2021 NBA Playoffs - Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers

Quotebook | Rivers Reflects on 2020-21 Season

76ers Head Coach Doc Rivers Meets with Media After First Season in Philadelphia
by Matt Murphy

A new offseason begins.

One day after his team was eliminated from the 2021 NBA Playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers discussed the campaign virtually with reporters.

Reflection, trust and optimism were among the themes.

Here’s some of what was said during the June 21 media availability…


With the final game of the season remaining fresh, Rivers relayed his message to the team about channeling those feelings:

“That’s what I told our guys, it’s worth it. It’s worth the pain. It’s worth going through everything we went through. We started to build a foundation to get to where we’re going. We thought we were going to get it by taking some shortcuts, and it just doesn’t happen that way. And I think our guys will understand that.”

But that’s not the only way for the team to move forward, according to the coach:

“The pain has to drive you, but the will to win has to drive you even more. The pain is the necessary evil that you have to go through sometimes to get to a smooth landing. But the will to win has to drive you more.”

Rivers was asked about outside expectations before reflecting on his own for this past season:

“I had expectations. So I don’t really care about anyone else’s. I wanted to win a title. I put that expectation out there, on purpose and on our team. We set the bar high. We knew that. And we knew what we were working from, and that’s fine. Just because you have expectations doesn’t mean you reach them every year. It shouldn’t stop you from going after it. If that wants to be a negative thing, you can turn it into that. I don’t care.

“As a group, we have lofty goals here and that hasn’t changed. We didn’t reach our goals this year. That doesn’t hurt me to say that… But, we’ll be fine and we’re going to keep building so we can reach our goals.”

He explained that one of the biggest lessons of the year came down the stretch for this group:

“They do enjoy each other. This team is a very close team. I think they grew as a group, had a lot of fun together. But in the moment of truth, I thought -- several times in the playoffs, actually -- guys went back to trying to win the game for us. That’s not necessarily a negative thing. But it’s something that we can grow from and understand that we all have to do it together. 

“You have to keep trusting each other. You have to keep trusting the system. You can’t vacate it in a time of need. That may have been the best teacher of the year for us.

“We will sit back this summer, and at the beginning of next year, and we’ll see that. That will be a great teacher for us. But it has nothing to do [with] if you’re close or not. You can be the closest team and that happens.”

Rivers has a rule for players and staff alike when it comes to evaluations:

“I always self-assess. I do it every year. Every year, as a staff, as a group. I will tell you this -- it’s the best staff I’ve had, maybe ever… I don’t think I’ve ever had a better bench. I thought we ran just some beautiful things, defensively and offensively. You know, overall. But it wasn’t good enough.

“Like I tell my players, I have this rule when we do our evaluations with the players and we sit down, the only rule is you can’t talk about another player. You can only tell me what you think you need to do and what I need to do better. But we can’t talk about anyone else. I start with me all the time on that. And I do that with our staff. So, I’m not going to get into detail [on] what we can do better, but there’s always something. There’s always something we can learn.

“I thought we vacated our offense in the last two games, even though we won the game before. I thought we vacated what we had been doing all year. The first thing I asked my staff [was] ‘Why? Why did that happen? What aren’t we doing right?’ I had a lot of answers to it, but coaches are hard on themselves. I can guarantee you that.”

The session concluded with Rivers’ thoughts about next season:

“[I’m] very optimistic about next season. I would love to keep the style, overall, that we played. The pace that we played at offensively. I would love to keep the ball movement throughout the playoffs next year, which we lost this year. And defensively, I thought we had a heck of a year.”


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