Breaking down Doc Rivers' coaching career: Accomplishments, challenges, and future

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Three
Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets - Game Three

Doc Rivers has established himself as one of the winningest head coaches in NBA history. It didn't take him long to register winning seasons upon donning the role. He has claimed one championship and made multiple finals appearances. Rivers has also won the Coach of the Year award.

Rivers also got nominated as one of the top 15 coaches in NBA history. He has recorded 1096 wins as a head coach during his tenure, the ninth most in NBA history.

Rivers started his coaching career with the Orlando Magic in 1999. He won the Coach of the Year award in his rookie season as a head coach. He led the lottery-projected Magic to a 41-41 record in the Eastern Conference. Orlando missed the playoffs by a slim margin, but nobody expected the team to reach that stage.

Rivers led the Magic to over .500 records the following three years and made the playoffs each time. The Magic never got past the first round under Rivers. He was fired after a 1-10 start in the 2003-04 season.

Championship with Boston Celtics

Doc Rivers spent a year away from coaching, joining the NBA on ABC crew after the end of his stint with the Magic. The Boston Celtics then hired him in 2004. Rivers spent nine years with the 17-time NBA champions. Life as a Celtics coach didn't get off to an easy start.

Rivers was criticized for his coaching style by the media during the first three seasons of his Boston tenure. Rivers posted a 45-37 record in his first year with the Cs, helping them make the playoffs. They lost in the first round that season (2005). The Celtics posted a losing record over the next two seasons, failing to make the postseason.

However, Doc Rivers' career as a coach trended upward in the 2007-08 season. Boston acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, forming a big three with Paul Pierce. Rivers led the team to a 66-16 season, helping them win their record 17th championship with a 4-2 win against their eternal rivals, the LA Lakers.

Rivers followed that up with another 60-win season. However, he failed to lead them past the conference semis in 2008. The Celtics lost 3-4 to the eventual Eastern Conference champions, the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics returned to the finals the following year, facing the Lakers for the second time in three years on the grand stage. However, LA took home the title that year, claiming a 4-3 series victory.

Doc Rivers' Celtics were contenders for another two seasons. They earned conference semis and conference finals appearances in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Rivers' final season with the Celtics saw them register a 41-40 record in 2012-13.

Doc Rivers was heavily criticized before his exit as the Celtics' head coach for unrest within the locker room and shaky chemistry towards the end of his stint. He also believed he didn't hold the same authority over the players in the locker room.

Doc Rivers returns to LA Clippers as coach

Doc Rivers played for the LA Clippers during the 1991-92 NBA season. He returned to the franchise as a coach nearly two decades later. Rivers' Clippers were among the best teams ever assembled in NBA history between 2013 and 2017. However, postseason success eluded them.

The Clippers finished with a franchise-record 57 wins in Rivers' first season. The "Lob City" era saw the team make five consecutive playoff appearances under the 2008 championship-winning coach.

The Clippers seemed unbeatable in the regular season during those seasons, finishing as a top-four seed every year between 2013 and 2017. However, they couldn't get past the conference semis. Doc Rivers' Clippers eventually entered a rebuild in 2017, moving on from that core. They are widely recognized as one of the best teams in history to never win a championship.

Rivers continued his stint with the franchise until 2020, shaping their rebuild and forming a new championship core featuring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. He was fired after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the conference semis.

Doc Rivers made questionable decisions in the playoffs throughout his tenure with the Clippers. They blew a 3-1 series lead twice under his reign (in 2015 against the Rockets in the conference semis) and in 2020. Rivers also blew a 3-1 series lead with the Magic in 2005 against the Pistons in the first round.

Doc Rivers returns to the East with the Philadelphia 76ers

Doc Rivers didn't take long to find a job after ending his stint with the LA Clippers. He joined the Philadelphia 76ers before the 2020-21 season. Rivers has been their coach for three seasons, posting a record better than .600 every season. He led the team to the conference semis in 2021 and 2022.

The Sixers have a shot at making the finals this year with their current depth. Rivers will be under the scanner as he has another opportunity to win a title with a roster featuring Joel Embiid, who led the league in scoring, and James Harden, the assists-per-game leader this season.

If Rivers fails to lead the team to a finals appearance, the possibility of him leaving Philadelphia is high.

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