Former 76ers coach Doc Rivers releases statement to fans after being fired by team

ByAdrian Wojnarowski, Senior NBA Insider ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
76ers fans react to firing of coach Doc Rivers
The Philadelphia 76ers dismissed coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia 76ers dismissed coach Doc Rivers on Tuesday, the team announced.

The Sixers were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals for a third straight season, losing 112-88 in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.

The search for a new coach is expected to include Mike Budenholzer, Sam Cassell, Mike D'Antoni, Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel and Monty Williams, sources told ESPN.

After his firing, Rivers released this statement to 76ers fans on Instagram: "I absolutely love your commitment to the city and its teams - never lose that. I wanted, just as badly as you, to bring another championship to Philadelphia. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lead, to learn, and to love this great city."


Rivers is one of five head coaches in NBA history to record a winning record in at least 16 consecutive seasons. He has won one title during that span, and it came in the first season of the streak (with the Celtics).

Rivers delivered a 154-82 (.653) record in his three seasons, including 54 victories in 2022-23 -- the franchise's most since 2000-01. The Sixers were one of three teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

"Doc is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, a future Hall of Famer, and someone I respect immensely," 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said in a statement. "We're grateful for all he did in his three seasons here and thank him for the important impact he made on our franchise. After having the chance to reflect upon our season, we decided that certain changes are necessary to further our goals of competing for a championship."

Philadelphia joins the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons among teams with head-coach openings.

Rivers, who delivered his 16th straight winning season as a head coach, lost for the 10th time in a Game 7, including five in a row. The defeat to the Celtics also marked the ninth straight time that Rivers lost with a chance to reach the conference finals.

Now, Philadelphia heads into the offseason not only conducting a search to replace Rivers, but also needing to navigate James Harden's impending free agency.

After Sunday's Game 7 loss in Boston, Harden was asked about the state of his relationship with Rivers, and whether he believed the coach should return for a fourth season.

In response, Harden simply said, "Our relationship is OK."

Harden has a player option for next season worth $35.6 million, after taking a pay cut last summer to help facilitate Philadelphia signing former Rockets teammates P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.

If Harden opts out of his deal, he's eligible to sign a four-year, $202 million deal with another team, or a four-year, $210 deal to remain in Philadelphia, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. The 76ers are unable to sign Harden for a fifth season, despite having his Bird rights, because of the over-38 rule in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

Should Harden leave in free agency, Philadelphia still won't have cap space to replace him. Instead, the 76ers will have the full midlevel exception, worth a little over $12 million, to try to supplement its roster.

Harden came to Philadelphia in a blockbuster trade in February 2022 after a turbulent 13 months with the Brooklyn Nets, in a deal that sent Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond to Brooklyn.

This season, Harden averaged 21 points and 10.7 assists, helping Joel Embiid to win the league's MVP award for the first time and joining Embiid as the first teammates to win both the scoring and assist titles for a season since George Gervin and Johnny Moore of the San Antonio Spurs in 1982.

Harden shot 37-for-61 (60.6%) in Philadelphia's three wins against Boston, including a 45-point game with Embiid sidelined in Game 1 and a 42-point outburst in Game 4, but was 12-for-55 (21.8%) in the four losses, including going 3-for-11 in Game 7.

ESPN's Tim Bontemps contributed to this report.