The Philadelphia 76ers have hired Doc Rivers as the franchise’s next head coach. Rivers is a former winner of the NBA’s Coach of the Year award (2000). He won an NBA championship steering the Celtics in 2008. He spent the last seven seasons as the court-side general of the Los Angeles Clippers. Rivers has carved out a reputation as an excellent ambassador of the human component of the athletes in the NBA. He is highly-respected around the league. One NBA agent described Rivers to me as being versatile in teaching young talent while simultaneously managing veterans.
While the hiring decision has been made, the journey to get to this point has been a long one.
It Began With Tyronn Lue
Rumors about Tyronn Lue replacing Brett Brown had circulated since the Sixers’ loss to the Raptors in the 2019 playoffs. The whispers grew louder as Philly’s roller-coaster of a season went on. For quite a while, the Sixers and Lue seemed destined for marriage. As the Clippers watched their 3-1 stranglehold over the Nuggets dissipate, whispers about the coaching search turned into palpable buzz.
League sources told The Painted Lines that, had everyone involved in the decision-making process been in favor of hiring Lue, the hiring would have been made quickly following the Clippers’ elimination from the playoffs. Star center Joel Embiid was opposed to the idea of Lue coaching the team, according to league sources familiar with the situation. Sources said that Embiid felt that Lue was adjacent to Klutch Sports and was ‘resistant’ to the prospect of someone with a pre-existing relationship with Ben Simmons coaching the team.
Meanwhile, Simmons had advocated for Lue. League sources told The Painted Lines’ Brian Jacobs that Lue had been their primary choice since deliberation about coaching changes began.
Palpable Buzz for Mike D’Antoni
When his Rockets were dispatched and he elected to start a new chapter elsewhere, Mike D’Antoni entered the conversation with the Sixers. The Sixers’ ownership group had fostered a strong relationship with D’Antoni prior to this opening. So, the two parties wanting to unite was no surprise. It is unknown as to whether ownership’s desire to hire Mike D’Antoni preceded the time period in which the Lue whispers began. But, the idea that he could win the Philly job had been gaining steam around NBA circles for some time.
It is unknown as to whether Embiid vocalized an endorsement for any specific candidate. However, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that Embiid was approving of the prospect of hiring Mike D’Antoni.
According to Jacobs, however, the attention that D’Antoni began to garner was a leverage play to bring down Lue’s asking price:
The #Sixers are trying to get Ty Lue to come down on his ask, according to a source. There’s mutual interest, but Mike D’Antoni could be a more cost-friendly option. Lue wants 5 years and more anual $ than Billy Donovan. MDA may be less $ & years, so it’s a battle of leverage.— Brian Jacobs – The Painted Lines (@BrianMikeJacobs) September 24, 2020
Before events that transpired on Monday evening, Ben Simmons was very clearly in favor of hiring Lue. However, it is unknown as to whether he and Embiid mutually liked D’Antoni or if Simmons even opposed the idea of hiring D’Antoni.
Doc Rivers Becomes Available
On Monday evening, the Los Angeles Clippers and head coach Glenn ‘Doc’ Rivers agreed to mutually part ways, to the surprise of many. The sudden availability of Rivers, according to several sources, “changed everything” for the Sixers.
Within hours of the change in Los Angeles, Marc Spears reported that the Sixers had already been in contact with Rivers. On Tuesday, The Painted Lines’ Jason Blevins reported that Rivers was expected to engage with the Sixers:
Doc Rivers will be speaking to the Sixers about their Head Coaching vacancy.— J Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA) September 29, 2020
No official date set and there may be preliminary discussions prior to a formal interview.
On Wednesday, The Athletic‘s Shams Charania reported that Rivers would be coming to Philadelphia to meet with the Sixers. John Clark followed up–Rivers would be interviewing with the Sixers on Wednesday.
All Eyes On Rivers And D’Antoni
On Wednesday evening, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Philadelphia’s focus had shifted towards D’Antoni and Rivers, exclusively. Wojnarowski also said that a decision was expected in the coming days. Late Wednesday, multiple sources told The Painted Lines that the material change was more than just focus shifting away from Lue. Rather, Lue was no longer in consideration for the job at all. Over the previous two days, the noise connecting Lue to the open vacancy quieted significantly.
Not only has the Sixers’ focus shifted away from Lue, but it appears as though he has fallen out of the running entirely. The whispers about Lue have died down considerably over the last few days. And, as Woj reported, the attention has shifted towards D’Antoni and Rivers.— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) October 1, 2020
Rivers’ divorce from the Clippers truly “changed everything” for the Sixers. That bland descriptor had been echoed by numerous sources and had become apt for the Sixers’ search for their new head coach, in general.
Multiple sources told The Painted Lines that no agreement was official as of Wednesday night. But, the expectation was that Rivers would be the franchise’s next head coach. One source said that Lue, himself, had admitted that he expected Rivers to secure the opening in Philadelphia. Multiple sources said Lue was likely to return to the Clippers in an elevated role. One source believed that Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell would remain in his role.
Rivers Is Off The Market
A marriage between the 76ers and Rivers was finalized on Thursday. It is unknown where Simmons and Embiid stood on the decision. Although, Embiid has publicly welcomed Rivers:
There was belief that a union between Rivers and the 76ers would give Simmons and Embiid a better chance to co-exist over a long period of time. Their co-existence was uncertain when the decision was between Lue and D’Antoni (and valuing the wishes of one particular player more than the other’s).
A factor that could bear significant weight in Doc Rivers’ candidacy w/ Philly would be whether Simmons and Embiid would mutually accept him. That would resolve what has caused some difficulty in the HC search to this point, and it could also prolong their co-existence.— Austin Krell (@NBAKrell) September 28, 2020
Now all eyes turn to the front office moves that are to come. The belief is that no announcements have been made yet because the team is giving Alex Rucker and Ned Cohen opportunities to seek employment elsewhere.
(October 4th) According to Keith Pompey, Alex Rucker, Ned Cohen, and Sergi Olivia will likely retain their positions in the front office. However, sources told Brian Jacobs that their roles won’t be the same:
For everyone upset about this, it looks like they’re just getting phased out. They won’t be part of decision making, much like Jerry Colangelo wasn’t in his final year. I asked someone in the know, and they said “It’s a contract thing.” https://t.co/34UcbqBcHn— Brian Jacobs – The Painted Lines (@BrianMikeJacobs) October 4, 2020
This story was jointly reported on by Austin Krell (@NBAKrell), Brian Michael Jacobs (@BrianMikeJacobs), and Jason Blevins (@JBlevinsNBA).