The Philadelphia 76ers parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers after three seasons, and the team is now searching for his replacement. Rivers was fired because he was unable to lead the Sixers past the conference semifinals, so whoever takes his spot will be facing immense pressure to do just that. The new coach will also be tasked with maximizing Joel Embiid in the postseason, as the NBA MVP has been unable to lead his team on a deep playoff run under his two previous head coaches.
So, who will be the next head coach of the 76ers? Here's a look at six of the likeliest candidates as Philadelphia begins its search.
The Sixers' next head coach could already be in Philadelphia. Cassell has served as an assistant under Rivers since 2014. He followed Rivers from the Los Angeles Clippers to Philadelphia, and he also served as an assistant with the Washington Wizards for five years prior to that. The man certainly has experience as an assistant, as he appears poised to get an opportunity to become a lead decision-maker, either in Philly or elsewhere.
The Rockets are also interested in Cassell, who spent the first three seasons of his career in Houston. The Sixers now have to decide if they want to elevate Cassell to head coach or risk losing him to another organization. The obvious concern with Cassell is his lack of experience as a head coach. A ready-made contender with championship expectations might prefer a coach with postseason experience, as opposed to a rookie.
Monty Williams is fresh off of a successful four-year stint with the Suns that saw him lead the team to the NBA Finals in 2021 for the first time since 1993. He was also just named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2022. Prior to his time in Phoenix, Williams served as an assistant under Brett Brown in Philadelphia, so he is already very familiar with the Sixers as an organization.
Williams also served as the head coach in New Orleans for half of a decade, so he's certainly steeped in experience. He was relieved of his duties in Phoenix after the Suns lost in the second round for the second straight season despite the midseason addition of Kevin Durant, but Phoenix's lack of depth certainly played a major factor in their struggles. As a well-respected shot-caller with recent postseason experience, Williams certainly fits the mold of what the Sixers should be looking for in a new coach.
Mike D'Antoni is another coach with ties to the Sixers, as he also served as an assistant with the team during the Brett Brown era. D'Antoni was previously a candidate to get Philadelphia's head coaching gig back in 2020, but the team ultimately went with Rivers. There's obviously still some interest there though, as D'Antoni is now a candidate for the job again three years later.
D'Antoni is widely considered to be one of the most innovative offensive coaches in basketball history, and his addition would almost assuredly make Philadelphia's offense less stagnant, which has been an issue at times in recent years. Plus, he has a prior relationship with James Harden, who the Sixers hope to retain in free agency this summer. D'Antoni coached Harden during his most successful and productive seasons in Houston, and hiring him could be a way to entice Harden to remain in Philadelphia.
Several teams with coaching vacancies are interested in Nick Nurse, and the Sixers can be added to that list. Nurse is fresh off of a five-year stint with the Raptors that saw him lead Toronto to the first NBA title in franchise history in 2019. Philadelphia fans will remember that '19 Raptors team as they bounced the Sixers in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Kawhi Leonard's now-legendary bouncing buzzer-beater from the corner. Nurse is known as a solid tactician and good adjustment-maker -- areas where Doc Rivers has been criticized for falling short. He's a very different coach than Rivers, and going with him would definitely represent a shift in the locker room in Philadelphia.
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Budenholzer is just two years removed from leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first title in 50 years, but now he's looking for a new gig after the top-seeded Bucks were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat. While Budenholzer was able to get that title in '21, he has had his fair share of postseason struggles outside of that, and he has often been criticized for being slow to make postseason adjustments -- much like Rivers.
In fairness to Budenholzer, his best player, Giannis Antetokounmpo, missed the majority of three games in that series against the Heat, and things might have turned out differently had he been healthy. But that's life for head coaches in the NBA today. Given his track record, Budenholzer won't be without a gig for long. Perhaps he'll go from coaching one MVP in Antetokounmpo to another in Embiid.
Frank Vogel is another coach with championship experience with ties to the Sixers. Vogel. who led the Lakers to an NBA title in 2020, and served as an assistant coach with the Sixers way back during the 2004-05 season. In addition to his title run with the Lakers, Vogel also previously served as the head coach of the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. His stint in Orlando didn't go too well, but his teams in Indiana were consistently among the best, and toughest, in the conference.
Vogel is a solid defensive coach and could help to maximize Philadelphia on that end of the floor. As a guy who coached LeBron James and Anthony Davis to a title, Vogel has shown that he can handle star players and get them to maximize their talents when it matters most, which could be beneficial with the Sixers.