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June 16, 2022

Eytan Shander: Sixers are stuck in the past when it comes to Doc Rivers

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Doc Rivers Game 1 Miami.jpg Sam Navarro/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers watches from the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat during game one of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at FTX Arena.

What is Daryl Morey doing?

I still am a huge fan of this man and his vision, especially the idea that he’s already lived up to in pushing for immediate change, no matter how drastic it may be. No, he’s not trading Joel Embiid to Miami, but damnit, how the hell can he look over at what the Flyers are at least trying to do and not take notice?

Doc Rivers is no longer fit to be the Sixers head coach. We outlined that in a previous column, and nothing has changed internally, both with the Sixers and with me. The team has decided to waste another year with him on the bench while yet another qualified assistant coach in Sam Cassell gets an interview.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have hit close to rock bottom and are pushing that desperation to the middle of the table. The latest from ESPN confirms what we already knew, they are going hard after John Tortorella, especially after being shot down by Barry Trotz.

Torts is the best thing that can happen for the Flyers even though it took a little longer than it should have to come to this realization. Credit the team for going after a proven success at that position that isn’t resting on something that happened 14 years ago. The game hasn’t passed by Tortorella like it has Doc Rivers. The Flyers will listen to Torts – for a couple of years, at least – unlike the tuned-out tone belted from a raspy Rivers.

This is just corny.

Watching the Sixers waste another season of Joel Embiid’s talents simply because they don’t want to buy out Rivers – or worse, hurt his feelings – is sad. This is the state of the Sixers right now for what should be one of the brightest teams in the NBA. They hang on the past, a failed one over the last decade, while a team in the same building realized that they have no choice but to change direction at the top.

Unlike Sam, Doc can’t sell.

He can’t sell us on anything new. He’s a proven failure in the playoffs more over than anything else. He’s exactly what Brett Brown was, minus the ring he won with proven Hall of Fame players in 2008.

Tortorella isn’t here because he’s won a Cup only three years after Rivers, or that his record also has some disappointing early exits in the playoffs. No, records are a much different beast in the NHL than the NBA, where the latter ensures your existence in the postseason every year with a top-five player.

Tortorella is here to get in people’s faces. He’s here to criticize players publicly, hurt their feelings, piss them off both publicly and privately – all with the blessing of the Flyers organization. That is exactly the opposite of what Morey, and the Sixers do every day that Rivers is still here. The Flyers are getting this right. In order to turn things around you need a voice to start the process, it’s the same thing with elevating a team that’s stuck in second round purgatory. They need to upgrade.

The Flyers may be a little off before they find themselves back competing for a Stanley Cup, just look at these two teams going at it this year. But as fans of a team that’s been injured and disappointing, having this drastic change of direction gives us the only thing we can have in the middle of June – hope.

Nobody can say they have any greater level of expectations for the Philadelphia 76ers next year with the current structure and coach. Even a middling trade won’t do it. Heck, maybe even a big trade won’t because the cloud cast by Rivers still looms.

Please credit the Flyers for going after someone who can change the franchise’s direction with one presser, one practice, one confrontation. This is a risk, but it has tangible rewards we should see as fans, pretty much right away this season. It’s the combination of changing direction with a new face and voice, along with knowing you can get more out of players.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that the former assistant coach of the Sixers is now leading a Celtics team in the NBA Finals? Or that Cassell is getting an opportunity to interview with another playoff team? Oh, wait. You must think this is some grand coaching ladder similar to the likes of Andy Reid… Please.

At some point there becomes a theme here of former employees going on to do better. We see it in the very same arena we focus on, but in the media too. One sports talk radio station is dominating another, and the one in control has multiple former employees winning their shares. Joe DeCamera was buried in the evening for an hour on a previous station and is dominating the middays. Jon Marks was on a successful morning show that was broken up, only to see him leave and lead the afternoon ratings, even their producers in James Seltzer and Jack Fritz have turned their roles into local radio stardom.

We see it all the time, and it’s usually the losers who refuse to change their losing ways. Losing can come in the form of ratings or a second round exit, but it’s the same result – not winning. The Flyers are sending a message by locking down Tortorella that they are sick of what they saw last year. Their quickest way to show that is by hiring this type of coach.

By allowing another assistant coach to leave for greener pastures, the Sixers are broadcasting the exact opposite. This is Morey on top of their practice facility in Camden with a bullhorn yelling, “WE LOVE SECOND ROUND EXITS!”

I, for one, do not.


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