Doc Rivers is about to resume his coaching career at a place where his jersey hangs from the rafters. The Milwaukee Bucks announced Friday night they had hired Rivers to take over for Adrian Griffin, who was fired on Tuesday after only 43 games.
Rivers owns 1,097-763 regular-season record, 111-104 playoff mark in 24 seasonsSteve Megargee · The Associated Press
· Posted: Jan 27, 2024 7:39 AM EST | Last Updated: 6 hours ago
Taking over a team featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard gives Doc Rivers, above, a chance to make the deep postseason run that has eluded him since he left Boston. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/File)Doc Rivers is about to resume his coaching career at a place where his jersey hangs from the rafters.
The Milwaukee Bucks announced Friday night they had hired Rivers to take over for Adrian Griffin, who was fired on Tuesday after only 43 games. Rivers played from 1980-83 at Marquette, which shares a home arena with the Bucks and has retired Rivers’ No. 31 college jersey.
“This is a great opportunity to come to a first-class organization with a team that has a talented roster of high-character players,” Rivers said in a statement released by the team.
The Bucks made the announcement in the final minute of their 112-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rivers will be introduced at a Saturday news conference.
This move represents a major shift in terms of head coaching experience.
Griffin had never been a head coach before the Bucks hired him last summer, though he had 16 seasons of experience as an assistant. Rivers won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and his background as a head coach extends almost a quarter century.
Rivers owns a 1,097-763 regular-season record and 111-104 playoff mark in 24 seasons with the Orlando Magic (1999-2004), Celtics (2004-13), Los Angeles Clippers (2013-20) and Philadelphia 76ers (2020-23). His 1,097 regular-season wins put him one shy of Larry Brown for eighth most in NBA history.
“Great voice,” Portis said. “Someone obviously who’s had success in this league, who has respect in this league. Big-name coach. Top-15 coach of all-time. I can go on and on.”
Joe Prunty, an assistant on Griffin’s staff, had served as interim head coach for the Bucks’ last two games.
In search for postseason runTaking over a team featuring two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and seven-time All-NBA guard Damian Lillard gives Rivers a chance to make the deep postseason run that has eluded him since he left Boston.
Milwaukee is behind only the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings, though the Bucks’ schedule gets much tougher the rest of the season.
This opportunity gives Rivers a chance to erase some recent postseason frustration.
He was fired by the 76ers last year after a third straight second-round exit from the playoffs. Rivers’ teams haven’t reached the NBA Finals since his 2010 Celtics lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers. His Clippers and 76ers teams never got beyond the second round.
“I think it’s just the leadership that I think he can bring,” Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said. “He has that same past-player perspective that Griff had, but he’s been doing it a long time and he’s won a championship.”
Welcome to Milwaukee, Doc Rivers! pic.twitter.com/G14xZ8R7WP
—@BucksThe Bucks’ main challenge is to upgrade a defence that has taken a step back since they gave up five-time NBA All-Defensive Team guard Jrue Holiday in the trade that brought them Lillard. The Bucks entered Friday ranked 20th in defensive rating, down from fourth last season.
“He talks about just being able to have that identity that we should have as the Milwaukee Bucks,” Connaughton said. “You talk about the talent that we have on the team, teams should be a little bit more afraid to play us. I think right now, with the way our defence has been playing, the way we’ve kind of been up and down in games specifically – I know we have a great record – I don’t think teams have really been worried about coming in and playing us, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
Rivers never got beyond the conference semifinals with either the Clippers or 76ers. He was fired as the 76ers’ coach last year after each of his three seasons in Philadelphia ended with second-round exits.
“Obviously he has tons of experience,” centre Brook Lopez said. “He’s been in the NBA, played in the NBA for a very long time. So it’ll be good to have in this locker room kind of an outside perspective to what’s been going on this year.”
More NBA coverageRivers started this season working as an ESPN analyst before the opportunity to lead the Bucks lured him back into coaching.
The Bucks have faced their own postseason issues after winning their first title in half a century in 2021.
Milwaukee lost 4-3 in the second round to Boston in 2022. Last year, the Bucks posted the NBA’s top regular-season record but got stunned 4-1 by the Miami Heat in the opening round.
The Bucks responded to that upset by firing Mike Budenholzer, who had coached that 2021 championship team. His replacement lasted barely half the season.
Now the Bucks are putting their hope in Rivers.
“I feel like he’s a great fit,” Portis said. “Obviously his number’s in the rafters here, so what better team to coach than where you have your number in your rafters? That’s cool, to be on the sideline and look up and see your name up there. That’s dope in itself.”