After the Philadelphia 76ers shipped away Ben Simmons for James Harden at the NBA trade deadline earlier this month, rumors started swirling that head coach Doc Rivers might be the next to go.
The word was Mike D’Antoni, Harden’s former head coach with the Houston Rockets, was on the Sixers’ radar as an eventual replacement, but a new report suggests Rivers has won over the front office this season and that his job is not in jeopardy after all.
Doc Rivers was recently rumored to be on the hot seat
Last week, NBA insider Marc Stein reported via his Substack that the 76ers could be formulating a plan to replace Rivers with D’Antoni at some point in the near future.
“The conspiracy theory already making the rounds in league coaching circles holds that Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will eventually want Mike D’Antoni to take over in the hot seat for Philadelphia’s new Joel Embiid/James Harden tag team after D’Antoni’s offensive creativity helped catapult Harden to three scoring titles in Houston,” Stein wrote. “Rivers certainly must factor into this season’s Coach of the Year balloting for his role in keeping the Sixers in contention for the East’s top seed throughout the Ben Simmons saga, but the pressure on him hasn’t exactly waned with an Embiid/Harden partnership to sort out and critics prone to reference his three blown 3-1 leads in the playoffs and four home losses in Game 7s far more often than the championship he won coaching the 2007-08 Celtics.”
Rivers hasn’t been perfect in Philadelphia by any stretch, but leading the Sixers to the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break without Ben Simmons on the court has to count for something. Apparently, it already has.
Rivers has reportedly won over the 76ers’ front office
Just seven days after Stein relayed the Rivers-D’Antoni rumors to the world, he posted a new column that contradicted the first.
“The Sixers haven’t won it all in nearly four decades since 1982-83 … and my previous This Week In Basketball column noted that chatter about an eventual run at Mike D’Antoni in the wake of the Harden trade is already making the rounds in league coaching circles,” he wrote. “The source, though, insisted Rivers has won considerable admiration from his bosses this season thanks to Philly’s (and particularly Embiid’s) strong play with the Simmons Saga hanging over the franchise.”
Embiid is inarguably the biggest reason for Philly’s success this season, but Rivers might be a close second. The front office seeing how Rivers handled the dramatic Simmons situation might’ve been enough to keep him in town for at least another year.
Should Rivers be worried about his Sixers future?
Reports are just reports and rumors are just that. Rivers might be impressing the 76ers this season with his coaching job, but that doesn’t mean it’s his job to keep moving forward.
The Sixers haven’t reached the Eastern Conference Finals with Embiid on the roster. If they’re unable to do so with an elite Embiid-Harden tandem, there will surely be some conversations in the offseason surrounding the head coaching job.
Morey has proven to be a loyal executive to those he trusts. We know he trusts Harden based on all the work he did to bring the bearded lefty to Philly, and he clearly saw something in D’Antoni during Houston’s rise to become a championship contender.
Rivers’ spot is safe for now, but that conversation will change if the Sixers suffer another playoff letdown.
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