The 76ers struck a deal Thursday with Doc Rivers to become the latest coach to attempt to lead the Sixers to their first NBA championship since 1983, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on Thursday on condition of anonymity as the Sixers had not officially announced the move.
Rivers takes over from Brett Brown, who was fired after the 76ers were swept away in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Rivers was fired about two weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers lost a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Rivers spent seven seasons with the Clippers, making the playoffs in six of them – a major success for a once ill-fated franchise. This season’s team, with the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, was scheduled to compete for a championship.
But losing three closing chances to the Nuggets cost the Clippers a chance to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Finals and likely played a role in Rivers not staying coach.
Rivers also coached the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, winning the NBA title with the Celtics in 2008.
His official first name Glenn, Rivers earned the nickname Doc from the late college coach Rick Majerus while wearing a former 76ers t-shirt, the big “Dr. J ”Julius Erving t-shirt at a Marquette basketball camp. Majerus was an assistant at Marquette when Rivers played there in the early 1980s. The nickname stuck – and longtime Sixers announcer Marc Zumoff firmly refused to call Rivers by his nickname during the shows because of his conviction that Erving is the only one worthy.
It’s up to Rivers to make the All-Star tandem of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons the winners.
The 76ers were 43-30 this season and had terribly underperformed in a year they were expected to be serious contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Brown was tasked with leading the Sixers through a rebuild dubbed “The Process,” where management stripped the list of serious NBA talent to lose games and increase their chances of top picks in the draft. Brown has won just 47 games in his first three seasons, including a record 10-72 in 2015-16.
The philosophy paid off when Philly drafted Embiid and Simmons, who both went on to become All-Stars and led the Sixers to back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But Simmons missed the postseason with a knee injury and neither Embiid nor the players recruited in recent years have been able to provide enough points in clutch situations against Boston.
The Sixers thought they were ready to play their first championship in 37 years and general manager Elton Brand spent $ 180 million to re-sign Tobias Harris and nearly $ 100 million to sign free agent Al Horford away from Boston.
Instead, the Sixers only had snippets of consistent hits and Brown paid the price. The longtime San Antonio Spurs assistant has been fired on a contract that spans the 2021-2022 season.
Brand has said that after firing Brown he will evaluate the front office and consider other changes, but has no plans to trade one of his top two stars.
“I’m not looking to trade Ben or Joel,” Brand said a few days after the season ended. “I’m trying to complement them better. They are 24 and 26 years old respectively. You try to do this for as long as you can. They want to be here, they want to be with our organization, and I’ve seen them here for a long, long time.
Brand didn’t make any changes to the front office while he picked a coach. Tyronn Lue, who coached LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship, and Houston Rockets fired Mike D’Antoni were also vying for the role of Rivers.
Rivers went 356-208 in seven seasons with the Clippers, taking them to the second round in the West three times. Rivers, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, the hiring means the league remains at four black coaches currently with jobs. He is 1624-943 in nearly 21 seasons as an NBA coach. He was the NBA Coach of the Year in 1999-00.
Rivers visited the owners of Brand and Sixers on Wednesday and the organization wasted no time on strike to strike a deal with the 58-year-old coach.