8. Hiring Doc Rivers
While Doc Rivers was considered by many to be the best coach available when the Sixers moved on from Brett Brown, it was a massive error to hire him.
Rivers has always been overrated following his championship run with the Celtics: he coaches games like it is 2008, he refuses to adapt, has a tendency to blow leads, falters in the biggest moments, and does not play younger, better players overwashed vets.
Granted, lots of coaches have tactical, on-court issues, but are great at handling the locker room and have leadership skills that compensate, but does Doc Rivers have that?
No, he does not. Rivers alienated player after player during his tenure with the Sixers. The two biggest examples of course are Ben Simmons and James Harden.
Rivers placated Simmons the entire year as he ridiculed anyone who questioned Simmons’ downward trajectory and deterioration of his offensive game. He allowed Simmons to do whatever he wanted to the detriment of the team, but after it was painfully obvious there was a concern with him following the playoff collapse, Rivers immediately threw Simmons under the bus by blaming him for their failures.
Simmons was the biggest reason for the playoff collapse, but Rivers let it get to that point and then refused to take accountability which led to Simmons holding out and destroying the future of the franchise.
It is unclear how another coach would have handled Simmons, but Rivers did a worse job than Brett Brown did. A better tactician would not have let Simmons play how he was playing, and a better leader would not have alienated him. Doc Rivers could not have handled everything worse, and it led to the James Harden trade.
Did Doc Rivers learn from his mistakes?
No, as mentioned before, he does not adapt, even off the court. He once again let Harden play how he wanted to play to the detriment of the team, especially in the playoffs. Harden, despite clearly being washed was allowed to dribble the air out of the basketball possession after possession as if he was the player he was in 2017. Rivers defended Harden the entire year as they attempted to make something that has failed for the past ten years work, and to nobody’s surprise, it failed.
Harden did not appear to get along with Rivers either which makes one question how things could have been different if the stars had a different coach.
While he may not be directly involved with personnel, Rivers’ refusal to play younger players over veterans led to their stunted development.
Isaiah Joe, Charles Bassey, and Matisse Thybulle are the latest casualties of Doc Rivers. Thybulle came in as a rookie under Brett Brown and made an immediate impact. Brown had confidence in Thybulle and let him play through his mistakes which led to Thybulle playing the best he ever played for the Sixers while also shooting an above-average three-point percentage his rookie year. When Rivers took over, Thybulle’s numbers took a dip as he was frequently yanked out of games and out of the rotation whenever Rivers was frustrated by any flaw in his game.
As a result, Thybulle was never the same and the Sixers lost a valuable role-player when they decided to trade him. Joe and Bassey meanwhile, came in under Rivers and he never gave them a chance, despite the limited roster. The team was plagued by backup center and shooting issues, yet Rivers never let these two players be the very obvious solution. To nobody’s surprise, Bassey and Joe are now thriving in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, while the Sixers are struggling to fill out a roster.
Rivers burnt-out stars and older players and is arguably the biggest reason for why the Sixers are in the unfortunate position they are in now.