Last season, the final in Brett Brown’s tumultuous tenure in Philly, marked yet another lackluster campaign for the Sixers. Entering the season with championship aspirations, the flawed squad got their dreams dashed at the hands of the divisional rival Celtics, who handily swept Philly out of the bubble.
With their latest elimination, it has now been nearly two decades – 19 years, for those keeping score at home- since the franchise’s last Finals or even Eastern Conference Finals appearance. That’s…not ideal, to say the least.
Desperate to satisfy their championship cravings, it should come as no surprise that the team worked quickly to add future Hall of Famer and former NBA champion head coach Doc Rivers to their brass.
On the heels of a string of disappointing campaigns in which the team finished below expectations, the Sixers appointed Rivers to usher the franchise from an era of contention to a championship era.
In this piece, I will analyze what the freshly-minted head coach Rivers brings to the table and why he was such a terrific hire for Philly, as well as highlighting the discrepancy between him and former lead man Brett Brown.
Sixers hire the biggest Fish in the Pond
Before we get into the exes and oh’s of what makes Rivers such a tremendous hire, let’s begin by putting his hire into a bit more perspective by looking at the other options for Philly.
Since dismissing Brett Brown in August, there have been a myriad of potential replacement candidate rumors floating around.
The most serious, legitimate contenders, though, were reported to be Tyronn Lue and Mike D’Antoni.
Lue, who served as an assistant to Rivers in LA last season, would be an easy pass for me. He simply doesn’t have the coaching prestige that Rivers or even D’Antoni carries and may be better served for an assistant role at this point in his career.
As for D’Antoni, I think it dwindles down to scheme fit. His famous fast-paced, three-pointer heavy offense has proved to be fairly successful in the right environment. As of this writing, however, the Sixers are simply not constructed to be that type of team.
Sixers GM Elton Brand and the front office brass know that if the Sixers are going to bring a championship to Broad Street, they need a head coach that can bring out the best in their two talented bigs- Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Frankly, neither Lue or D’Antoni fit the bill.
Sixers present a big-Market with big Expectations
Much has been made about my next point in response to the Rivers hire, but it is a prominent enough aspect to include anyway. Having coached in Boston and Los Angeles, Doc is no stranger to the pressure of championship expectations.
Honestly, Rivers probably can’t recall the last time he took a gig that wasn’t accompanied by a surplus of stress.
What I like, and I’m sure the Sixers like about Rivers as well, though, is that he is able to make good on his promises. With a championship win already headlining his resume- would have been TWO championships if it weren’t for a run-in with Kobe’s Lakers– Doc has proven that he can indeed convert potential into production.
A winner in every sense of the word, Rivers ranks 11th all-time in regular-season wins with 943 and seventh all-time in postseason wins with 91(!).
Additionally, Rivers has NEVER been swept in the postseason, which speaks to the resiliency and competitive nature that he instills into his players.
This is also more than his predecessor Brett Brown can boast, as his team looked hapless and hopeless as they were thrown out of the bubble headfirst.
Locker Room Guru
In addition to what he brings on the sideline, Doc is also beloved by players and is known for developing deep emotional connections with his team.
Being able to mesh with and gain the respect of a team is an underrated yet essential component of championship teams.
When the lights are on and the playoff pressure is upon them, the Sixers will need more than just a head coach to draw up the plays. They will need a fearless leader who has emotionally and physically invested in them, both when the cameras are and aren’t around, and that is exactly what they are getting in Doc.
Coaching Reinforcements to Come?
Another reason I believe Rivers was a slam dunk hire is because of his ability to build a competent and calculated staff.
In Boston, Rivers appointed the defensive-minded Tom Thibodeau to be his right-hand man along the staff. Thibodeau’s defensive strategies have long been accredited with helping the Celtics capture the 2008 title.
In Los Angeles, Rivers lured former championship-clinching coach Tyronn Lue to be an assistant alongside him.
Since joining Philly, there have already been rumors that Alvin Gentry, another notable, proven coach will join Rivers up north. Whether it winds up being Gentry or not, Rivers is going to ensure that staffing will not be the downfall of the Sixers.
Instead, Doc will likely compile some of the most noteworthy braintrust around and begin building Philly into a bully once again.
Obviously, we can’t say for sure that adding Rivers will result in a championship, but I feel confident in saying that the onboarding of Rivers is a huge stride in that direction.
The accountability and work ethic established from Day 1 will improve the Sixers drastically and with such a high-profile coach at the reins now, Philly may even have more luck “starhunting” moving forward as well.
So, after hearing about why I love the hire so much, what are your thoughts and reactions to Rivers joining the Sixers brass? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire