New Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers has been a head coach in the NBA for two decades straight. During that time, he has coached three different teams (the Sixers will be his fourth), been to the Finals twice and won an NBA title. With all those miles on his tires, one would think that Rivers would be ready for a brief break from the sidelines. As it turns out, he was.
While speaking with media members at his introductory press conference Monday as the 76ers' newest head coach, Rivers revealed he was indeed ready to take a break from coaching following his split with the Clippers. but ultimately the opportunity to coach in Philadelphia -- and young All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons -- was one that he couldn't pass up.
"I love coaching," Rivers said. "I absolutely love it. But I was not just going to coach anybody, I can tell you that. I was ready to take a break. It just depended on the team that was available, and if I thought that team in my opinion was ready to win, and excited me.
"When Elton [Brand] called, it was an easy get on the plane and take a look for me. When you look at these young players and their potential, the fact that they've had so much success in some ways at the ages that they are already, and where I believe they can go, for me, it was a job that I just couldn't turn down."
Following an extremely disappointing 2019-20 season for the Sixers, there was some speculation swirling that the team would consider breaking up its young star core of Embiid and Simmons. That both prefer to produce in the paint is commonly mentioned as a reason why they would be better suited on separate squads. Rivers doesn't view it that way, though. He sees two young players who have had a lot of success together already -- a duo he thinks he will be able to elevate to the next level.
"They've won 65 percent of the games they've played in," Rivers said of Embiid and Simmons. "It clearly works when they play together. ... I don't get lost in the minutia. I don't get lost in what position guys play. I look at how many points we score as a team. I don't care how we score. My teams have always been very good offensively, and we score points, and we score points in a lot of different ways. ... This team is loaded with talent. We just have to figure out how to make it work best. But just looking at the numbers, when [Embiid and Simmons] play together, they win 65 percent of the games they play in. That's a good thing, ... I love the pieces here. I love what we have to work with, and with Elton I am looking forward to turning this into a championship team."
In addition to working with Embiid and Simmons, Rivers is also excited about the chance to coach Tobias Harris again. Harris, who still has four years remaining on the monster $180 million contract that he signed with the Sixers last offseason, played for Rivers on the Clippers during the '18-19 season before he was traded to Philadelphia, and he put up career-best numbers during that time as he averaged 20.9 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from long range. Rivers is a big fan of Harris' versatility, and his ability to play multiple positions -- something he's going to tap into in Philly.
"I love coaching him," Rivers said of Harris. "I like that he's a multi-positional player. He's a big three, he's a quick four. That's how we used him a lot in L.A. We kept moving him back and forth to different spots. I love his shot. He has a great in-between game, which is sometimes lost in today's game. And I think he's a terrific straight-line driver."
In order to open things up offensively for Harris, who averaged just 15.8 points per game in the postseason, Rivers plans to use him more in pick-and-roll scenarios; something that he had success with in L.A. Former 76ers coach Brett Brown wasn't necessarily a huge proponent of pick-and-roll action.
"In L.A., we put him [Harris] in more pick-and-rolls than I think he's ever been in in his entire life, and we had some success with that," Rivers said. "Pick-and-rolls to me are all about combinations. You put the two combinations together, you create problems defensively for the other team, and Tobias can do that. So, I'm really looking forward to working with him again."
In River's eyes, the Sixers' versatility isn't limited to Harris. He feels like he has inherited a team that is built to play several different styles, and that in turn can create matches issues for opponents.
"You have to be the best version of you and not apologize for that," Rivers said. "This team has great size, great athleticism, great multi-positional players. I think that is the new way. I think what I do like, again from afar, and this team has the ability to morph into three or four different lineups that can create problems for other teams, and this is something we will definitely do here."
Rivers is well-versed when it comes to coaching top-tier talent. He has coached a plethora of superstars -- like Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Chris Paul, and most recently Kawhi Leonard -- over the course of his career, and he demonstrated that he could successfully manage multiple egos when he coached the Celtics to the title in '08. Philadelphia's front office is clearly hoping that he will be able to have similar success with Embiid and Simmons, and in turn lead the franchise further than Brown was able to. The fit seems like a good one, and based on his introductory press conference it's clear Rivers is bringing a whole lot of optimism to Philadelphia. Now, the Sixers just need that optimism to translate to on-court success.