Four Replacements For Doc Rivers on ESPN

Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

On Wednesday the news CNN Sports first reported became official. Doc Rivers is going to replace Adrian Griffin as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. There are many basketball-related ripples that will come from this development. Legacies are on the line. But in the immediate, one party has been left in the dust-- ESPN.

In a decision that went bad extraordinarily quickly, the four-letter network elected to get rid of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson to bring in Rivers and elevate Doris Burke to the A-team alongside Mike Breen. Rivers called three months' worth of primetime broadcasts and now he's gone. This would always be a problem for ESPN but it is especially problematic this year as they are working to prove to the NBA that they deserve a seat at the table when it is time to negotiate the next television rights deal. Ditching a tried-and-true trio that called over 15 years' worth of NBA Finals in exchange for Rivers was always going to be bold. To have Rivers then leave... well, it does not reflect well on ESPN, and it means they will be under a lot of pressure to nail their next move.

Which could very well be riding with Breen and Burke. Burke has proven to be a quality analyst who doesn't need a third to add to the broadcast, and Breen is a consummate professional who can easily adjust to a two-person booth even after all these years. They would be perfectly adequate as the lead announcing team.

However, there is a not-so-remote possibility that ESPN is so attached to the trio booth that they want to keep it going. If they go down that route, how will they replace Rivers in the middle of the season? Here are a few options.

JJ Redick

Redick is the clear-cut leader in the clubhouse to be a 1:1 replacement for Rivers. He's been part of the network's second team all season long, doing broadcasts with Ryan Ruocco and Richard Jefferson. He's also been pretty good in that role, building off his experience from the previous season to become an interesting and thoughtful color analyst. As a well-known player both collegiately and professionally, Redick has long been tabbed as a future regular on big-time NBA broadcasts-- if that is what he wants to do. Redick's first priority has appeared to be his podcast for years now and it is worth wondering how many other projects he could juggle if he signed up for the A-team, especially once the playoffs start and it becomes a gauntlet of broadcasts. It's probably Redick's job if he desires but that is not a guarantee right now.

Hubie Brown

This would be sort of a full-circle moment for Brown after he got replaced by the JVG/Jackson tandem way back in the mid-2000s. The longtime commentator is 90 years-old so it is unlikely the network would put him on every single national broadcast previously slated for Rivers, but he is almost certain to be tapped for some fill-in duties. Brown is a comfortable voice for NBA fans everywhere and ESPN knows exactly what they're going to get every time he gets on the mic. He feels like safe bet to take on some, if not most, of Rivers' assignments.

P.J. Carlesimo

If the suits really think having a former coach on the broadcast is important then Carlesimo is sitting right there. He makes occasional appearances on the studio shows and is listed as a radio game analyst on the ESPN website. Carlesimo even has a similar voice to Rivers, gravelly and hoarse after many many years of screaming on the sidelines. The obvious problem here is that I would bet most of you didn't know Carlesimo was in the broadcasting game before reading this and ESPN would almost certianly want a more known quantity due to the aforementioned rights deals. But he's on the roster and would bring similar experience to Rivers.

All of the Above & More

At the end of the day, though, ESPN can't really just replace Rivers straight-up with someone from within the network. Yanking whatever candidate they choose out of their current responsibilities would create a domino effect of finding a replacement for them, which then requires finding a replacement for that person, all the way down the line. It would be easier for the network (and is probably a smarter bet) to spread the responsibilities around. Have Redick on there one night and then Brown on there the next. Bring in Richard Jefferson for a few games. Get some budding talents in the spotlight for seasoning to help them down the line. ESPN has a hodgepodge of choices. They may as well try them all.