Doc Rivers Says One NBA Star Was ‘Challenging’ To Coach

Former 76ers coach Doc Rivers

Getty Image / Matt Stone

The 2022-23 NBA season came to a disappointing end for the Philadelphia 76ers a few weeks ago.

The team blew a 3-2 series lead against the Boston Celtics to once again fall short of even making an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

In the aftermath of that disappointment, the team decided it was time to move on from head coach Doc Rivers.

Today, Rivers spoke about his time with the 76ers on the Bill Simmons podcast and called coaching James Harden challenging.

“It was challenging. More because we were fighting two things, and not like visually fighting. James was so good at playing one way, and the way I believe you have to play to win, in some ways is different because it’s a lot of giving up the ball, moving the ball and coming back to the ball.

I would’ve loved to have [James] when he was younger, when that was easier for him. Cause giving up the ball and coming back to it is hard, it’s physical and it’s exhausting. It would’ve been interesting if I had him when he was younger [so we could do more of that].”

He also added that the way Harden plays limits his ability to impact playoff games unlike Steph Curry. According to Rivers, the way Harden plays makes it easier for teams to attack him in the playoffs when they are planning for him specifically every night.

“I don’t think anything is missing, Bill. What makes James great is he’s one of the best individual players to ever play the game. [He handles the ball, dribbles, attacks well]. But that also allows you to attack him, you know where he’s at, you know where’s the ball is at. In the playoffs, when teams are game planning against you each game — double teaming, taking the ball out of your hand, making it harder — it’s easier to do that to James compared to someone like Steph [Curry].”

There had previously been reports that the Philadelphia 76ers wanting to retain James Harden contributed to their decision to fire Doc Rivers and these comments from Rivers could give an indication of why Harden would have wanted somebody else to be the head coach.

These kinds of differences can be hard to overcome for a player and a coach.

Rivers shouldn’t have much trouble finding another job given his history as a head coach and maybe the next team will have a star that fits better with Rivers’ approach to the game.