Such a disappointing postseason loss from this talented of a team is definitely a group effort, but Rivers didn't help matters by making some extremely questionable rotation decisions throughout the playoffs. Ultimately, his and his team's inability to get it done when it mattered most led to his pink slip.
Rivers, at 58-years-old, is still looking to coach. And while this season was indeed a letdown of the highest measure, Rivers' resume and reputation still makes him an attractive coaching option for the five teams currently without a head coach. Bill Simmons, while discussing the matter on the BS Podcast this week, said the Philadelphia 76ers are the team to watch in the Rivers sweepstakes. From the 19:55 mark of the podcast:
"It seems like, from everything I'm hearing, it seems like Philly, if they can make a deal, that's going to be the team [to hire Doc Rivers]. "- Bill Simmons
This is a noteworthy development in light of all the rumors linking Mike D'Antoni to this Sixers team over the last few weeks. Rivers was relieved of his duties on Monday, so it's all very recent, but on the surface, it feels like he would be the smarter hire than D'Antoni.
D'Antoni is great, but needs a very particular type of team to execute the schemes he likes. This would require Philadelphia to move a lot of pieces around this offseason to give him that team; while it feels unlikely they'd move on from the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid pairing at this juncture, hiring D'Antoni would be a step in that direction. Rivers, on the other hand, has never made his bread through X's and O's.
It's a bit simplistic to mark Rivers down as a players' coach, but it's pretty true. He excels at bringing teams together, playing off the underdog mentality, chip-on-their-shoulders trope that some coaches love to employ. Rivers is definitely one of those, and that probably played a factor in the Clippers' disappointing season. They were anything but underdogs. But Rivers in Philly, where everybody in the organization has been lambasted for underachieving not just this year, but for the last few seasons? That seems perfect.
The most important item on the docket for the Sixers organization right now is trying to make the Simmons/Embiid partnership work. They're a tough fit with overlapping strengths, but they're also both talented enough to be perennial All-Stars and regular contenders for All-NBA and All-Defense teams just entering their primes. You don't give up on that.
Rivers might not be able to sit down and plot out on a series of napkins how he might fix this team à la Steve Kerr before he was hired by Golden State, but he knows how to motivate his players and make sure they're playing for each other. The whole "Ubuntu" thing in Boston still feels a little silly a dozen years later, but every guy on that championship team swears by it and says the togetherness it brought was the main reason they managed to win a championship.
More than anything, it feels like Philadelphia just needs a stabilizing presence somewhere in the organization. Their front-office structure is a mess and the team felt constantly on the edge of disaster in the last year or so of Brett Brown's tenure. Rivers would provide that. This team loves to go for the home run swing (see: Tobias Harris trade and contract, Al Horford receiving $108 million to be a backup center). But sometimes you take the single and hope the runner comes around to score.
That's what Rivers is here. He probably won't come in and make the team championship contenders. But he can use his years of experience in juggling big personalities in high-profile situations to make the Simmons/Embiid relationship a productive one and ensure that Philly isn't constantly at the center of the sports media news cycle for all the wrong seasons. Short of a ring, I think everyone in Philadelphia would be pretty happy about that.