The Philadelphia 76ers’ search for a new head coach ended quickly. It was confirmed on Friday morning that they hired veteran head coach, Doc Rivers.
Rivers will be replacing Brett Brown, who was let go after the Sixers’ turbulent 2019-20 campaign that culminated in a first-round playoff a sweep in the hands of the Boston Celtics.
Rivers’s hiring came just three days after he parted ways with the LA Clippers, a team he had coached since 2013. He led the Clipps to the playoffs in all but one season, and they were considered a title contender for much of his tenure.
It’s a good start to the player and coach movements that will ensue over the next months. Let’s list down some interesting thoughts and takeaways on this news:
Another set of All-Stars
Doc has been blessed with great superstar talent throughout his coaching career. He’s had the likes of Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George, all in their primes.
Now in Philly, he’ll have Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, both of which are top-tier talents in the point guard and center positions, respectively.
Let’s just hope that this time, he won’t get dealt with bad luck, underachievers. As you have probably been reminded in the last two weeks, Doc has blown three 3-1 series leads (only coach to do it more than once) and three 3-2 series leads.
The development of Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris
While it’s interesting to see what Doc will do to develop Simmons and the Sixers’ supporting cast, the more intriguing part is the effect he may have on Embiid and Tobias Harris.
Embiid will be an added name to the long list of good big men that Doc has handled – some were already established stars and others were youngsters or up-and-comers that blossomed nicely, like Drew Gooden, Al Jefferson, DeAndre Jordan, and Montrezl Harrell. Garnett was already a star when he got with Doc, and he helped turn him into a championship-level player. Who knows what can happen with Embiid?
As for Harris, he had his best years with Doc. The two were together with the Clippers for one combined season (half of 2017-18 and 2018-19), and he put up 20.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 threes per game on 48.7% shooting. He’s been hot-and-cold in Philadelphia and the reunion may be a key into helping him return to his full form.
The development of the young, defensive players
Having good defensive players is another thing where Doc is known for. He’s enjoyed using plenty of scrappy role players in all of his stops, including Darrell Armstrong, Ben Wallace, Tony Allen, James Posey, Avery Bradley, and Patrick Beverley, among others.
Doc will have the a few solid defenders in Philly – aside from Simmons, who’s actually one of the marquee guys, there’s Josh Richardson, Alec Burks, and this year’s Sixers rookie sensation, Mathisse Thybulle, who finished second in the team in steals 94.
By joining the Sixers, Doc is returning to the Atlantic Division, where the team is alongside Doc’s former team, the Celtics. Though he and Celtics general manager Danny Ainge appear to have an okay relationship now, there may be a quiet rivalry too since Doc’s departure in 2013 was due to his refusal to join the rebuild.
Both squads have great talent, but the Boston has had Philly’s number in the entire Embiid-Simmons era. The Cs lead the season series over the last three years, 7-5, and have also eliminated the Sixers in the playoffs twice during that span.
Rivers still has the executives’ respect
Doc’s short stay in the unemployment pool is evident as to how he’s still highly respected by the executives, all despite the stigma of his playoff shortcomings and the fans’ potential backlash due to that reputation.
Philly was originally being rumoured to be closing in on another free agent coach, Mike D’Antoni, an offensive guru that may help Simmons develop an outside game and expand Embiid’s offensive repertoire. But because Doc has a long resume and is known to be a “players’ coach,” he was able to sell himself to the Sixers’ front office.