PHILADELPHIA — Doc Rivers used his voice as one of five Black coaches in the NBA to make some of his strongest statements condemning racial injustice.
With playoff games postponed in the NBA bubble as teams grappled with how to deal with issues far more grave than basketball, it was Rivers who capsulized the gross inequities the Black community wrestles with on a daily basis.
“We’re the ones getting killed,” Rivers said. “We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back. And it’s just, it’s really so sad.”
His activism was highlighted by the Philadelphia 76ers when they officially named Rivers the 25th coach in franchise history on Saturday. Rivers signed a reported a five-year deal.
Rivers takes over after a seven-season run as the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers – where he twice failed to hold 3-1 series leads in the playoffs, including this year against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I believe Doc can help us unlock our full potential on the floor and further our pursuit of an NBA championship,” Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. “I also respect and appreciate that his impact extends far beyond the basketball court as he truly embraces the platform he has to drive positive change in society. Doc is a great fit for our team and city, and I’m excited for what the future holds with him as our head coach.”
But losing three closeout opportunities to the Nuggets cost the Clippers a chance to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the West finals, and likely played a role in Rivers not remaining as coach.
Rivers also coached the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics, winning the NBA title with the Celtics in 2008.
Rivers takes over for Brett Brown, who was fired after the 76ers were swept in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
His formal first name Glenn. Rivers earned the Doc nickname from the late college coach Rick Majerus from wearing a T-shirt of former 76ers great “Dr. J” Julius Erving T-shirt to a Marquette basketball camp. Majerus was an assistant at Marquette when Rivers played there in the early 1980s.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to be joining a world-class franchise, a franchise whose legend inspired my nickname,” Rivers said. “This is a city that loves sports and loves their teams. It’s a city that values hard work and that is exactly what we are going to do and who we are going to be. We are ready to do good things in Philadelphia.”
Rivers takes over a talented – yet underachieving – franchise that has yet to unlock the full potential of All-Stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
In 21 seasons as an NBA head coach with the Clippers, Boston and Orlando, Rivers holds a 943-681 (.581) career record. His 943 wins are the second-most among active NBA coaches, and rank 11th all-time in league history.