Doc Rivers’s penchant for playoff collapses and second-round exits cost him his coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers fired Rivers Tuesday following a third straight exit in the second round of the playoffs, and the second time over that span he lost a series lead and a Game 7.
Rivers led the 76ers to their second straight 50-win season behind NBA MVP Joel Embiid but again failed to lead them to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001. The Sixers have not won an NBA championship since 1983.
“We’re grateful for all he did in his three seasons here and thank him for the important impact he made on our franchise,” team president Daryl Morey said in a statement. “After having the chance to reflect upon our season, we decided that certain changes are necessary to further our goals of competing for a championship.”
The 76ers held a three-games-to-two lead in the Eastern semifinals against the Celtics before dropping Game 6 at home, then were crushed in Game 7 on the road.
Rivers fell to 6-10 in Game 7s. The 10 defeats are five more than any other NBA coach.
Rivers and the 76ers also lost a Game 7 at home in the second round to Atlanta in 2021 as a No. 1 seed. Embiid endorsed Rivers’s return following Sunday’s loss but James Harden was noncommittal about wanting Rivers back.
Rivers, who had two years left on his contract, was 154-82 in three years with the Sixers. His only NBA title came in 2008, when he guided the Celtics to banner No. 17.
Asked after the 112-88 thumping in Boston if he expected to be back next year, Rivers said, “Yeah. I think I got two years left. No one is safe in our business and I get that.”
He’s just the latest big-name coach fired already during the postseason, and the 76ers are sure to have their pick among the best in the game. Nick Nurse (Toronto) and Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee) have been fired after both won championships since 2019 and former Sixers assistant Monty Williams (who coached Phoenix in the 2021 NBA Finals) also is available.
Rivers took over ahead of the 2020-21 season for Brett Brown, who was fired after the 76ers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Rivers himself had just been fired about two weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers wasted a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
He expected to coach a team seemingly on the brink of winning a title. Instead, he was on the bench for one of the worst losses in team history, a franchise-shifting loss to Atlanta in Game 7 that came on the heels of Ben Simmons failing to dunk an uncontested shot, which spiraled into a loss and the end of the All-Star guard’s tenure in Philadelphia. Simmons never played for the 76ers again after Rivers and Embiid declined to publicly back the star following the loss, and the relationship soured from there.
Simmons was traded a year later for Harden, who was expected to serve as the missing piece that could get Embiid a championship. Or least into the conference finals.
Asked after the Game 7 loss in Boston to describe his relationship with Rivers and whether he’d like the coach to return for a fourth season, Harden said, “Our relationship is OK,” and didn’t answer the second part.
Now, it doesn’t matter.
“I thought we had the right group,” Rivers said. “I really did.”
One other intriguing potential candidate to keep an eye on is former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni coached Harden for four seasons in Houston and they both thrived there working under Morey. Morey has been a staunch Harden defender and worked hard to bring him to the 76ers. With Rivers gone, another reunion could be on the horizon.
Harden, who played the last few months with nagging left Achilles’ tendon soreness, has a player option of $35.6 million. He was vague on what he will do this summer. But perhaps a reunion with D’Antoni — or, at the very least a coach who knows how to pair Harden-Embiid to their strengths — can entice The Beard to stay.
Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane has surgery on broken bone in right big toe
Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane had surgery on his right big toe after initially breaking a bone during a game Nov. 11 against Minnesota.
The Grizzlies announced the procedure on a broken medial sesamoid bone in the toe. The team says Bane is expected to be fully recovered before the start of the season.
Bane initially hurt his toe during the Grizzlies’ win Nov. 11 against the Timberwolves. He finished that win over Minnesota with 24 points and five assists. The Grizzlies announced the next day the third-year player out of TCU would miss at least two to three weeks with a sprained toe.
He missed 17 games and returned Dec. 23.