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October 20, 2022

Eytan Shander: Sixers should see the benefit of a coaching change

Sixers NBA
Doc-Rivers-Sixers-Cavaliers_040322_USAT Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports

Doc Rivers and the Sixers continued their push for a top seed in the East Sunday.


I remember asking my buddy Harry Mayes if he wanted to come out and golf one day, in winds of at least 15-20 mph. He barely let me get out the question before responding, “The game is hard enough without the wind.”

That must be how anyone who coaches in Philadelphia must feel about their respective jobs. Some days more than others. Granted, the boom vs. bust is one rarely seen in this city — just look at recent winners like Doug Pederson and Charlie Manuel.

Each sport has its own quirks — the meat of tactic and strategy that can separate any coach from the rest of the league. But one thing remains constant, and needs to remain consistent: the message. Rob Thomson faces his next mogul of a challenge as a manager and has a major opportunity to help recenter his team before Friday.

Nick Sirianni is surely taking this bye week doing everything possible in reminding everyone in the organization that 6-0 doesn’t win anything. As I write this, Jim Curtin is preparing his Union squad for a heavyweight bout against Cincinnati — no doubt preaching the same winning mantra that’s helped lead his team to a record-setting season. Not to mention one hell of a goaltender in Andre Blake.

Even John Tortorella’s new message was immediately felt by the Flyers. From launching into the season 3-0, to scraping an empty net goal against the Panthers in a losing effort — the Flyers have a new sense of blood.

None of this happened overnight and took time to grow, but most importantly, it took trust. Not everyone has the leverage Jay Wright owned at Villanova — a university willing to do anything to (rightfully so) keep one of the top coaches of all time. Not many here, outside of Curtin, could endure multiple losing seasons without immense pressure.

Doc Rivers and the Philadelphia 76ers will not have a losing season and this is not a "FIRE DOC RIVERS" column. I won’t be shocked nor surprised when it happens because that’s what happens in the NBA. The team has already underachieved and bent over backwards to defend Rivers. The bar has been raised to a ridiculous level, where losing in the NBA Finals would be the baseline for him keeping his job.

Wait. You told us this wasn’t a “Fire Rivers” column?

It’s not. It’s about what’s going on right now in Philadelphia sports, and how the Sixers can learn from it.

The Flyers were in such a lowly spot they had no choice but to bring in an ass-kicker like Tortorella, but he needed the trust and backing of the organization.

The Union have stuck with a hall of fame coach despite seeing three straight losing seasons to start. The club knew they had the right coach, it was just a matter of getting him the right pieces.

The Phillies — this story is absolutely bonkers but amplifies this column as much as anything — removed a hall of fame name for an interim manager, a man who already built trust inside a locker room itching for change. It was a tremendous fit, but Thomson hasn’t wavered no matter how bleak things looked.

While the circumstances were much different, Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman were confident in their own abilities to move on from a Super Bowl-winning coach. Tanking an exit interview or not, things got so ridiculous between both parties that the Eagles had no choice or wasted little time, either way, in replacing Pederson. The best part about the swap from Pederson to Sirianni is they are basically the same guy in their approach with players. They have their guy’s backs, and it shows. Winning a Super Bowl will immortalize any coach, but there was always something special about how Pederson connected with both players and fans. As critical as I was of the pandering and initial gimmicks, I was dead wrong about the depths of how positive of an impact it would have — and continues to have, for that matter.

Whenever the Sixers make a change, and for whichever team is next following that, look at what’s happened this past year or so with multiple teams. We have seen a change in leadership, with different means across the board, but the result is the same. New blood with a new message only works with organizational support.

Puppets don’t work, as evident by the overwhelmingly positive results seen on the scoreboards.

WEEK 7 Best Bet

Under 48.5 Detroit/Dallas (FanDuel -110)

(We are 3-3 after hitting last week. Down .6 units We bet to win one unit at – money and bet the full unit at + money.)

Detroit is back from the bye and Dak Prescott returns from his injury. The Lions are putrid, giving up the most points in the NFL — that’s only through five games played! The Cowboys are expected to run their normal offense, but it should come with some rust from Prescott. They will rely heavily on their two-back system, including quick passes to Tony Pollard. This is still a somewhat new receiving group – at least in responsibility – to Prescott, so don’t expect the Cowboys to hang 50 on Dan Campbell’s neck.

The Boys have one of the best defenses in the NFL — behind our Eagles, of course — and will make Jared Goff look like the Goff of old. The Lions try and get up and down the field like Chip Kelly or the Houston Rockets, but the Cowboys will be too tough this week.


Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow

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