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Why Are Successful Coaches Like Doc Rivers Being Let Go So Often?

Why Are Successful Coaches Like Doc Rivers Being Let Go So Often?

  Doc Rivers is known for his charismatic coaching style that unifies teams around a shared vision - but this approach may also bring pain. Particularly during NBA playoff games. On Sunday night, Philadelphia Sixers coach Chuck Daly (61), was fired from his position after losing Game 7 against Boston Celtics. Daly had served with them since 2020. 1. They don’t know what they’re doing As NBA coaching positions become ever more fluid, established coaches are becoming increasingly difficult to retain their jobs. Just this season alone, two storied programs -- Milwaukee Bucks' Mike Budenholzer leading them to the Finals two seasons prior and Phoenix Suns' Monty Williams leading them back into contention once - were let go within months of reaching playoffs - both becoming examples of constant change within a sport with limited tenures for established coaches. The Sixers have begun searching for a new coach following the second-round loss to Boston on Sunday, when they fired Rivers following an unsuccessful 2021-22 campaign that yielded only 49 wins and failed to make the playoffs. Rivers was widely criticized by his players, particularly Joel Embiid and James Harden, for failing to maximize their potential during postseason play. Rivers has garnered both praise and criticism during his 15 years with the Celtics, winning one championship and leading them twice into the Finals since. Since then, he's amassed more than 1,000 wins while creating talent such as current Sixers assistant coaches Ben Mazzulla and Darvin Ham who still serve as his assistant coaches today. He has also proven adept at handling heartbreak in the postseason, which many coaches struggle with. After being fired by the Clippers in 2020, he famously broke down; since then though he has managed to regroup and move on with prominence with the 76ers. Rivers's turbulent tenure with Philadelphia provides a testament to the challenges associated with NBA head coaching - both physically and psychologically - but he likely will get another shot to guide their talented roster of stars. Rivers is worth one more try before the coaching revolution strikes again; otherwise, the Sixers could find themselves vulnerable when their star players hit free agency next summer. While Embiid remains on long-term contract, James Harden may choose not to exercise his player option next season and this could force the Sixers to look elsewhere for new coaches for their vacant coaching role. 2. They don’t have the players’ best interests at heart No secret exists regarding NBA ownership's obsession with results; once a coach fails to make the playoffs again, ownership may decide it's time for change - something Rivers learned after his Sixers lost Game 7 against the Celtics and was fired following. Rivers becomes the third coach fired this postseason following Mike Budenholzer and Monty Williams losing their positions respectively. But sometimes it can be difficult to know whether a coach has done his or her job effectively; much of their work occurs behind-the-scenes and fans and media don't witness every practice or film session; in these situations, coaches can sometimes become their own worst enemies. One could make the argument that Rivers did his best with what he had, yet his players failed to show up - an argument made particularly valid by Joel Embiid and James Harden who struggled in Game 7. Yet it's important to remember these max contract players were supposed to carry the team and bring home a championship title. No matter the reasons, Rivers still had two years left on his contract - not enough time for ownership to make any major moves without first finding someone else to replace him. There aren't a lot of proven replacements out there. Replacing Rivers may lead to an upgrade, but that can't be guaranteed; especially given that Rivers costs the Lakers an estimated $11 million annually and if they want him gone they must find someone willing to give him what he desires as compensation. 3. They don’t have the players’ trust Coaches typically find themselves fired because they cannot exert control of their team. This may be the result of various factors, such as poor player development, insufficient chemistry between teammates and coaching staff, adaptability issues in game play or unwillingness to make difficult decisions; but often successful coaches lose their jobs because their players no longer trust them. Losing trust in their leader can make turning things around very challenging for teams - particularly professional athletes who put in so much of themselves in their job every day. As such, it's crucial for teams to have players that trust both coaches and each other; otherwise, winning simply becomes impossible without trust between teammates and coaches alike. Recent playoff collapse of the Philadelphia 76ers against Boston is an excellent illustration. They were not simply defeated in Game 7, but thoroughly dismantled by a highly physical, defensive-minded Boston squad which simply overmatched them physically - ultimately leading them into another second-round sweep, this time for three straight years and six times overall since 2007. There were many factors at work when the 76ers lost, but one key reason was Rivers not earning their trust. He started off the season giving most minutes to his starters while using an unreliable bench unit, not trusting Joel Embiid or James Harden enough - leading them down an unpredictable path toward failure. Unfortunately, the Sixers had to part ways with Rivers after three seasons, but doing what is best for their organization was ultimately necessary. Now is their opportunity to find someone who will help nurture and build upon their talented core and win more games than they lose - perhaps someone outside their immediate area but the chances of that happening remain good. 4. They don’t have the players’ respect Nobody, whether fan or journalist, finds assessing a coach's effectiveness easy; much of their job happens behind closed doors and it can be hard to gauge player mental health or their relationship with coaches when not present to witness all that's going on firsthand. That being said, some things become evident upon closer observation by anyone paying close attention. As such, it was surprising when the Sixers released Rivers this season after leading them to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and losing another playoff series - this one against Boston - for three consecutive years and five over the past decade. Rivers has coached in six game sevens as a coach; none on the road. Rivers won a championship with the Celtics and has reached three more finals, yet has failed to lead them all the way back into glory since. His players -- Joel Embiid and James Harden among them -- have given him every opportunity to lead them back, yet he has been unsuccessful. He may have come under criticism for playing a slow-paced game that often sees his best players fouled out, but there's something to be said for allowing your stars the freedom to play their style. As player contracts shrink and superstar-driven super teams become more commonplace, it's essential that we remember that respect doesn't come easily; it must be earned. Though the Sixers may be searching for a coach, their championship-caliber roster needs an experienced guide who can keep them focused. Rivers is no doubt capable of this, but more importantly finding someone who can connect with young players and get them believing in themselves will only benefit the Sixers moving forward. As soon as this occurs, everything else will follow naturally - the sooner, the better for their chances.

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