After being eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the third straight season, the Philadelphia 76ers parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers. After three seasons with the team, the 112-88 loss in Game 7 on Sunday to the Boston Celtics sealed Rivers’ fate.
Rivers has had a regular season winning record for 16 consecutive seasons, ranking fifth all-time, but has lost ten times in game 7 of the playoffs, including five in a row.
The search for a new head coach includes current 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell, Nick Nurse, Frank Mogel, Monty Williams, Mike Budenholzer, and Mike D’Antoni.
Rivers led the 76ers to 54 wins this season, the most since the 2000-01 squad led by Larry Brown and all-star Allen Iverson. Rivers won 154 against 82 losses in the regular season in three seasons with the team. The team was consistently among the top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Daryl Morey, 76ers president of basketball operations, said in a statement that “Doc is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, a future Hall of Famer. We’re grateful for all he did in his three seasons here and thank him for the important impact he made on our franchise. 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.”
In addition to searching for a new coach, the 76ers have a dilemma with what to do with James Harden, who can become a free agent. Harden and Rivers didn’t appear to see eye-to-eye with Harden’s comment about their relationship with a stoic face, “Our relationship is ok.”
Harden could opt out of the deal for $35.6 million next season. If so, he could sign a four-year deal with $202 million with another team or stay with the 76ers and get paid $210 million over the same time period. Harden’s pay cut last offseason allowed the 76ers to sign P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.
The 76ers traded for Harden in February 2022 after dealing with disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons for over a year. Despite what happens with Harden this offseason, the 76ers won the trade. He averaged 21 points and led the league in assists at 10.7 per game. He was instrumental in helping Joel Embiid lead the league in scoring and winning his first MVP. Embiid and Harden became the first teammates to accomplish that feat in 40 years.
Embiid and Harden both struggled against Boston, particularly in Game 6 and Game 7. However, it didn’t appear that Rivers had an answer to Boston’s two-big lineup that stifled the league MVP.
Many great players don’t win a championship without a great coach. Kobe Bryant won all his titles with Phil Jackson, as did Michael Jordan. Some great players never win a title.
The 76ers are looking for a coach to get Joel Embiid and the 76ers over the elusive hump and win an NBA title.
The search begins now.