Did the Bucks Doom Their Title Chances With Doc Rivers Hiring?

Don't be surprised to see Milwaukee blow a series lead in the postseason

Longtime NBA coach Doc Rivers.
Doc Rivers will be coaching his fifth NBA team.
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty

Prior to the NBA season tipping off, 61-year-old coach Doc Rivers signed a a multi-year deal…with ESPN.

Signed to join Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame broadcasters Doris Burke and Mike Breen on ESPN new lead commentator team after layoffs gutted the network’s existing NBA coverage, Rivers was freed up to join The Worldwide Leader after he was fired by the 76ers following Philadelphia’s Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in last year’s playoffs.

The loss dropped Rivers, who previously coached the Magic, Clippers and Celtics and did win a title with Boston, to 6-10 in Game 7s in his career. The loss by the Sixers, who were up in the series 3-2 before losing the final two games, also marked the seventh time a Rivers’ coached team blew a playoff series when his team held a 3-1 or 3-2 lead. Since 2015, Rivers is 0–9 in potential series-clinching games in the second round, having blown two 3–1 series leads with the Clippers and lost two Game 7 appearances in three years with the Sixers. 

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Rivers is also now employed as the coach of the Bucks following negotiations that lasted deep into Tuesday night and Wednesday morning before an agreement could be reached, per ESPN. The Bucks hired Rivers after firing first-year coach Adrian Griffin only 43 games into his head-coaching career yesterday even though Milwaukee is sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference at 30-13. Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty was named interim head coach, a title he will now hand over to Rivers.

“This was a difficult decision to make during the season,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst. “We are working immediately toward hiring our next head coach. We thank Coach Griffin for his hard work and contributions to the team.”

Rivers, who was unable to get reigning league MVP Joel Embiid, ex-league MVP James Harden and rising star Tyrese Maxey past the Eastern Conference semifinals, will now be tasked with getting two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2023 DPOY finalist Brook Lopez and superstar point guard Damian Lillard, who is in his first year with the Bucks, all the way to the NBA Finals.

For a team with the third-best odds to win the NBA title behind only the Celtics and the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, anything less would have to be considered a failure. Of course, given the track record that Rivers has established for himself in the postseason, especially when the pressure is on, failure is what many are predicting.

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