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Grotz: Doc Rivers shares warm memories of Philly amid frosty reception

PHILADELPHIA — Bucks coach Doc Rivers had some fun entering the interview room Sunday to chat with the media at Wells Fargo Center, where he worked for three years as coach of the Sixers.

“Oh (bleep) not you guys,” Rivers said to an audience of reporters who covered his tenure here. “You know you guys miss me.”

Rivers misses the friends he made here, the restaurants he dined at and the golf course (Merion) he joined. He blew off a question about how he expected to be received by Sixers fans.

“I can tell you,” Rivers said, “that I haven’t lost a wink of sleep thinking about it either way.”

Let the record show that Rivers was booed vociferously, the Bucks then taking control early and piling on in a 119-98 win over the Sixers. No matter what Rivers says, he won’t be able to change opinions of Sixers fans bemoaning three straight second-round playoff exits, the last two seasons in Game 7, under his guidance. With 10 Game 7 losses in a 25-year coaching career, Rivers is the NBA’s all-time leader.

At 1,102 victories, Rivers is the second-winningest active coach in the league, trailing only Gregg Popovich (1,377) of the Spurs. Popovich has five NBA titles, none since 2014. Rivers coached the Boston Celtics to a championship in 2008. It’s early, but the Bucks (37-21) are as capable as any team of challenging for a title this season.

Rivers guided the Sixers to a record of 154-82 (.653) in three seasons, the highest winning percentage of his four stops in the NBA. The Sixers were 20-15 (.571) in the playoffs on his watch.

The playoff collapses that Sixers fans judge coaches by aren’t going to make it any easier for them to stomach his assessment of his tour here.

“I was happy with it overall,” Rivers said. “I just wish we had gone further. I just wish I would have had a chance to have Joel (Embiid) healthy in the playoffs. But when I took this job here, I think they got swept the year before in the first round (by Boston, in the NBA bubble). The next year we won the East, lost to Atlanta, which I would love to have that one back as a group. But overall, Joel became an MVP, and we established this team as a championship contender. That wasn’t said the year before. And with a lot of stuff happening.

“You think about it we had the James Harden trade, the Ben (Simmons) stuff. We had a lot of stuff going on, some was under my control, some was out of my control. But overall, for me if you don’t win a title, you’re never exactly happy. That’s why we all do this.”

While Rivers wouldn’t opine on if he was unfairly bashed by fans who wanted more, he has an opinion on why his Sixers teams struggled in Games 6 and 7. Take last season when the Celtics were healthy and playing at a high level. And uh, Harden was monopolizing the ball keeping it away from Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

“Maybe they were better,” Rivers said of the Celtics, who are running away from the rest of the East this season. “Could that be a possibility? That’s probably why you picked them (to win the series), right? I thought Game 6 was our game. And I didn’t think Joel got the ball enough. Trust me, it was there for him to get it and he didn’t get it. I don’t know how healthy he was but as I told you guys 100 times, you put yourself in those positions and winning is hard. You’re going to win some of them and you’re not going to win some of them. And you just keep going.”

That anonymous rip of Harden, the proven coach killer and defamer of Sixers basketball operations chief Daryl Morey, deserved a standing ovation. In essence, Rivers is a lot like your average Sixers fan. No filter, and you’re not always going to like what he says.

Bucks ownership gambled that superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard would be better off with Rivers than Adrian Griffin, who guided the club to a 30-13 record, just 3 1/2 games behind Boston in the East. Under Rivers, the Bucks are 5-7 after a bumpy start. They woke up 9 games behind the Celtics this morning. Undaunted, Rivers believes this Bucks squad has enough mettle to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“A lot of things have to go well for you,” Rivers said. “First of all, you have to have a good team. And secondly you have to have health. And then you have to have some luck, too. All of that combined. There are a lot of coaches who have never won it or have only gone once and are hell of coaches. It’s just hard to do. I’ve been lucky enough to keep putting myself in positions to try. Wouldn’t have taken this job if there wasn’t an opportunity. It’s a journey.”

It’s a journey that if completed will be one more reason for Sixers fans to boo.

To contact Bob Grotz, email

Source: Berkshire mont

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