A late inclusion in the Sixers’ head coaching search has swooped in and taken the job.
The team is hiring Doc Rivers as its next head coach, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.
The 58-year-old was fired on Sept. 28 by the Clippers after Los Angeles blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. He’ll replace Brett Brown, whom the Sixers fired on Aug. 24.
Rivers’ tenure with the Clippers was not spotless. Despite the additions this past offseason of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Rivers was never able to get beyond the second round of the playoffs in his seven seasons as Clippers head coach. His team looked listless at times against Denver in squandering double-digit leads and, ultimately, its season. Like the Sixers, the Clippers seemed convinced they were built for the playoffs but couldn’t meet high expectations.
Rivers won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for the 1999-00 season, his first as the Magic’s head coach, and earned an NBA championship with the 2008 Celtics. All told, he has a 943-681 across 21 seasons.
While the exact roster Rivers will coach is not yet clear with important decisions about the Sixers’ front office and roster looming, it’s notable that Tobias Harris had the best stretch of his professional career under Rivers. Harris averaged 20.3 points and 7.2 rebounds with the Clippers in the 2017-18 and ’18-’19 seasons, shooting 42.6 percent from three-point range. Provided Harris remains a Sixer, the team will hope he can return to that form after signing a lucrative five-year deal last offseason.
“He was great,” Rivers said of Harris when the Clippers visited Philadelphia on Feb. 11. “The basketball we know, but he’s one of those sunshine guys. He’s just a great guy. He really is a fantastic guy to have around. There’s never a darkness when you’re around him. It’s just light. He’s extremely coachable. He’s a good one, for sure.”
General manager Elton Brand said on Aug. 25 he’s not looking to trade Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid, and Rivers’ relationship with the Sixers’ two All-Stars will likely be important. In addition to Leonard and George, Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Celtics’ “Big 3” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are among the other stars Rivers has coached.
Before becoming a coach, Rivers was an NBA point guard for 13 seasons. He’s an experienced, well-respected figure, and the Sixers are banking on him living up to his reputation.