DENVER, COLORADO - MAY 09: Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns watches as his team plays the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter during Game Five of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals at Ball Arena on May 09, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

Doc Rivers is out as the Sixers’ coach. Not too surprising. After the performance of his team in game 7, the writing was on the wall. A lot of other successful coaches have already been fired directly after their team came up short like the Sixers. It felt highly unlikely Doc Rivers would come away clean. Sure enough, on Tuesday just before noon, Woj broke the news that Doc Rivers had been fired. And now, the Sixers begin their search for the next head coach.

And this coach is going to have to be the guy. This will be the 3rd head coach of The Process Era. First, there was Brett Brown, who coached the Sixers through the actual tanking years. He stuck around for several more years once Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were on the court. He led them to 2 straight 2nd round exits and then got the boot after the Sixers got swept in round 1 of the Bubble season. Then it was Doc Rivers. He coached the team to three straight 2nd rounds, along with 3 straight exits. This year’s collapse vs the Celtics was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Luckily for the Sixers, there are several great candidates for their next head coach, at least on paper. There were winning coaches fired by their teams for coming up short. Guys who coached under Doc Rivers who may be looking for a chance to step into the driver’s seat. Veteran coaches who took last year off and may be looking to get back into coaching. Some of the options being thrown out are great, and some not so much.

Let’s take a look at each name being thrown around and if they will be the right fit:

  • Monty Williams

    Monty was an assistant coach here for a short span under Brett Brown. So he has some familiarity with Joel Embiid and a few other Sixers players still hanging around.

    Monty coached the Hornets/Pelicans for several years but was there at a bad time. Chjirs Paul left after his first year there, and there was not much talent there left for him to coach apart from a young Anthony Davis. Monty made the playoffs twice there but went in the first round both times. But with the Suns, he is one of the winningest coaches of the past few seasons, at least in the regular season. He coached the Suns to a Finals appearance a few years back and won Coach of the Year. His track record will make him a popular candidate.

    The problem with Monty, he is no stranger to meltdowns like the Sixers are now used to. His Suns went up 2-0 on the Bucks the year they made the Finals. But then they dropped 4 straight to lose the series. The next season in the 2nd round his team went up 2-0 on the Mavericks in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Then they went 1-4 in the next 5 games. This past series, they failed to win a single game vs the Nuggets on the road and got run off the floor a few times too. Chris Paul was hurt, but he had Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on the court.

    There are a few other issues too. He had a rocky relationship in Phoenix with Center Deandre Ayton. Plus we saw how great Mikal Bridges was once he got to Brooklyn, which begs the question why didn’t Monty get that out of him?

  • Nick Nurse

    A few years back, Nick Nurse looked like the next great coach. He took a Kawhi Leonard led team to the Finals, where they beat the Golden State Warriors. Even without Kawhi, he followed that up the next year by getting the Raptors the 2 seed in the bubble season. But they fell to the Celtics in the 2nd round. And Nick Nurse’s Raptors have not done much since then.  

    They missed the playoffs the following year, ending the season as the 12 seed. The year after that they got the 5 seed but lost to the Sixers in the first round. And this season they couldn’t escape the play in games and finished as the 9th seed.  

    So what is it? Was Nick Nurse carried by the great roster in 2019 and 2019, or dragged down by a bad roster the past few seasons? It’s the question anytime looking at him will have to answer.  

    There are things to like about Nurse. He did bring some outside-the-box thinking to those few seasons the Raptors were winning, it was not just great talent winning the day. But we also see him get a bit outcoached by Doc Rivers in the 2022 playoffs. He is an interesting name to watch though and should have good talent here even if James Harden skips town.  

  • Mike Budenholzer

    Mike Budenholzer has been one of the most successful coaches of the past few seasons. He started his career with the Hawks, where he had some success, but his teams kept running into the Lebron James Cavs. But once Mike got to the Bucks, he turned into a coaching Super Star. He took what was an underachieving group of talented players and made them winners.  

    Under Jason Kidd, the Bucks were a good team that floundered in the playoffs. With Budenholzer, they have been a great team. They finally broke through and won the Finals in his 3rd year there. Apart from that, they made two Eastern Conference Finals.  

