Following their third consecutive second-round exit from the NBA playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers have fired head coach Doc Rivers, the team announced Tuesday. Rivers coached the Sixers for three seasons, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals each time. However, the Sixers failed to make it to a conference finals during his tenure and were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in a Game 7 blowout on Sunday.
"Doc is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, a future Hall of Famer, and someone I respect immensely," Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said in a press release. "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."
While Rivers posted a 154-82 regular season record in his three seasons with the Sixers, and made the playoffs all three years, that success didn't translate over into the postseason. When the Sixers had the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2021, the team lost to the Atlanta Hawks in seven games in the second round. Last season they won 51 games in the regular season, but fell to the No. 1-seeded Miami Heat in six games in the second round. This season after taking a 3-2 lead against the Boston Celtics in the second round, the Sixers failed to close them out in Game 6, then proceeded to get blown out in Game 7. With that latest playoff blunder, it felt like it was only a matter of time before Rivers' time in Philadelphia expired.
Rivers released his own statement after the decision, saying "I wanted, just as badly as (the fans), to bring another championship to Philadelphia."
As the Sixers look to replace Rivers, a list of early candidates includes Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Sam Cassell, Mike D'Antoni, Nick Nurse and Frank Vogel, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The D'Antoni connection to James Harden is obvious, given D'Antoni coached Harden in Houston where he experienced the most success of his career and won an MVP award. Bringing in D'Antoni may also help Philadelphia's chances this summer of keeping Harden if he declines his player option and enters unrestricted free agency.
The 76ers were the fourth NBA team coached by Rivers, who has a 1,097-763 (.590) regular-season record in 23 years. He won the 2008 NBA title with the Boston Celtics, but has lost five consecutive Game 7s as a head coach.
The Sixers now become one of the more desirable head coaching openings this offseason, joining the Bucks, Suns, Raptors and Pistons as franchises who are looking to fill that void. With Joel Embiid fresh off an MVP season, and the potential looming free agency of Harden, whoever the Sixers bring in will need to deliver immediate results, because as we saw with Rivers, just getting to the postseason isn't enough to keep your job.