By Jacob Hare
It has been almost 40 years since Doctor J led the Sixers to an NBA championship. When a team hasn't won in that long, fans become impatient and unhappy, especially in the city of Philadelphia where winning does not happen that often. Now that there's a new Doc in town, Sixers fans are more hopeful than ever before.
The 2019-20 Sixers were a colossal disappointment and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round by the Boston Celtics. The Sixers management and ownership realized that Brett Brown was not the coach who would bring a championship to Philadelphia. They were reluctant to fire their head coach, but ultimately made the decision to let him go due to the team’s disappointing playoff results over the last three years. In his seven seasons with the team, Brown showed that he possessed a great basketball mind, but was unable to elevate his team to a championship.
After the Los Angeles Clippers lost in the second round of the playoffs, they shocked basketball fans by firing head coach Doc Rivers. He is a future Hall of Famer, and he is one of the most respected and well-liked people in basketball. Rivers also has one of the most impressive resumes for current NBA head coaches: He has won a championship and a Coach of the Year Award, and has racked up over 900 career wins.
It's not too often that a future Hall of Famer is on the market, and the Sixers knew they needed to seize this opportunity. Within hours of the news of Rivers’ departure from the Clippers, the Sixers reached out, and ultimately, the two sides agreed on a five-year, $40 million contract, making Rivers the 25th head coach in Sixers franchise history.
The Sixers did consider other coaches, such as Mike D'Antoni, Tyronn Lue, and Billy Donovan. While all three are well respected and highly regarded around the NBA, Rivers separated himself from that pack. It may sound like a cliche, but the goal is to win a championship, and if you ask yourself which of those coaches gives you the best chance to win, the clear and obvious answer would be Doc Rivers; he possesses all of the qualities of a championship coach that Brett Brown lacked. Rarely do coaches command the amount of respect from their players that Rivers does, but if the Sixers want to win, superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need to be on the same page as their new coach.
With Brett Brown, fans saw how much these superstars got away with. Ben Simmons has gone four seasons without a jumper, and in the modern NBA, that's completely unacceptable, especially for a point guard. Time after time, off-season videos have surfaced of Ben Simmons working on his jumper, but when the season started, we saw that to be fake news. With Doc Rivers as his new head coach, things aren't going to be easy for Simmons if he can't find his jump shot. And for Embiid, if he can't stay in shape and show up in the fourth quarter of games where his team needs him the most, things won't be easy for him either.
Another issue that the Sixers had was accountability. Brown failed to hold his players accountable but Rivers has stressed the importance of it. Rivers said on behalf of himself and his coaching staff, “Accountability has to be throughout your team." He continued, "If you don't [have accountability], you're not going to win. We have to be accountable to each other every single day. That's the only way we're going to be successful here." Rivers knows that this is the first step in building a winning culture, but everybody has to buy in.
While Rivers has only been in Philadelphia for a short period, he's already building the Sixers culture that the city’s sports fans have been craving. He's brought in some of the best assistant coaches in the NBA and helped recruit Daryl Morey to become the Sixers’ President of Basketball Operations. Morey is known to be a great trader and is considered to be one of the brightest minds in the NBA. Philly fans hope Morey can help add more pieces to the already talented 76ers roster. In addition to Morey making moves, Rivers' likable personality will be vital in bringing in big-name free agents for the Sixers in the future.
Rivers may not have coached a game in Philadelphia yet, but you can already sense a brighter future for the Sixers. An improved coaching staff and front office can only be a good thing for the Sixers. If Doc Rivers can bring his strong leadership qualities to Philadelphia and help Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid become the transcendent superstars that we know they can be, the Larry O’Brien trophy will be coming back to Philadelphia.