Why 76ers’ Doc Rivers Could Coach for His Job in Game 7 vs. Celtics

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By Webdesk

When the Philadelphia 76ers go to Boston for Game 7 against the Celtics on Sunday afternoon, Doc Rivers could potentially coach for his job. If the Sixers can beat Boston, Rivers will almost certainly keep his job, but a loss will trigger some organizational self-examinations that could lead to big changes.

There have been some rumors about Rivers’ future in Philly since the start of the season following back-to-back second-round exits, and if the Sixers fall into the conference semifinals again, those rumors will run a fever pitch, at least locally. To say he’s not the most popular guy among fans in Philly would be an understatement.

Rivers was brought to Philly to help the team take the next step after three straight playoff losses under Brett Brown, but so far he hasn’t been able to lead the team further than Brown did – a seventh game in the second round.

Rivers coached the Sixers to the best record in the East during his first season with the team, but they flew out in the second round against an inferior Atlanta Hawks team. To be fair to Rivers, the guy who should be his second best player, Ben Simmons, suffered a personal collapse during the series and an injury to Danny Green really tested their depth, but it was still a series the Sixers should have won.

Last season, the Sixers lost to the Miami Heat in the second round in six games, though they were without Joel Embiid for the first two games of the series – both losses. If Embiid had been available for the entire series, things could have turned out very differently, but we’ll never know now.

Which brings us to the current campaign. The Sixers finished with the third-best record in the conference during the regular season, quickly coming through a first-round game with the Brooklyn Nets. Now, after a back-and-forth battle with Boston, Philadelphia faces a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third time in the past five years. So far in the Embiid era, the second round represented a mountain the team has been unable to overcome.

So, could another failure cost Rivers his job? Time will tell, but the possibility cannot be ignored. It is a result driven business and if the desired results are not achieved the owner may choose to look in a different direction. For what it’s worth, every player in the Sixers locker room (except perhaps Furkan Korkmaz, who asked for a trade with the team earlier this season) seems to really enjoy playing for Rivers, and there are no signs of internal unrest. .

There is also always the demand for a replacement. When you fire a coach, you want to make sure the replacement is an obvious upgrade, especially for a team with longstanding championship aspirations, and those aren’t always easy to identify. Sometimes there is a case for continuity when a team knocks at the door. Rivers also has two years left on his current contract. That wouldn’t necessarily stop the ownership from moving forward, as they parted ways with Brown when he still had time left on his deal, but at least it’s a factor.

There is no recent indication that the Sixers are ready to make such a move, but this is the NBA, crazier things have happened. The Milwaukee Bucks just fired Mike Budenholzer, two years after he led the team to its first title in 50 years. Heading into this playoff run, Rivers didn’t seem particularly concerned about his job security. “I think so. But I don’t know,” he replied when asked if he had the runway to withstand another early postseason exit.

“Same group… let’s say we don’t. ‘You didn’t get past the second round.’ You say, “But no one chose us to get past the second round. Have I underperformed or underperformed?” It should still be about the players and the coach.

“When I took this job, we had just swept the year before,” he added. “The first year we won the East in the regular season. … Ownership, we get along. I’m in Philly. Philly is a tough city with coaches. And that’s fine. I took the job while I knew that. She didn’t choose me. I chose them.”

Rivers isn’t the only person whose tenure with the Sixers could hinge on the result of Game 7. James Harden’s future in Philly could be changed by the result, and the same could be said about several other players on the roster. If the team falls short again, it seems extremely unlikely that the front office would send it back with the same squad. But in such situations, the head coach is usually the first domino to fall, and Rivers is well aware of that.

“[Budenholzer] was fired, being the 69 percent of his team (271-120 overall),’ Rivers said earlier during the series with the Celtics. “They won a final two years ago. It’s just part of our job. We’re the ones who, one, it’s easier… That’s just the way it is. And you know what’s funny? We’re still signing to do it. And I love what I do, and we’ll keep signing. Because it’s great.”

The pressure is on for Rivers and the Sixers heading into Game 7. Let’s see how they react.

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