Doc Rivers is going through it. Two weeks after a meltdown that saw the Sixers coach lash out at reporters questioning his postseason resume, Rivers went on the defensive again, giving this defiant response when asked about his job security.
Despite ranking ninth among all-time coaches in career wins, critics of Rivers would claim he’s actually underachieved, blowing countless series leads (his record in elimination games is abysmal) while needing three Hall-of-Famers (and potentially a fourth, depending on how Rajon Rondo’s legacy is viewed) to win his lone NBA title in 2008. Though Rivers insists he’s done a “terrific” job with the Sixers, a team he claims had no expectations before his arrival in 2020, others obviously don’t see it that way.
The 76ers bowed out in the second round of last year’s postseason, squandering homecourt advantage in a loss to Atlanta. This year was more of the same with James Harden, outside of a dominant fourth quarter in Game 4, largely invisible. Joel Embiid did his best to keep the Sixers competitive against Miami, but there’s only so much you can do with a fractured orbital bone and a torn thumb ligament that will almost certainly require surgery at some point this offseason. The Heat were, in every aspect, the better team, as Doc alluded to in his post-game remarks Thursday night.
While anyone who watched the series would agree with that assessment, it’s still jarring to see a coach, armed with two perennial MVP candidates in Embiid and Harden (though many, including Embiid, would argue Harden’s best years are behind him), deflect responsibility this publicly. It’s unclear what the future holds for Doc in Philadelphia—many suspect he’s angling to coach the Lakers, who parted ways with Frank Vogel after the season. That may be for the best with Sixers fans growing weary of Rivers’ endless excuses, throwing players like Harden and Ben Simmons under the bus while refusing to acknowledge his own shortcomings.
Frustrated by the narrative surrounding his playoff failures (Heat fans within earshot of the Sixers’ huddle trolled Rivers throughout the series for his lack of preparation, rarely saying anything worthwhile or drawing up plays during timeouts), Doc has seemed increasingly rattled of late, giving off a sense of desperation that would suggest he knows his days in Philly are numbered.