Sixers Star’s Praise of Doc Rivers Reveals Problems With Ex-Coach Brown

Tobias Harris, Sixers

Getty Tobias Harris, Sixers

In the waning days of Brett Brown’s tenure as head coach of the Sixers, one of the consistent criticisms of him that popped up was that he was not able to hold his players accountable as the team got better and better. Maybe that was just a fact of his understated personality, maybe it was a lingering effect of him having been the coach during the Sixers brutal “Process” rebuild, which saw Brown suffer through a 47-199 start to his NBA head-coaching career.

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But Sixers star Tobias Harris appeared to confirm the chatter about Brown’s weakness has a head coach—especially compared with Doc Rivers, who has won a championship as a coach and was a star as a player—in the Jalen & Jacoby podcast this week:

I would say, it’s just been a transition for our whole team. I think we grew from last year to this year just in terms of maturity, and then you bring coach Doc in and Doc, he warrants respect the minute he walks in the door, and he’s a coach that, for this team, he’s always pushing us each and every day. Win or loss we’re trying to find something in a different way to get better. He just has guys locked in. He’s holding us accountable night and night out and really the goal that he’s trying to get this whole team to realize is, we have a chance to win a championship and we need to get there. So he’s holding us to that standard each and every game that we play.

Tobias Harris Is in His Second Stint With Doc Rivers

Harris has every reason to be thankful to see Rivers on the sidelines these days. He is having a career year, averaging 20.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He is also shooting 51.8% from the field, 42.6% from the 3-point line and 90.0% from the free-throw line, giving him a strong chance to join the 50-40-90 club, a group that has, historically, only eight members.

Harris, remember, also played some of his best basketball over parts of two seasons with the Clippers, when Rivers was coaching L.A. Rivers traded for Harris as part of the Blake Griffin deal, then sent him to Philadelphia as part of a retooling a year later.

In his 87 playing for Rivers with the Clippers, Harris averaged 20.9 points and shot 48.7% from the field and 42.6% from the 3-point line—all three numbers are his best among the five organizations for which he has played.

“It’s been a pleasure to be back with Doc, and to be coached by him this season,” Harris said. “I’m having a lot of fun and so are the guys.”

Accountability Has Been a Sixers Buzzword This Season

Accountability was seen as the reason Brown was let go last season, and former Sixers guard Josh Richardson was among the few who said so publicly. After Philadelphia was swept from the playoffs in the NBA restart bubble last year, Richardson pointed the finger at Brown.

“He’s a good guy. He’s a good man,” said Richardson at the time. “He means well. I just think going forward, he’s got to have some more accountability. I don’t think there was much accountability this season and I think that was part of our problem.”

Rivers addressed that in the offseason after he left the Clippers and signed on with the Sixers. He has tried to make accountability—especially for stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid—a critical part of the team’s development this year.

“Accountability is key,” explained Rivers in October. “It is on the players, but it has to start somewhere and it has to start with the coaching staff. It has to start upstairs in the front office. It has to start in the training room. Accountability has to be throughout your team and throughout every single player. It’s a big word. It’s a word that if you don’t do it, you’re not going to win. We have to be accountable to each other every single day. That’s the only way we’re going to be successful here.”

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