Rivers Set to Remain Sixers Head Coach, for Now. Was it the Right Call to Bring Him Back?

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Many Philadelphia 76ers fans remain frustrated after yet another unceremonious second-round exit from the playoffs. The Sixers were ousted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat after putting together two lifeless efforts in Games 5 and 6. They were outworked by Miami, and by the end of the series it was clear who the better team was.

A lot of the players brought up a lack of mental toughness in the days following the end of their season. It was evident the Sixers lacked the requisite emotion, intensity and effort throughout Games 5 and 6. This resulted in, among other things, calls from the fanbase for Doc Rivers' tenure as the team's head coach to come to an end.

President of basketball operations Daryl Morey came out during his end-of-season press conference last Friday and, with Rivers seated next to him, seemingly put all the noise to rest with a simple "Yes" when asked if Rivers would remain the team's head coach next season.

However, Morey's public endorsement of Rivers failed to quell the noise and rumors regarding the Sixers potentially parting ways with Rivers. Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, both from ESPN, added some more information about Rivers and the Sixers. Shelburne, on "NBA Today" last Friday, mentioned how the money (Rivers has three years remaining on his five-year, $40 million contract) is key and it is important they came out and presented a united front.

Wojnarowski followed up with a report on "NBA Countdown" later that night discussing some important meetings happening in Philadelphia between coaching, the front office and maybe even ownership as well about the path the Sixers will take to improve the roster this offseason.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo and TNT reported on Saturday the Sixers actually are not planning to meet with Rivers to discuss his future with the team.

Could this be information the team purposely gave out to show support and present a further sign of confidence in Rivers moving forward? It came conveniently timed after multiple reports still presented questions about whether the Sixers will continue to go forward with Rivers at the helm.

Looming over all this is the Los Angeles Lakers and their much reported interest in Rivers if he becomes available. As of now, the Sixers' brass is presenting a united front in support of keeping Rivers as their head coach. Things could certainly change, especially as reports indicate the Sixers are likely in the midst of discussions about how to move forward this offseason.

While the following option is not likely, it is within the realm of possibility. Morey could also be trying to set the stage to trade Rivers to the Lakers while using his public backing to drive up the return in a potential trade. Trades involving head coaches in the NBA are not common, although they have happened at times. If this is the case, it would not even be the first time Rivers was traded to another team.

After all the reports from the last week or so, the most likely outcome regarding Rivers and the Sixers remains, as of now, him sitting on the bench coaching the Sixers next season. This begs the question of whether or not it would be the correct decision for the Sixers to retain Rivers as their head coach.

While it is certainly disappointing to see the Sixers suffer another disappointing second-round exit from the playoffs, not all of the blame should be put at Rivers' feet. Joel Embiid missed the first two games of the series against the Heat with a concussion and orbital fracture, and he never quite regained his footing even after returning in Game 3. James Harden played with zero aggression when it mattered, disappearing in the second halves outside of Game 4. The team's effort level and intensity was lacking throughout the entire series. All of those things are not the coach's fault. It is not the coach's responsibility to motivate the players to play with energy, intensity and a high level of effort with their season on the line.

However, despite all the flaws in the Sixers' roster this season and their lack of effort against Miami, Rivers simply did not do a good job as the coach this season. He failed to get the most out of the players on the roster while also being stubborn and highly resistant to change.

He did a terrible job, outside of Tyrese Maxey, developing the younger players on the roster. His over-reliance on playing veterans, with DeAndre Jordan being the best example this season, came at the cost of giving the young players time on the floor to develop and grow their games. Paul Reed and Charles Bassey both excelled at the G League and tended to show some promise in brief spurts at the NBA level. However, they continued to remain incredibly raw because Rivers elected to trust a clearly washed up Jordan over either of them in the back half of the regular season.

In Reed's case, it took months before Rivers finally trusted him with the backup center minutes. However, by that point the playoffs were here and Reed remained an incredibly raw player. One of his biggest weaknesses was struggling with foul trouble, something he could have been able to work on if given the opportunity in the regular season.

The Sixers also ran a stagnant, non-creative offense centered around isolation basketball and relying too much on the star players to create something out of nothing. The ball movement at times was poor, and some of that can be blamed on the players. However, Rivers this season has proven to be poor at making in-game adjustments to help the team break out of cold spells or to counter what the opposing head coach is doing. For example, Rivers had no answers for how to adjust to the zone defense Miami executed against them in the playoffs.

Rivers can still be a solid head coach, after all he is ninth among NBA coaches all-time in wins. However, his stubbornness and lack of ability to make adjustments mid-game will continue to hamper the Sixers going forward.

Was it the right call for the Sixers to bring him back? No, his time in Philadelphia should come to a close because the Sixers, if they are to win a championship, need a coach who can think quick on his feet and get the most out of the roster given to him. Rivers, over the last two seasons, has not proven to be that guy for the Sixers.

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