ESPN Might Not Replace Doc Rivers, With Mike Breen And Doris Burke As Their Lead Commentary Team

For the second time in his career, Doc Rivers has parlayed a short stint on television into a high profile coaching job. Rivers spent one year with ABC between his coaching gigs with the Magic and Celtics, and this time around he didn’t even make it to the All-Star break before moving from the booth back to the bench.

After making a rather stunning move to fire first-year coach Adrian Griffin just 43 games into his tenure, the 30-13 Milwaukee Bucks have turned to Rivers to try and bring them the structure they’ve lacked, even amid a strong first half of the season. The Bucks have not been happy with their defensive scheme and effort, and on offense Damian Lillard hasn’t been the most comfortable in Griffin’s system. That, along with some missteps along the way from Griffin, led to his swift ouster and the Bucks turned to a respected veteran coach in Rivers.

While the Bucks will have to prove they can overcome some of the shortcomings of Rivers’ teams in the past come playoff time, ESPN is busy trying to figure out what to do with their lead broadcast booth after making major changes to their NBA team this offseason. ESPN let go of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson as part of layoffs last summer, hiring Rivers and elevating Doris Burke to the lead commentary team alongside Mike Breen, with their No. 2 team became J.J. Redick and Richard Jefferson alongside Dave Pasch.

Rivers’ departure makes for a bit of a conundrum for the Worldwide Leader. There aren’t many options to hire externally in late January that have TV experience to just jump into the lead booth, which means they can either elevate one of Redick or Jefferson, or simply roll with a Breen-Burke pairing. As of now, it appears the latter option is the expected outcome, as Mike McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports ESPN is likely going to pivot to the two-person team.

Meanwhile, all the talk about the Bucks raises questions about Rivers’s role with ESPN, where he currently broadcasts as part of a three-person NBA booth, alongside play-by-play commentator Mike Breen and analyst Doris Burke. ESPN sources told FOS’s Mike McCarthy on Wednesday morning that if Rivers left, the network would likely pivot to a two-person team rather than replace Rivers, though JJ Reddick and Richard Jefferson are under consideration to take Rivers’s spot. Many at the network, according to those sources, feel that Burke has earned the right to be the sole analyst on the top broadcast team, which would make her the first woman to call the NBA Finals as the lead game analyst. (ESPN declined to comment to FOS on Rivers’s broadcast situation.)

Burke has been doing the Finals as lead analyst on radio for years after being the lead sideline reporter for ESPN/ABC’s top team prior to that, and she can unquestionably handle the role. ESPN could dabble with adding Redick and Jefferson on occasion, but it makes the most sense to go through this season with Breen and Burke and then assess their options this summer.