentor to general manager Elton Brand.
Q: Does Embiid’s social media excitement over Rivers show that he all but bailed on Brett Brown? — @JohnQuinn83
A: Thanks for the question, boss. I didn’t take it as a sign that he all but bailed on the former Sixers coach. I took it as a way to clarify that his tweet that read “So Far Gone!!” at 5:32 p.m. wasn’t meant to be a knock at Rivers being hired as the coach. The formal definition of “far gone" is in a very bad, weak, or confused condition because of being sick, tired, drunk, etc., according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. Seven minutes after his initial tweet, news broke that Rivers and the Sixers reached a deal to become the coach.
So Far Gone is also the title of a mixtape by Canadian rapper Drake. But Embiid’s tweet brought about speculations from Twitter followers. Let me stress that I am not speaking for Embiid. Nor do I have any inside knowledge. However, his ensuing tweets about Rivers halted what would have been people questioning his opinion about the hire.
Q: What was the relationship like between Rivers and Tobias Harris out in L.A.?— @ProfSimmons1017
A: Thanks for the question, sir. I hope this is a start to a great weekend for you. Rivers and Harris had a good relationship and still have a good one. Rivers was demanding of Harris to the point that he would fuss him out for passing up shots. He saw something in the forward and always wanted him to be in an attack mode.
His approach worked.
Harris averaged a career-best 20.9 points and shot a career-best 43.4% on three-pointers in 55 games with the Clippers during the 2018-19 season, before being traded to the Sixers.