A 76ers title would solidify Doc Rivers’ legacy

(News4usonline) – Glenn “Doc” Rivers was one of four active coaches named to the list of the 15 greatest coaches in NBA history in February. Eleven former coaches named to the list have had their names enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

This type of qualification almost certainly solidifies Glenn “Doc” Rivers as a future Hall of Famer, but he climbed even higher in the all-time ranks.

Rivers has accomplished just about everything as a coach in the NBA. In 2000, Rivers won NBA Coach of the Year in only his first season. He won an NBA Championship in 2008 and currently sits in 10th-place on the NBA’s all-time list in wins.

With his career still in progress, Rivers continues to build on to his legacy as one of the best ever to coach the game. After a mutual parting of the ways from the Los Angeles Clippers, Rivers is in his second season coaching the Philadelphia 76ers.

© Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline – Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers at an introductory press conference for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George at Green Meadows Recreation Center in South Los Angeles on July 24, 2019.

A possible title run might in the near future for Rivers and the 76ers, thanks to a recent trade the team made to add NBA superstar James Harden to Philadelphia’s starting lineup with center Joel Embiid. Now that might be something. 

With disgruntled guard/forward Ben Simmons now out of the way and removed from the team, the pairing of Embiid with Harden gives Rivers and the 76ers a formidable duo to contend with down the stretch of the regular season and in the postseason.

To be blunt, expect Embiid and Harden to make a lot of noise in the playoffs and now gives Rivers more than an outside chance to collect his second NBA championship. 

During his 76ers introductory press conference, Harden clarified why he told Rivers he wanted to play for him in the past saying.

“(He’s) one of the best coaches to ever coach the game of basketball, why wouldn’t I want to be led by that? He has experienced way more than me,” Harden said. “As the player that I am, I still need to learn… and be put in position to be successful.”

Of the four current coaches that made the list, Rivers appears to be the one with the most to gain. Not to say they should be ranked higher on the list than Rivers, but San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (5), Golden State Warriors frontman Steve Kerr (3), and Erik Spoelstra (2) all have more championships.

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. Photo credit: Mark Hammond for News4usonline

That being said, all of those coaches have won their titles with the same team. Rivers has tried to win NBA titles with multiple franchises and could achieve something that none of these other coaches have accomplished.

Rivers’ calling card has been his ability to get along with players and make talented stars come together and work well with one another. He coached Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill in Orlando. He had the triplets in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in Boston. There was Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since we’re throwing around the names of great players, Rivers has also coached Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in their initial season with the Clippers. Only the Celtics Big 3 translated into winning a championship for Rivers.

Injuries and blown leads in the playoffs have haunted much of Doc’s storied career.

The Philadelphia 76ers hired Rivers in 2020. Desperately searching for a head coach that could make the superstar talent of Embiid and Simmons translate into playoff success. That didn’t happen. The two All-Stars did not mesh well together, and Simmons got the boot.

Philadelphia’s trade of Simmons for Harden may present Rivers with his best chance to win a title since the Boston Celtics Big 3 days. Embiid has turned himself into the most dominant big man in the game, establishing himself as one of the leading candidates for the MVP award.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and his team are looking for a strong finish to the 2016-17 NBA regular season. File Photo/Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Embiid’s presence forces opposing defenses to send double-teams, allowing Harden to operate relatively freely around the wings and top of the key, which is devastating for opponents.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here is that we would make a commitment to win,” Rivers said. “We can try to do a lot of winning, or we can try to be the winner… and that is why we make trades like this… we want the opportunity to be the winner, and we believe that this trade does that.”

The 76ers slogan for a long time was “Respect the Process,” but with Harden, the process has changed to win now. Embiid and Harden are both all-world basketball players with something to prove.

The duo has been called out in the past for their lack of success in the playoffs and both must put their egos aside in order to win a ring together. Rivers has coached a number of talented stars in the NBA, and he should be the perfect man to guide the 76ers to their first championship since 1983.

Rivers does need another title to validate being named to the Top 15 NBA Greatest Coaches list. But it will surely do wonders for his Hall of Fame resume to add a second title under his belt.

Winning another championship would bump Rivers into the Top 10 all-time list, maybe Top 5. That will depend on how Rivers finishes out the rest of his coaching career. Harden is under contract until the end of next season, but there is no telling what kind of changes will come about during the NBA offseason.

The 76ers championship window is open now and if Doc Rivers can get the team to capitalize, it will do wonders for the legacies of Rivers, Embiid and Harden.

“I just knew for a very long time this was a perfect fit, Harden said. “You got the best big man in the league, the coaching… as Doc, and everybody wants to win and be the last team standing. So I’m excited for the opportunity.”