‣ The Milwaukee Bucks fired head coach Adrian Griffin after 43 games into the 2023-24 season, despite a 30-13 record, and hired veteran coach Doc Rivers as his replacement.
‣ Doc Rivers, a former ESPN analyst, has a mixed record with his previous teams, having won an NBA championship in 2008 but also having lost multiple series leads and close-out games.
‣ Despite criticisms of his performance, Rivers was offered a “very lucrative” deal by the Bucks, which has been seen as a risky move by the organization.
BREAKING: Doc Rivers is finalizing an agreement to become the next coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, sources tell ESPN. The Bucks are getting the coach they targeted over the past 24 hours.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn)
The NBA community was left reeling on Tuesday. The Milwaukee Bucks, in a shocking move, fired first-year head coach Adrian Griffin only 43 games into the 2023-24 season. But the surprises didn’t stop there.
Wednesday brought another unexpected development. The club announced the hiring of veteran coach-turned-analyst Doc Rivers.
Griffin, at 49 years old, had an impressive run. He concluded his tenure with a 30-13 (.698) record. This puts him among the shortest coaching stints in NBA history, rubbing shoulders with Rudy Tomjanovich, Bob Weiss, and Jerry Tarkanian.
Bucks general manager Jon Horst released a statement. “This was a difficult decision to make during the season. We are working immediately toward hiring our next head coach. We thank Coach Griffin for his hard work and contributions to the team,” he said.
Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s NBA insider, broke the news about Doc Rivers. “BREAKING: Doc Rivers is finalizing an agreement to become the next coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, sources tell ESPN. The Bucks are getting the coach they targeted over the past 24 hours,” he tweeted.
Griffin was brought on board during the 2023 offseason. He replaced longtime coach Mike Budenholzer, who was let go after Milwaukee’s first-round exit to the Miami Heat last postseason.
Rivers, now 62, joined ESPN as an analyst in May 2023. This was after the Philadelphia 76ers fired him following their conference semifinals loss against the Boston Celtics. The Sixers’ story was a familiar one. They couldn’t advance further than the second round under Rivers.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Who thought it was a good idea to replace Griffin with Rivers? NBA insiders reported that Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton were called to a meeting with Griffin in November to discuss team matters.
In this meeting, all four players shared their concerns. They discussed what wasn’t working and which players weren’t being utilized effectively, according to Bleacher Report. Griffin had reportedly “lost the locker room.” Even if Griffin wasn’t the right fit, why not let him finish the season?
And why Rivers? The veteran coach hasn’t won an NBA championship since 2008. That’s when he led a stacked Celtics team featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen.
Rivers’ NBA record isn’t exactly stellar. He’s lost 32 close-out games, 7 series when leading 3-2, 10 game 7’s, and 12 series when holding a series lead.
Since his 2008 championship, Rivers-led teams have blown multiple leads, lost Game 7 five times in winnable series, and were eliminated 11 times at home. His teams have also gone 16-34 in close-out games.
Clippers fans might shed a tear or two just thinking about it.
Rivers has had a wealth of talent throughout his coaching career. He’s worked with Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Deandre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Joel Embiid, and James Harden. Despite all this, he only has one NBA title to his name. Now, he gets to coach another star-studded team in Milwaukee’s Antetokounmpo, Lillard, Middleton, and Lopez.
Rivers isn’t a bad coach. Overrated? Absolutely. Has he been given more credit than he deserves in the past? Without a doubt.
The best word to describe Doc Rivers might be ‘underachiever’.
We’ve seen Bill Belichick coach in the NFL without Tom Brady. We’ve seen Gregg Popovich coach without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. It ain’t pretty. But what’s Rivers’ excuse for falling short?
Rivers has almost always had superstar rosters. Coaches can only do so much with what they have, that’s understandable. But at some point, he has to be held accountable for falling short.
Rivers’ deal with the Bucks is expected to be “a very lucrative one,” according to ESPN. Milwaukee is now on the hook for a lot of coaching money with Bud, Griffin, and Doc.
Milwaukee took a huge, unnecessary risk with this questionable move. Rivers used his “strong bargaining position” to negotiate a ridiculous contract with the Bucks. It’s a move that might just come back to bite them.
Is 16 times the charm for Doc Rivers to win a second championship? This is his last chance.