As soon as news broke that the Los Angeles Clippers were moving on from Doc Rivers after seven years with him as head coach, it didn’t take long for other teams to show interest in bringing him in.
The Philadelphia 76ers, fresh off Brett Brown’s firing following a first-round loss in the NBA playoffs, ultimately were the team to land the guy with the most esteemed résumé on the market.
The agreement reportedly will bring Rivers back to the Eastern Conference for five years, and thus, the new chapter of Sixers basketball begins.
Here’s how he can make an impact in Philadelphia:
— If you’re going to “Trust the Process,” it’s a lot easier to believe in a guy who has experience winning.
Rivers coached the NBA champion Boston Celtics in 2008, and brought them back to the Finals in 2010 before falling to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals on his way out of Boston.
And though he didn’t see the same success with the Clippers, he still has coached teams to a winning record in 13 consecutive seasons.
— Those winning years didn’t come without adversity, though, and Rivers has proven that he can build a culture from the ground up.
Sure, the “Trust the Process” marketing scheme is cute, but Rivers got his guys to buy in while playing for a racist, former Clippers owner. And when Donald Sterling was forced to sell the team, Rivers was the perfect leader to keep the ship afloat in the transition.
So that whole incident when former Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo was negatively tweeting about his players from a burner account a few years ago? Rivers could handle controversy like a walk in the park.
And during social climates like these, when players are using their platforms more than ever to impact positive change, Rivers is a perfect advocate for social justice with his wisdom and perspective.
He’s a players coach in the sense that he lets them speak for themselves, but in a way that demands respect.
— Rivers has coached his fair share of personalities in this league, and how he handles the ones in Philadelphia is a major point of interest.
He somehow managed to keep the Celtics in check with Kevin Garnett (who we love but admit probably was difficult to deal with at times) when KG was beefing with Ray Allen.
However, it was reported that the most recent rendition of the Clippers, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, had chemistry issues that held them back in the playoffs. It’s hard to put the blame on Rivers, but he seemingly enters a similar situation in Philadelphia.
Can he get the trio of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Al Horford to work? We’ll see, but we know he’s on the record saying that Horford could be a great fit in Philadelphia, and that he’s taken a special interest in Simmons even while coaching in Los Angeles.
He has a history getting the most out of Tobias Harris already. We’ll see if he can take this highly-capable team to the next level.
— On paper, the 76ers should be much better than they actually are.
Through them, Rivers certainly will be looking to fix the reputation he’s started to gain for himself that says his teams underachieved.
The Clippers were considered by many a 2020 Finals contender, but instead gave up a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets, who were the Cinderella story of the bubble.
That’s only happened to 13 teams in NBA history, but Rivers coached three total, also including the 2002-03 Orlando Magic and 2014-15 Clippers. He’s won just three playoff series in the last seven years with incredibly talented rosters.
Again, the issues the Clippers had in the bubble amid the COVID-19 pandemic can’t be put on Rivers, and neither can injuries to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul during their time in Los Angeles.
So by taking the job in Philadelphia, you can bet Rivers will have a chip on his shoulder as he tries to coach a capable roster to a championship.