Details behind the dismissal of Doc Rivers have begun to emerge. Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer described James Harden as being the ‘‘driving force’’ behind Rivers getting fired in his latest report:
Sixers president Daryl Morey shouldered responsibility for the decision to remove Rivers during a news conference Wednesday. Several members of Rivers’ staff, sources said, have pointed to All-Star point guard James Harden — whom league personnel are expecting to decline his player option in search of a long-term contract — as a driving force behind Rivers’ departure.
This echo's ESPN’s Ramona Shelborne’s report, that the decisions behind Rivers’ future and Harden’s possible return were/are intertwined. The early reports of the Harden-to-Houston rumors mentioned that the relationship between Rivers and Harden wasn’t the best. During postgame interviews of their Game 7 loss, Harden described his relationship with Doc as being “OK”.
Reporter: "How is your relationship with Doc [Rivers] and would you like to see him back next season?"— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) May 14, 2023
James Harden: "Uh, our relationship is OK." pic.twitter.com/Q2QzC2SEjI
For what it’s worth, here’s what Morey said Wednesday as his end-of-season presser:
“Obviously, it’s the business we’re in that players and coaches have to give these instant answers. I get the benefit of a couple days between the toughest situation that the players have faced in a long time and giving answers to you today. I think people make too much of those snap answers right after a loss like that. I think Doc had great relationships with his players. We wouldn’t have had the success we had without it. His relationship with both Joel and James was very strong. I think people saw that chemistry on the court between the three of them. That was something that was not an issue.”
Assuming Harden is indeed returning, he should have some feedback into team decisions. However, his opinion should not overshadow Joel Embiid’s, who had extended praise for Doc Rivers and was “shocked” by the news of his dismissal.
Fischer’s report also provided additional information into the Sixers’ coaching search:
At this juncture, Philadelphia’s process to replace former head coach Doc Rivers is not expected to grow beyond the Sixers’ initial list of [Mike] Budenholzer, [Monty] Williams, [Frank] Vogel, Philadelphia assistant Sam Cassell, former Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Sixers are a win-now team, so it makes sense that they’re prioritizing the bigger names. However, it would be nice to see them do their due-diligence with some assistant coaches around the league. For example, the Milwaukee Bucks’ coaching search has mentioned several outside-the-box names, including University of Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, Toronto assistant Adrian Griffin, Miami assistant Chris Quinn, and Phoenix assistant Kevin Young. Sometimes, that’s better than recycling the same names.
Thus far, all of these reports have lined up, which means we can safely assume the Sixers are serious in bringing Harden back on a new deal. Harden reportedly got his way with their coaching situation, but let’s hope both sides can find a reasonable middle ground on a new deal.