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Philadelphia 76ers fire head coach Doc Rivers

While he's not shocked, Dan Patrick says there's still an "element of surprise" that the Sixers fired Doc Rivers after their playoff elimination, as he looks at the list of names that could replace him.

“No one’s safe in our business, and I get that.”

Doc Rivers’ comment after the Celtic had blown his 76ers out of the water in Game 7 of the second round proved to be prophetic — Tuesday the 76ers fired Doc Rivers, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia and, eventually, the 76ers themselves.

“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.”

This wasn’t a surprise.

Last week’s ugly exit from the playoffs — the 76ers were up 3-2 in the series and ahead in the fourth quarter of Game 6 at home before five quarters of basketball where Joel Embiid and James Harden fell off the map — was the team’s third straight exit in the second round of the playoffs (Rivers never got them to the Conference Finals). This team has the MVP in Embiid and a deep roster that finished with the third-best record in the NBA (they lost to the second-best). More was expected of them, even if Rivers had to navigate challenging situations like Ben Simmons and everything around him. Two other things helped lead to Rivers’ firing:

1) He was not Morey’s hire. This was not his guy and it was a button Morey could push to deflect any criticism coming his way for roster construction.

2) Any hope they have a re-signing Harden — who has a $35.6 million player option he is widely expected to decline unless the 76ers extend him off it — meant Rivers was out the door. After the 76ers were eliminated, Harden was asked about Rivers and said, “Our relationship is OK.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. What 33-year-old Harden wants is more years and security (and Houston looms as an option).

Who will replace Rivers? Monty Williams, the highly respected players coach just fired by the Suns is an obvious choice. Players love and respect him, and he helped get the Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021. Wojnarowski reports three other championship coaches will get a look in Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse (who Morey hired to coach the Rockets’ G-League team back in the day) and Frank Vogel also will get consideration. Also on the list are Sam Cassell and Mike D’Antoni.

Whoever takes the Philly job gets a championship-level roster, but also the expectations that come with it.

Rivers could get looks from other teams — Philly fans may complain about his playoff record (as did Clippers fans before them), but a lot of teams could use a coach that can get a team to the playoffs as often and as steadily as Rivers (who does have a ring from the 2008 Celtics, don’t forget). Also, don’t be surprised if Rivers returns to the broadcast booth for a year or two before taking another job.