Following the Sixers’ blowout Game 7 loss Sunday to the Celtics, Doc Rivers was asked whether he planned to return as the team’s head coach.
He said yes, noting he had two years remaining on his contract.
Rivers also realized the decision might not be in his hands.
“No one’s safe in our business,” Rivers said, “and I get that.”
The Sixers fired Rivers on Tuesday morning.
"Doc is one of the most successful coaches in NBA history, a future Hall of Famer, and someone I respect immensely," Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey said in a statement released by the team. "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."
After being swept by the Celtics in Round 1 of the 2020 playoffs, the Sixers hired Rivers as Brett Brown’s replacement.
The team went 154-82 in three seasons under him, including a 54-win campaign this year. All-Star center Joel Embiid developed further under Rivers, who found fruitful spots to use him at the nail and elbows. Embiid became the NBA’s MVP this season and won his second straight scoring title.
However, the Sixers again disappointed in the postseason, losing two straight games after seizing a 3-2 series lead in Boston. With Rivers at the helm, the team lost three consecutive Round 2 series — to the Hawks, the Heat, and the Celtics.
“I’m disappointed,” Rivers said Sunday. “I thought we had the right group. I really did. … I don’t think a person in this room picked the Sixers. Not one, but we did. And we chose to believe that we could win anyway. And we almost pulled it off. Game 6 will be something we think about. Game 7 will be something we think about.
“But as far as our guys’ fight … everybody picked against us. They didn’t care. They thought they could still win this series. That’s something good about our team. I thought overall, we were fighters.”
The Sixers will now search for the third head coach of Embiid’s career. Rivers’ accomplished staff of assistants included Sam Cassell, who’s been integral to 22-year-old guard Tyrese Maxey’s growth.
Last week, Rivers gave a strong endorsement for Cassell being worthy of a head coaching job.
“He’s terrific,” Rivers said of Cassell. “He’s got an incredible basketball mind, and I wish people could just see the mind. I mean, he’s a brilliant basketball mind. We have our offensive meetings and our defensive meetings, and Sam’s the only (assistant) that goes to both, because he’s that valuable. … He deserves it.”
In addition to Cassell, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Mike Budenholzer, Mike D’Antoni, Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel and Monty Williams are expected to be candidates in the Sixers’ search.