Sixers’ Daryl Morey speaks on coaching decisions, James Harden

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey speaks during a news conference at the team’s NBA basketball practice facility, Friday, May 13, 2022, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

After a rough 72 hours with the Philadelphia 76ers getting blown out in Game 7 against the Boston Celtics and head coach Doc Rivers being dismissed, Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey finally addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon. Morey tried his best to answer questions as fully as he could, but some questions he could not answer due to NBA rules. Ultimately Morey discusses the coaching change, James Harden, and free agency.

Dismissal of Rivers

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers calls to his players during the first half of Game 1 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Monday, May 1, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Morey talked at length about what led to the dismissal of Doc Rivers and why the change was made. He started his media availability by stating, “My job is to evaluate everything, and we felt like that was the best move for helping us get to our goals going forward.

It was carefully thought out, and I recommended it to ownership, and they accepted it.” He was also asked about how his two stars felt about Doc Rivers and his firing. He first addressed James Harden’s comments about his relationship with River after their Game 7 loss against the Celtics:

“Obviously it’s the business we’re in, the players and coaches too. They have to give these instant answers. I get the benefit of, you know, a couple days between the toughest situation, that the players have face in a long time and giving answers to you today. I think people make too much of those snap answers right after a loss like that. I think Doc had a great relationship with his players, we wouldn’t have had success we had without it and you know, his relationship with both Joel and James was very strong. I think people saw that chemistry on the court that’s between the three of them. That was something that was not an issue.”

Morey was also asked about a report from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith regarding Joel not being happy about Rivers’ firing. Morey followed up by saying:

“They had a strong relationship…I have to make tough calls all the time with trades. You know, Joel was disappointed, some of was he didn’t know the player we were getting in the trade, who ended up helping us, but he was disappointed in the players that went out. I think it’s natural to be very close with the people in the locker room. He was very close with coach Rivers and yeah, he was shocked about the change and it’s and you know, it’s my job to help convince him that the new coach is someone that he’ll have a great relationship as well.”

Potential Coaching Candidates

HOUSTON, TX – DECEMBER 07: Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni conducts a post game press conference after 115 – 109 win over the Phoenix Suns on December 7, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX. (Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire)

Morey was also asked what type of coaches the Sixers will be looking for to replace Rivers and does experience matter. Morey responded by stating, “We’re looking for someone who brings leadership, accountability, someone who is good at tactics, someone who has a great relationship with his star players, and someone who is good at recruiting star players and players want to play for.”

It is clear that Morey is looking for a more veteran coach who has dealt with championship aspirations and star players, so coaches Monty Williams, Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel, and of course, Mike D’Antoni, Harden’s former coach, all fit the bill. The Sixers will obviously take their time on this hire because they have to get this right. With a roster that holds the current NBA MVP, the right coach may be able to squeeze enough out of this team to get them past the hump.

Is the Beard Staying or Going?

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) calls to teammates during the first half of Game 5 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

With so many rumors swirling around about James Harden’s desire to leave Philadelphia for the Houston Rockets or another team, Morey was asked about him potentially re-signing with the Sixers. Morey stated, “James? We can’t have those discussions yet, but we would. We are interested in bringing him back.” He also addressed whether the Sixers would be prepared if Harden didn’t re-sign, and he followed up with:

“We have to plan for every scenario, right? And for sure, he has the option to be a free agent, so we have to plan for all those scenarios… scenario A would be to bring James back. Scenario B if he’s not back, we’ll be, we’ll have to get creative, and we feel good about the tools available to us if that happens.”

With the recent news of Harden planning to opt-out, whether it is a leverage play for more guaranteed money or not, the Sixers have to be prepared. Losing Harden put the Sixers in a hard place where they may have to use one of the only assets they have to try to trade for another star.

Tyrese Maxey would have to be involved in any deal that could potentially bring the Sixers back another superstar, but Morey confirmed that the organization is high on him. “With Maxey, we think that he has a real shot to be one of the top players in the league. You know, he is absolutely committed to putting the work in, as we know. So I think that’s an area that is pretty exciting.”

Overall, Morey made his plan as clear as he could at this stage in the early offseason for the Sixers. He will be focused on finding a championship-level coach and re-signing James Harden. If Harden decides to leave the Sixers, the picture gets much foggier. The first shoe to drop should be the hiring of a new coach. Once, that’s complete, the Sixers will be full steam ahead on retooling this roster for a championship run.