The Philadelphia 76ers won’t be on the hunt for a new head coach over the offseason. At a press conference on Friday following Philadelphia’s season-ending Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey announced that Doc Rivers will return as the team’s coach next season.
This news comes on the heels of some swirling speculation that Rivers could be replaced if the Sixers were unable to make it to at least the conference finals this season. But despite the outside noise, the organization maintained all season that Rivers’ job wasn’t in jeopardy. He still has three years remaining on his current contract with the team.
Rivers took over for Brett Brown ahead of the 2020-21 NBA season, and he has led the Sixers to two consecutive Eastern Conference semifinal appearances. They were eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in seven games last postseason, and fell to the Heat in six games this time around. Though Rivers has so far been unable to lead the team to its first conference finals appearance since 2001, the organization is still clearly confident in his ability to do so.
“I just think he’s a great coach. I love working with him,” Morey said of Rivers on Friday. “I feel like I’m learning from him. I think Elton [Brand] and I and him make a great team and we’re going to see where this journey takes us. But we feel very good about where it’s going to take us. It’s going to be where we have a very good chance to win a title.”
Rivers isn’t especially popular with some of the more vocal fans in Philadelphia, but he’s viewed very differently by the organization and the fan base. Given the fact that the Sixers were without their second-best player in Ben Simmons for a large chunk of the season, and then had to integrate James Harden into the equation on the fly, the team was happy with the job that Rivers did, according to a source close to the organization.
There’s also the fact that the Sixers were without MVP runner-up Joel Embiid for the first two games of their series with the Heat. If he had been available, perhaps Rivers would be being celebrated for leading Philadelphia out of the second round for the first time in 20-plus years.
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After the Sixers were eliminated by the Heat on Thursday night, Rivers made it clear that he wasn’t worried about his job security.
“I don’t worry about my job,” Rivers said. “I think I do a terrific job and if you don’t, you should write it. Because I worked my butt off to get this team here. When I first got here, no one picked us to go anywhere. Again, this year, the same thing. So it that’s how anyone feels, write it and I’m gonna feel secure about it… I know what I did this year, and I feel very good about it.”
Clearly, Morey and the rest of Philadelphia’s front office feel good about it too. At least good enough to bring Rivers back for another go-round. Now though, the pressure will really be on Rivers and the Sixers to get it right. Embiid is 28 years old, and he only has so much time left at his current dominant level.
While the Sixers won’t have to search for a new coach, they will certainly have to look to upgrade the roster around Embiid. Philadelphia’s depth was exposed in the series against Miami. As a result, adding ancillary talent and bolstering the bench should be priorities for the team in the coming months.