Former Clippers coach Doc Rivers signs with Sixers

Audrey Becker, Staff writer

The Philadelphia 76ers reached a 5-year, $8 million deal with former Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

Glenn “Doc” Rivers was announced as the new head coach of the 76ers in early October after the release of Brett Brown, who had been the head coach for the past seven seasons. Rivers is a seasoned NBA coach, having led successful campaigns with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Orlando Magic and, most notably, the Boston Celtics (who he coached to an NBA championship in 2008). Despite having consistent regular season success, Rivers has had some playoff struggles. In the 2020 playoffs, under Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers blew a 3-1 lead in the second round against the Denver Nuggets, despite being heavily favored to win the series. 

This unexpected playoff loss caused the organization to part ways with Rivers, presenting the league with arguably the best available head coaching candidate. Recognizing this, the Sixers struck quickly, signing Rivers just three days after he was released by the Clippers, hoping that he can improve on the Brett Brown era.

Coach Brown guided Philadelphia through “The Process” years. This refers to the period of time where the 76ers played some of the worst basketball games the league had ever seen, winning only 10 out of 82 games in the 2015-2016 season. Known as “tanking,” the strategy was to intentionally play very poorly, essentially becoming a non-competitive team for a few years, so that the team would lose so many games that their chances of getting a high draft pick were greatly increased. 

“I have a tremendous level of respect for Brett both personally and professionally and appreciate all he’s done for the 76ers organization and the City of Philadelphia,” said General Manager Elton Brand in a press release provided by ESPN. “Unfortunately, we fell well short of our goals this year and I believe it is best to go in a new direction.”

Although the losses that the team piled up during the “Process” years are difficult to attribute to Brown, given the low level of talent that was playing for the Sixers at the time, once the team had acquired star-level players, such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the fans and ownership expected positive results. Despite being favored to go deep into the playoffs the last several years, Brown seemed like he had no idea what to do with genuine basketball talent now that he was actually expected to win games, setting questionable rotations and tolerating a disunified locker room mentality. 

On the other hand, Rivers is known for his ability to extract every bit of productivity from his bench players and a willingness to experiment with lineups and rotations that seem unusual at first glance, as he did with Boston in 2008. 

“Doc is the true MVP to get everybody to buy in,” says former Clipper, Jamal Crawford, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Given that the Sixers don’t have a lot of salary cap flexibility to change their stars’ supporting cast, but do have a lot of potential contributors on the bench, such as Furkan Korkmaz, rookie Matisse Thybulle, and third string center/blocking machine Norvelle Pelle, perhaps Rivers is just what the Sixers need to take them to the next level. 

“You look at these players, these young players, and their potential. . . the fact that they’ve had so much success in so many ways at the ages they are already, and where I think they can go, for me it’s a job you just couldn’t turn down. . . [t]hat’s why I’m here. Just really excited about it,” said Rivers, in an interview with ESPN, on why he chose to come to Philadelphia.  

Sixers superstar Joel Embiid took to Twitter to show his thoughts on picking up Rivers: “Welcome to the city of Brotherly Love Coach @DocRivers !!!! Excited for the future and what we’re building here #PhillyForever.”