The Milwaukee Bucks Hired Doc Rivers As Their New Coach

The Milwaukee Bucks made a rather shocking move on Tuesday, firing first-year head coach Adrian Griffin after a 30-13 start to the season. Now, it wasn’t quite as stunning as that record would indicate, because there were plenty of underlying issues the Bucks were overcoming off sheer talent, namely a defense that had no definable principles or strengths.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and Khris Middleton have led the Bucks to the East’s 2-seed at the midway point of the season, but of all the top contenders in the East, they seem like the team with the most obvious concerns come playoff time. There’s been a disconnect in the Bucks locker room since before camp, when Terry Stotts abruptly left the team due to disagreements with Griffin despite his strong relationship with Lillard. From there, the team had to demand a switch back to drop coverage with Brook Lopez, and Giannis recently called out the lack of a coherent scheme — and poor effort from the players.

Immediately after Griffin was fired, Doc Rivers’ name was floated as a top candidate for the job. Given the most successful coaches available in mid-January were Rivers, now doing TV work for ESPN, and Budenholzer, who the Bucks just fired, it wasn’t a surprise Rivers’ name would be attached.

On Tuesday night, CNN Sports broke the news that he’s on his way to Milwaukee.

While it seemed like they might have jumped the gun here, CNN stood by its reporting, even as other NBA reporters said things hadn’t progressed that far down the road yet. But on Wednesday morning, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, and Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news that Rivers is, indeed, on his way to Milwaukee.

Rivers has not enjoyed much in the way of postseason success since winning a title in 2008 with the Celtics, and that will of course be brought up by everyone when citing the Bucks’ goal of winning it all. That said, he will install some defensive principles and has a strong system on that end, which will be an upgrade from what they’ve been doing even factoring in their personnel limitations. Offensively, we’ll have to wait and see, as Rivers’ teams recently have had a tendency to get bogged down in the playoffs, but Lillard and Antetokounmpo represent a uniquely dynamic pairing that might be able to overcome those problems.

Now, somewhat interestingly, ESPN has to figure out what they’ll do with their lead broadcast team, as Rivers was paired with Doris Burke and Mike Breen. J.J. Redick and Richard Jefferson are the lead analysts for ESPN’s No. 2 team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Redick was elevated to that top group.