76ers fire coach Doc Rivers after 3 seasons, AP source says


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers fired coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday following a third straight exit in the second round of the playoffs, a person with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the move.

Rivers led the 76ers to their second straight 50-win season behind NBA MVP Joel Embiid but again failed to lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 76ers held a 3-2 semifinals series lead against Boston before dropping Game 6 at home and were crushed in Game 7 on the road.

Rivers fell to 6-10 in Game 7s. The 10 defeats are five more than any other NBA coach.

Rivers and the 76ers also lost a decisive Game 7 at home in the second round to Atlanta in 2021 as a No. 1 seed. Embiid endorsed Rivers’ return following Sunday’s loss but James Harden was noncommittal about wanting Rivers back.

Rivers had two years left on his contract and was 236-154 in three years with the Sixers. He won the 2008 NBA title as coach of the Boston Celtics.

Asked after the 112-88 thumping in Boston if he expected to be back next year, Rivers said: “Yeah. I think I got two years left. No one is safe in our business and I get that.”

He’s just the latest big name coach fired already during the postseason and the 76ers are sure to have their pick among the best in the game. Nick Nurse (Toronto) and Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee) have been fired after both won championships since 2019 and former Sixers assistant Monty Williams (who coached Phoenix in the 2021 NBA Finals) also is available.

Rivers took over ahead of the 2020-21 season for Brett Brown, who was fired after the 76ers were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Rivers himself had just been fired about two weeks after the Los Angeles Clippers wasted a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.

He expected to coach a team seemingly on the brink of winning a title. Instead, he was on the bench for one of the worst losses in team history, a franchise-shifting loss to Atlanta in Game 7 that came on the heels of Ben Simmons failing to dunk an uncontested shot, which spiraled into a loss and the end of the All-Star guard’s tenure in Philly. Simmons never played for the 76ers again after Rivers and Embiid failed to publicly back the star following the loss, and the relationship soured from there.

Simmons was traded a year later for Harden and The Beard was expected to serve as the missing piece that could get Embiid a championship. Or least into the conference final.

Asked after the Game 7 loss on Boston to describe his relationship with Rivers and if he’d like his coach to return for a fourth season, Harden said “our relationship is OK” and didn’t answer the second part of the question.

Now, it doesn’t matter.

But one other intriguing potential candidate to keep an eye on is former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni coached Harden for four seasons in Houston and they both thrived there working under current 76ers president Daryl Morey. Morey has been a staunch Harden defender and worked hard to bring him to the 76ers. With Rivers gone, another reunion could be on the horizon.

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