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NBA champion coach Doc Rivers on whether he misses his old job: ‘Let the season go on, and I’ll find that out’


Doc Rivers retired as a player from the NBA following the 1995–96 season, and a few years later he transitioned to coaching, joining the Orlando Magic as head coach ahead of the 1999-2000 season. 

Rivers would spend more than two decades on an NBA sideline during his coaching stints with four teams. He coached the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008. Rivers’ run with the Philadelphia 76ers came to an end after the 2022-23 season, and he was then hired by ESPN. He will serve as an analyst on ESPN/ABC’s top broadcast team.

The former Los Angeles Clippers coach already has experience calling NBA games on television, as he worked alongside play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in 2004.

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Doc Rivers coaches during a playoff game

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers reacts during the first half of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center New York City on April 20, 2023. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Although Rivers will still have a seat on NBA sidelines for the 2023-24 season, he will be wearing a headset instead of holding a clipboard. The 62-year-old seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach to how long he will stick with his latest gig.

“Do I miss coaching?” Rivers reflected. “Let the season go on, and I’ll find that out. But this is the journey I’m on right now,” he said.

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At least one ESPN executive believes Rivers won’t be returning to the coaching ranks anytime soon.

“Doc will be a part of our NBA coverage for several years. I can assure you of that,” said David Roberts, ESPN’s Head of Event and Studio Production. “There’s always a chance that someone will reach out and say, ‘Hey, Doc would be a great coach.’ So, we’ll deal with that moment if it happens.”

Joel Embiid talks to Doc Rivers

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers talks with head coach Doc Rivers during the game against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 27, 2022. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

Rivers did share his thoughts on some of the issues his most recent NBA franchise is facing.

“I think [76ers star] Joel [Embiid] is pretty much used to beginning-of-the-year turmoil. He can kind of tone that out and almost use it as fuel,” he said. “At some point, he needs to be healthy, and then he needs to perform in the playoffs. That’s going to be the key. If Joel plays well, the Sixers are as big of a threat as anyone else because when he’s dominant, there’s nobody in the league that can stop him.”

Rivers did acknowledge feeling some pressure about rejoining ESPN and being on the top team. Doris Burke and Rivers are replacing Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, who were let go as part of the network’s reductions of on-air talent.

“It’s almost like coming in to coach a team that has a chance to win the title. I loved listening to Mark and Jeff,” Rivers said. “We just want to be what we are and let that go wherever it goes.”

Play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and Burke both have longtime friendships with Rivers. Over the summer, Rivers went to Ireland with Breen, while Burke has interviewed Rivers numerous times over the years. They also worked a couple of games with ABC in 2004 when Rivers was the analyst and Burke was doing sideline reports.

 Doc Rivers at a press conference

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers speaks to the media before a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets in Philadelphia on Oct. 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

“I think we’ll follow Mike’s lead. He is the driving force behind the telecast,” Burke said. “Doc brings an honesty to what he’s telling you. And I think it’s probably helpful that he’s done this in the past. I am looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

As for what to expect this season, Rivers has the reigning champion Denver Nuggets as the favorite.

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But he also made it clear that coaching won’t be on his mind when he is broadcasting games — no matter what people may read into his comments.

“Sometimes that can be critical. But as long as it’s honest and coming from the right place, I’ve always been able to live with that,” Rivers said. “It’s going to be unpopular at times, but at the end of the day, I want people to enjoy the game.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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