Barely seven hours after firing head coach Adrian Griffin, the Milwaukee Bucks have swiftly moved to hiring his replacement. As was reported very quickly in the aftermath of the firing, Doc Rivers was seen to be the favorite, and we just got confirmation that the former Sixers, Clippers, Celtics, and Magic head coach—fired last spring by Philly and since working on ESPN’s top broadcast team—will indeed be hired as the franchise’s eighteenth head coach, according to CNN of all sources:
Yes, you read that right. CNN reported this, and aired it on a TNT broadcast (the main competitor of Doc’s employer and a broadcast partner of TNT). And yes, this came before Woj or Shams reported it. Weird.
Anyway, Rivers is well known to NBA fans from his decades leading contending teams. He also is a Marquette alum, whose collegiate career was so legendary in Milwaukee that the school retired his number. Of course, the Golden Eagles share Fiserv Forum with the Bucks, so Rivers’ number hangs from the rafters since the building’s completion, and indeed since the Bradley Center days. He did enjoy a 13 year playing career from the early 80s to mid 90s, mostly in Atlanta, where he made one All-Star team.
Several years after retiring, he took his first head coaching gig with the Magic in 1999 and moved onto the Celtics in 2004. After winning a title in 2008 with Boston, though, playoff success has notably eluded him. Upon taking the reins in LA, he could never get the Lob City-era Clippers past the second round, though key injuries derailed that core’s title chances in the postseason almost every year. However, when the reloaded and healthy Kawhi Leonard/Paul George Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the second round of the 2020 playoffs, people began talking about how Rivers’ teams were always coming up short, and if he was to blame. Rivers was dismissed by LA soon after.
He landed on his feet (pheet?) in Philly not long after, where he spent three seasons and again failed to bring the Sixers past the second round. Last spring, the Sixers couldn’t take care of business versus the Celtics at home in Game 6, despite a 3-2 series lead, and were smoked on the road in Game 7. That got Rivers another pink slip, and that due to yet another postseason disappointment, it seemed his long tenure as an NBA coach was done. It was the first time since the waning years of Bill Clinton’s second term that Rivers did not possess an NBA head coaching position at at the start of a season
So he took a job on ESPN’s new lead broadcast team alongside Mike Breen and Doris Burke. However, as we learned today, the Bucks had brought in Rivers as a sort of consultant to Griffin back in December, as the team struggled in the In-Season Tournament. So in a way, Rivers has already been influencing the team’s in-game strategy for nearly two months. It might not be unfair to call him a shadow head coach.
We’ll have more analysis of this in the coming days. But for now, Doc Rivers is the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Oh boy.
UPDATE 1: now there’s a report TNT/CNN jumped the gun, according to Bill Reiter from CBS Sports:
A league sources tells @CBSsports that there is no agreement in place between the Milwaukee Bucks and any potential job candidate. Says an earlier report on a deal with Doc Rivers is "not true."— Bill Reiter (@sportsreiter) January 24, 2024
So perhaps this came too soon? We’ll find out quickly I’m sure.
UPDATE 2: The good people at Awful Announcing have some more insight about this very confusing situation in regards to CNN reporting this hire, rather than Shams/Woj/Haynes/ESPN. Is CNN Sports even a thing?
UPDATE 3: A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports has some more info on this whole CNN Sports business. The cable news leader is standing by their reporting and claiming it wasn’t up on their website because of their coverage of the New Hampshire primary.
NEW: The report that the Milwaukee Bucks are hiring Doc Rivers did indeed come from CNN and was "fully-vetted" by the network before it was passed along to TNT, two sources told @FOS. https://t.co/RoScyJk8j4— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) January 24, 2024
UPDATE 4: At long last, a reliable NBA source has chimed in with an update:
Milwaukee Bucks and Doc Rivers continue to work towards a deal that will make him the franchise’s next head coach, but there is no agreement in place as of now, league sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) January 24, 2024
For those of you following along at home, that’s right, Bleacher Report and TNT—who both reported that the Bucks were hiring Rivers a couple hours ago—are now being told no agreement is in place. Haynes works for both BR and TNT, but did not break the news initially. Meanwhile, that info went on air to hundreds of thousands of viewers, if not millions. Now one of their own is walking it back. You can’t make this stuff up, people!