The Sixers hire Doc Rivers to deliver an NBA title in the Embiid-Simmons era
Rivers, who was fired by the Clippers just days ago, won an NBA title as the Boston Celtics' coach in 2008. Two more wins will put him in 10th place all-time in coaching victories.
Doc Rivers accepted the 76ers′ offer to be the team’s head coach on Thursday.
Rivers will receive a five-year contract, according to sources. He will not work in the front office. With the Los Angeles Clippers, Rivers had a prominent role in the front office in addition to coaching the team.
Former New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is being seriously considered to join Rivers' staff as an assistant, a league source confirmed. The source noted that Gentry is also in the running to become the associate head coach for the Sacramento Kings.
Rivers was unavailable for comment Thursday evening. The Sixers are scheduled to make an announcement Friday and he’ll be introduced next week.
Earlier in the day, a league source said that the Sixers and Rivers were working through details and that the job was his to turn down.
The former Clippers coach interviewed Wednesday. Sources confirmed that he watched the Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals with the Sixers brass that night.
At that time, a source said that Rivers wasn’t going to leave town without an offer. Another source said the expectation is that the Sixers would announce Rivers as their next coach. The team intended to make the coaching hire as early as Thursday, and it did.
He becomes the team’s eighth head coach since Larry Brown resigned after the 2002-03 season. Rivers replaces Brett Brown, who was fired Aug. 24 following seven seasons with the Sixers.
Rivers checks all the credibility boxes for a team in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
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 is widely respected around the league and had a hand in changing the culture of the Clippers.
Rivers has compiled a 943-681 regular-season record, in stops with the Orlando 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.
“He is a future Hall of Fame coach, and an outstanding coach," said ESPN basketball analyst Mark Jackson, who played 17 season and was the former Golden State Warriors head coach. "He has done an incredible job everywhere he has been. He is a tremendous leader and [I was] obviously surprised that he was let go.”
The Sixers are elated that someone of Rivers' stature was available.
They headed into this past season as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. However, they finished the regular season with a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Then the Sixers were swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
Rivers will be asked to make players accountable, something that didn’t happen under Brown. The players appeared to realize a new voice was needed. The organization was looking for a veteran coach to push and refine All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
It appears that he’s up for the challenge.
Sources said Rivers is excited about the opportunity to coach a preeminent center like Embiid and loves big point guards like the 6-foot-10 Simmons.
“Welcome to the city of Brotherly Love Coach @DocRivers !!!!,” Embiid tweeted Thursday. “Excited for the future and what we’re building here. #PhillyForever”
He will also be reunited with forward Tobias Harris.
Harris played parts of two seasons with the Clippers before being traded to the Sixers in February 2019. He averaged a career-best 20.9 points and shot a career-best 43.4% on three-pointers in 55 games during the 2018-19 season before the trade.
Harris thrives in the pick-and-roll sets Rivers likes to run.
Los Angeles acquired Rivers in June 2013 in a trade with the Celtics for an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick. He was named coach of the Clippers and senior vice president of basketball operations. Rivers led the Clippers to a franchise-record 57 wins and the third seed in the Western Conference during his first season.
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.
The team promoted him to president of basketball operations/coach in June 2014. He had final say of basketball matters.
Rivers gave up his president position in August 2017 but continued to split responsibility for basketball matters with Lawrence Frank, the executive vice president of basketball operations.
Even though Rivers is listed as head coach, the expectation is that he’ll have a big say in personnel decisions.
He was let go by Los Angeles after the Clippers failed to live up to this season’s lofty expectations. They were favored to reach the Western Conference finals after the off-season acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round after holding a 3-1 lead in the best-of-the-seven series.
Rivers had successful regular seasons in Los Angeles but has been criticized for postseason collapses. Rivers is 3-8 in potential series-clinching games with the Clippers.
Rivers is owed more than $18 million in the final two seasons of his Clippers contract. There’s a belief that he had an offset agreement on a payout should he get a new job.