“This is a pivotal point for our organization. We’re at a crossroads right now. There’s not going to be a rush.”
When Elton Brand set out on his search for the 76ers’ next head coach, he vowed patience.
A month passed, and Brand continued his due diligence.
Then, in the flash of a 61-character Woj Bomb, an incredible opportunity emerged, and Brand shifted into hyperdrive.
Doc Rivers, the second-winningest active head coach in the NBA, was suddenly available, and within 48 hours, Brand made sure the 58-year old was on a flight to Philadelphia.
Less than 24 hours later, the wheels were in motion for Rivers to become the 25th coach in franchise history.
Brand got his guy, and it came together that quickly.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 3, 2020
Over the past two decades, few head coaches in the NBA have proven as enduring, successful, respected, and well-rounded as Rivers.
He’s won 1,034 games between the regular season and playoffs.
He hasn’t had a losing season since 2007, the year before he led the Boston Celtics to a 66-16 record and the 2008 NBA title.
During his 21 seasons on the sideline, he’s reached the playoffs 16 times.
A former NBA point guard, Rivers has deservedly earned a reputation for being a players’ coach. He’s worked extensively with All-Stars and MVP’s, and has found effective roles for players up and down his rosters.
Recently, but certainly not for the first time, Rivers engaged passionately in the fight for racial justice. His emotional pleas for equality this past summer in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and Jacob Blake’s shooting were heard well beyond the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, and struck an inspiring chord similar to his resolute handling of the Donald Sterling crisis several years ago.
The short and sweet version of all the above reads as follows:
Doc Rivers embodies leadership in every facet of his job, and then some.
— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) October 3, 2020
Rivers broke into the NBA head coaching ranks in 1999-2000, winning that season’s Coach of the Year honors. Since then, he has sustained his success within an ever-evolving league.
During his four-plus seasons in Orlando, the Magic had Tracy McGrady in his prime, and that was about it. But it was enough for Rivers to steer the squad to three straight postseason appearances.
In Boston, once the Celtics super-charged their roster, Rivers tapped into the strengths of his stars, running sets for Ray Allen, while letting Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce dominate the post and in isolation, respectively. Rajon Rondo was the perfect quarterback.
Following a nine-year run in Boston, Rivers was off to the West Coast. He coached the LA Clippers to more than 50 victories in each of his first four campaigns, and transitioned the team through multiple eras without skipping a beat. Upon leaving LA, he was the Clippers’ all-time leader in wins (356) and winning percentage (63.1).
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 3, 2020
So what now? How will Rivers get the 76ers to the next level?
“When you take a new job and look at what the team already has in place, that’s exciting,” Rivers told our cameras upon landing in Philadelphia Sunday, the eve of his introductory press conference.
Rivers carries a cache and resume that commands attention, to be sure. If Joel Embiid’s social media activity is any indicator, the Sixers seem fired up to have Rivers on board.
But even though Rivers inherits a team that has qualified for the playoffs each of the last three seasons – its longest streak since the early 2000s – he knows the Sixers are capable of more.
Monday afternoon’s media availability will likely give us an initial glimpse of Rivers’ vision. Remember, though, that these are the earliest of days.
For as long as he’s been at it, a new job means still a new city, new surroundings, new people, new players, new relationships. These are significant life changes, regardless of how much experience you’ve got.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) October 4, 2020
Will it be intriguing to hear Rivers’ first thoughts on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons? On Josh Richardson, who had a great stretch in the bubble? On Tobias Harris, who flourished under Rivers for parts of two seasons with the Clippers?
Of course it will be.
But only with time will answers to questions like these come.
In the interim, as we wait for Doc to dive in, it’s worth appreciating the caliber of coach – and more significantly, the caliber of human – the Sixers just landed.
His message to fans Sunday upon getting back into town was simple and pure:
“I want to make sure the people know I’m here to win.”
It’s what Rivers has done a lot of everywhere he’s been, and exactly why the Sixers wanted him.