‘I think he’s ready for it’: Bucks officially announce Doc Rivers as head coach

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Doc Rivers is about to resume his coaching career at a place where his jersey hangs from the rafters.

The Milwaukee Bucks announced Friday night that they had hired Rivers to succeed Adrian Griffin, who was fired Tuesday after just 43 games. Rivers played from 1980 to 1983 at Marquette, which shares an arena with the Bucks, and retired Rivers’ college jersey No. 31.

“This is a great opportunity to join a premier organization with a team that has a talented roster of high-character players,” Rivers said in a statement released by the team.

The Bucks made the announcement in the final minute of their 112-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Rivers will be introduced at a press conference on Saturday.

“I talked to him today, and he agrees with us and knows that the expectations of this team are really high,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “I think he’s ready for it.”

This move represents a major change in terms of head coaching experience.

Griffin had never been a head coach before the Bucks hired him last summer, although he had 16 seasons of experience as an assistant. Rivers won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and his experience as a head coach spans nearly a quarter century.

Rivers has a 1,097-763 regular season record and 111-104 playoff record in 24 seasons with the Orlando Magic (1999-2004), Celtics (2004-13), Los Angeles Clippers (2013- 20) and the Philadelphia 76ers (2020-2020). 23). His 1,097 regular season victories place him one behind Larry Brown for eighth in NBA history.

“Great voice,” Portis said. “Someone who obviously has had success in this league, who has respect in this league. A marquee coach. A top 15 coach of all time. I can go on and on.”

Joe Prunty, an assistant on Griffin’s staff, had served as interim head coach for the Bucks’ last two games.

Looking for a playoff run

Taking over a team featuring two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and seven-time All-NBA guard Damian Lillard gives Rivers a chance for a deep playoff run that has eluded him since leaving Boston.

Milwaukee is behind only the Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings, even though the Bucks’ schedule gets much tougher for the rest of the season.

This opportunity gives Rivers a chance to erase some recent postseason frustrations.

He was fired by the 76ers last year after a third straight second-round elimination in the playoffs. Rivers’ teams haven’t reached the NBA Finals since his 2010 Celtics lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers. His Clippers and 76ers teams never made it past the second round.

“I think it’s just the leadership he can provide,” Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said. “He has the same perspective as a former player as Griff, but he’s been doing it a long time and he’s won a championship.”

The Bucks’ main challenge is improving a defense that has taken a step back since they gave up five-time NBA All-Defensive Team guard Jrue Holiday in the trade that got them Lillard. The Bucks entered Friday ranked 20th in defensive rating, up from 4th last season.

“He just talks about being able to have that identity that we should have as the Milwaukee Bucks,” Connaughton said. “You talk about the talent that we have on the team, teams should be a little more afraid to play us. I think right now, with the way our defense has played, the way we’ve had highs and lows. In games especially – I know we have a great record – I don’t think teams really worried about coming to play us, whether it was home or away.

Rivers never made it past the conference semifinals with the Clippers or 76ers. He was fired as coach of the 76ers last year after each of his three seasons in Philadelphia ended in second-round exits.

“Obviously he’s got a lot of experience,” center Brook Lopez said. “He’s been in the NBA, he’s been playing in the NBA for a very long time. So it would be nice to have in that locker room some kind of outside perspective on what’s going on this year.”

Rivers started this season as an ESPN analyst before the opportunity to lead the Bucks lured him back to coaching.

The Bucks faced their own playoff woes after winning their first title in a half-century in 2021.

Milwaukee lost 4-3 in the second round to Boston in 2022. Last year, the Bucks posted the NBA’s best regular season record, but were stunned 4-1 by the Miami Heat in the first round.

The Bucks responded to this surprise by firing Mike Budenholzer, who had coached this 2021 championship team. His replacement only lasted barely half the season.

Now the Bucks are pinning their hopes on Rivers.

“I feel like he’s a great fit,” Portis said. “Obviously his number is in the rafters here, so what better team to coach than to have your number in your rafters? It’s cool, to be on the sideline and look up and see your name up there. That’s awesome in itself.”



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