Doc Rivers definitely has folks looking at the 76ers.
Dysfunctional and deceptive were among two of the ways the organization was viewed around the NBA. That’s not to say that the team wasn’t talented, with two of the league’s best young stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
A culture of not holding players accountable, head-scratching front-office decisions and an overflow of injuries kept setting the organization back.
The biggest question surrounding the team is who’s really in charge.
The Sixers admitted their collaborative decision-maker efforts didn’t work, and that general manager Elton Brand would make the decision on the new head coach.
However, sources around the league wondered who was really in charge. They talked about the ownership’s heavy involvement in the head-coaching search that concluded with Rivers agreeing to a five-year deal on Thursday. The team officially announced him as Brett Brown’s successor on Saturday.
League executives also wondered how serious the organization was in regards to evaluating its front office personnel.
It’s no secret that the front office has made questionable draft picks, trades, and free-agent signing that set the franchise back.
Back in August, multiple league sources didn’t expect Alex Rucker, the executive vice president of basketball operations, to be back next season. In addition to Rucker, assistant GM Ned Cohen and VP of strategy Sergi Oliva were also involved in the decision-making as the team relied heavily on analytics.
But now that we’re into October, the new expectation is that Rucker and Cohen are in line to remain, but be out of the loop in regards to decision making. They could just be information gatherers.
The team has said it is looking to add an executive who would rank below Brand. The word came after multiple league sources said the team had been inquiring about the possibility of hiring a president of basketball operations.
Perhaps hiring someone under Brand is a good thing. Most high-level executives wouldn’t come in as president because of the team’s current situation.
So they were set on hiring an experienced executive to work underneath Brand, who has only two seasons of NBA front-office experience and hadn’t been involved in the decision-making. Unless Brand is elevated to president, it would be a tough sell for a veteran incomer to make a lateral move to work under someone who has less experience than him.
Another tough sell would be coming to an organization that has had seven different lead executives since managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer bought the team on July 13, 2011.
As a result, the organization wasn’t exactly regarded as a place where executives go to have long tenures.
So the biggest questions were how could the Sixers fix things, especially their image, and is the franchise closer or farther away from winning an NBA title?
Then comes Monday night when the Clippers surprisingly fired Rivers as head coach. By Thursday, the Rivers and the Sixers agreed to a deal to replace Brett Brown, who was fired on Aug. 24.
Rivers brings a league-wide credibility not associated with a Sixers figure since Jerry Colangelo was hired as chairman of basketball operations in December 2015.
He instantly becomes the face and the voice of the franchise.
Rivers received a five-year contract, so there’s an investment in him. Don’t be surprised if he has major say and brings people with him.
Annemarie Loflin, the Clippers' chief of staff of basketball operations, has been with Rivers since his time as the Orlando Magic coach in the early 2000s. She followed him to the Boston Celtics and to the Clippers.
Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry and Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell are among other candidates who could join his coaching staff. Cassell is also a candidate for the Houston Rockets head-coaching job, while Gentry is also a candidate for the Sacramento Kings' associate head-coaching job.
There will be a more accountable, professional atmosphere than in the past.
Rivers appeared eager to get things started. He is expected to return to the Philadelphia area on Sunday evening and will start on Monday. He’ll bring more accountability and a more professional atmosphere.
Bringing in a head coach of Rivers' stature might require a huge investment in terms of contract, staff, and player-personnel decisions even if the job doesn’t come with an additional title.
It wouldn’t make much sense for a man of his standing to come to an organization like the Sixers, which is known for questionable decision-making, without him having any power. That would not be a good career move.
The Sixers' roster has pieces that don’t fit, and Rivers has a background in making front-office decisions.
The Clippers acquired him in June 2013 in a trade with the Boston Celtics for an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick. He was named coach of the Clippers and senior vice president of basketball operations.
The team promoted him to president of basketball operations/coach in June 2014. He had final say in all basketball matters. Rivers gave up his president position in August 2017 but continued to split responsibility of basketball matters with Lawrence Frank, the executive vice president of basketball operations.
In addition to making basketball decision, Rivers is the league’s second-winningest active coach and has a knack for using his platform to make a difference during social issues.
In Los Angeles, his toughest battle was keeping the team together after TMZ released an audiotape containing racially insensitive remarks by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling during the first round of the 2014 playoffs.
He will always be remembered for showing raw emotion on Aug. 25 after the Clippers' 154-111 victory in Game 5 over the Dallas Mavericks. Rivers, who is Black, talked about Jacob Blake and racism in America. Blake, a Black male, was shot by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 22.
On the court, 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 Clippers.
The 58-year-old 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 in 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 Rivers credibility with Simmons and Embiid. His presence will bring some credibility to an organization in desperate need of it.