    This past year though, they had an utter collapse in the playoffs. Lost as the 1 seed in the first round. Part of that was because Giannis missed a couple of games with an injury but in one of those games they managed to win anyway. It was an extra ugly way to end the series with him holding onto timeouts as Grayson Allen dribbled out the clock never getting a shot off.  

    In fairness to Mike, he may have been a bit distracted by a death in the family. But he has at times gotten some of the same criticisms Doc Rivers got here for being too slow to adjust and coming up small in the playoffs.  

  • Mike D'Antoni

    Mike D’Antoni’s name always seems to come up in every coaching search. But he hasn’t actually been a head coach since the 2019-2020 season. He last coached the Rockets when James Harden and Daryl Morey were still there. D’Antoni has coached 5 different teams and got none of them to the promised land. In 16 seasons as a head coach, he never even got a team to the Finals.  

    His name is out there because of the Morey connection. But like in the last coach search cycle, he does not feel like a real name. And if they do hire him, it certainly will not inspire much confidence in Sixers fans. 

  • Sam Cassell

    The one non-re-tread being seriously connected to the Sixers is Sam Cassell. He has been an assistant coach under Doc going back to the Clippers year. He has done good work as an assistant. Especially with Tyrese Maxey. Sam Cassell probably does deserve a chance to be a coach somewhere. Maybe it will be here. But firing Doc, just to hire the guy who has been Doc’s main assistant for years, doesn’t feel like the type of shakeup this Sixers team needs.  

    Sam has been here and wasn’t able to help fix the issues as the assistant. Will he do better as the main guy? Maybe. But it feels like they need a truly new set of eyes. Not someone who for all we know will do the same stuff Doc does. Still, he is a serious contender though. And as we saw with Rob Thomson and the Phillies, sometimes bumping up the assistant can work.  If he is the name, it won’t be a bad choice. Just perhaps not an exciting one. 

  • Frank Vogel

    Another name being connected to the Sixers is former Lakers coach Frank Vogel. He led the Lakers to a Finals win in the Bubble Year. But then has not done much with a Lebron James and Anthony Davis led team since. Part of the problem was roster construction. But he did not do much to get the best out of the players he had either.  

    Everyone learns as a kid you don’t put the rectangle block through the circle hole. Well, that is essentially what Vogel was doing in LA. Running schemes that did not fit the roster he had in LA.  

    Plus, the fact the Lakers are back in the Western Conference Semi-Finals the year after firing him, is not a great look for him. The roster is different now, but it’s not like they added all of this talent directly after firing him. New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is just getting more out of his role guys than Vogel ever did.  

    Vogel would not be a very inspiring hire.  

  • Jay Wright

    I am only putting this here because so many people keep calling our station with his name. Jay Wright seems very happy in retirement. There is no indication that he wants to get back into coaching. Let the man enjoy not having to travel for 41 games, and being able to get paid well to sit in a studio and talk basketball. If he came out and said, I want to coach again, then sure, hed be a great candidate. But that does not seem to be the case.  

  • Dawn Staley

    We have also heard a lot of Dawn Staley’s name being thrown around. Not by people connected to the search, but by fans. And hey, if that is the direction the Sixers went, I would love it. Dawn is from the area, she knows what the Sixers mean to us, and most importantly, she is a hell of a coach. If anyone deserves to be the first woman to coach in the NBA, it is here. Her name has not been seriously connected to any NBA teams yet. It is probably not a real possibility. But it is a very fun name to think about at least.  

  • JJ Reddick

    For some reason, certain odds makers have said JJ Reddick is the most likely candidate to coach the Sixers. Forget the fact he has no coaching experience. Clearly, that has worked really well with Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. I don’t see why he would be the right guy here apart from him having played here before. Let him stick to doing First Take, and his Podcast where he carries water for Ben Simmons for no reason.  

    Besides, if he took this job, he would just leave a couple of years later saying he wants to be closer to home, but then sign with a team much further away.

  • Conclusion

    The first 6 are the candidates Woj connected to them. D’Antoni and Vogel don’t seem like real contenders. it will likely be one of the 3 Vet coaches, Budenholzer, Nurse, or Williams, or Sam Cassell. Of those options, Budenholzer has the best track record, but Nurse and Williams could also be exciting choices.

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