Doc Rivers is not the most beloved coach in Philadelphia sports history. After the Sixers‘ inexcusable second round loss to Atlanta last year, Rivers spent the entire 2021-22 season snapping at reporters and defending his honor. Then, the Sixers fell in the second round again — this time to Miami, with Jimmy Butler kindly rubbing salt in the wound for good measure.
Philadelphia’s ultimate downfall is not 100 percent on Doc Rivers. Joel Embiid was far from healthy and he was dealt an incomplete roster. His bench was by far the worst of any contender’s bench, and the Sixers’ stars just did not show enough fight with the going got tough.
That said, there is now a growing history of Doc Rivers teams underperforming on the biggest stage. More importantly, there’s a growing history of Doc Rivers teams lacking mental toughness and collapsing on the biggest stage. Everyone on the Sixers has to look inward — from Daryl Morey and Elton Brand in the front office, down to Rivers, and down through Joel and the leaders in the locker room. But, when push comes to shove, Rivers does stand out as particularly culpable in Philly’s recent shortcomings.
What is Doc Rivers’ future with the Sixers?
Despite recent rumors of Philly management meeting with Doc Rivers to discuss the future, it would appear the 60-year-old coach’s job is indeed safe. According to Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice, the Sixers “see Rivers as the coach moving forward,” and there has been little talk of actually moving on from the future Hall of Famer.
While the Sixers can absolutely compete for a championship with Rivers at the helm, he is probably not the preferable voice to lead the locker room moving forward. The players are equally to blame for the lackluster effort in games five and six against Miami, but Rivers clearly does not inspire otherworldly effort in his team. And, while he finally staggered stars and trimmed the bench for Philadelphia’s postseason run, Rivers spent all season fumbling assets and mismanaging the margins. Why did he wait until the playoffs to finally give Paul Reed extended opportunities? Why did DeAndre Jordan get about 15 games of unchallenged backup center minutes in the regular season? Only God and Doc Rivers know.
Rivers has consistently shown he is unwilling to look in the mirror and honestly self-assess. He expresses a very high opinion of himself (which is fine), but it often comes at the expense of his players and those who challenge him in post-game press conferences. Rivers’ stubborn nature and history of locker room disillusionment is certainly not ideal when the Sixers are on such a tight schedule. The time to win is now, and it’s more than fair to wonder if Rivers is someone who can help the Sixers to a championship or an impediment to work around.
In the end, Joel Embiid alone gives you a puncher’s chance every season. He’s too good to count out. But Rivers has been consistently out-performed by the league’s elite head coaches and the Sixers clearly do not have enough fight in them as currently constructed. We’ll see if that can change with Rivers at the helm.