Rivers, 58, replaces Brett Brown on the Sixers’ bench after spending each of the past seven seasons in Southern California with the Clippers. He led Los Angeles to a 356-208 record en route to earning six playoff appearances in those seven seasons.
However, the team never advanced beyond the conference semifinals under Rivers’ watch. That played a role in owner Steve Ballmer and Co. moving on from the head coach.
Rivers takes over a Sixers squad that’s coming off a disastrous 2019-20 season that saw them lose in the first round of the playoffs. Under the leadership of general manager Elton Brand, Philadelphia is need of upgrading its roster in order to be considered a top-end title contender.
How the Rivers hiring came to be
Within hours of Rivers’ departure from Los Angeles, Sixers owner Josh Harris wanted to send a plane to Southern California to interview Rivers. The team was obviously in on him from the start. That’s despite the fact that former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni was seen as a front-runner.
According to this note from Jason Dumas of a local NBC News affiliate in Philadelphia, the Sixers’ brass was split between Tyronn Lue and D’Antoni. The ownership did not want to hire Lue, while Brand was not a fan of bringing on D’Antoni. Once Rivers became available, the two sides found common ground.
Will the Rivers hiring lead to blockbuster trade?
- It was noted earlier in the offseason that Philadelphia had no intention of trading either Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid. Unlike if D’Antoni were hired by the Sixers, the move to bring Rivers in doesn’t change much on this front.
- Rivers has had success working with a number of different personalities at every position on the basketball court. That includes Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Clippers.
- Remember, Rivers won his single title as a head coach in Boston by leading the likes of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. His experience includes taking on some of the biggest personalities the NBA has to offer and having a ton of success.
- With that said, I still wouldn’t rule out a potential blockbuster trade. Is Rivers an upgrade over Brown from an in-game coaching standpoint? Sure. Is it enough to overcome the issues we saw with Philadelphia’s roster this past season? I am not too sure.
Could the hiring of Rivers lead to issues with Sixers’ roster?
Jovan Buha of The Athletic, citing sources close to the situation, noted late last month that there were issues within the Clippers’ locker room during the first and only season Rivers headed a group led by George and Leonard.
“The Clippers’ preferential treatment of Leonard and George was an issue for multiple teammates all season,” the report read. Now that Rivers will be leading a team with two other obvious stars in that of Simmons and Embiid, one has to wonder how that might impact the remainder of the roster.
The good news here? Rivers coached the Sixers’ No. 3 option in that of Tobias Harris when both were members of the Clippers before he was dealt to Philadelphia. That built-in relationship could mitigate tensions.
Bottom line: Sixers get their man in Rivers
Whatever drama there might have been behind the scenes in Philadelphia, everything seemingly came out smelling like roses. The Clippers’ decision to move on from Rivers changed the entire dynamic between Brand and the Sixers’ ownership group.
Whether this hire proves to be fruitful remains to be seen. Brand has a lot of work to do if this team is going to become a legit title contender back East.
Once Philadelphia decided to fire Brown, the next step was to bring in an experienced guy to man the bench. Rivers fits that qualification to a T.
This was a big-name hire meant to change the trajectory of the Sixers organization. It will be interesting to see if related roster moves are made during the offseason.