48 hours after the Milwaukee Bucks relieved Adrian Griffin from head coaching duties, Doc Rivers will become the next head coach for Milwaukee.
The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of events.
It was announced by ESPNs Adrian Wojnarowski Tuesday morning that Milwaukee Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin was relieved from his duties. Less than 12 hours later, CNN broke the emerging news that Doc Rivers would be named next head coach of the Bucks.
This time, Rivers will be coaching another Eastern Conference Rival. First the Boston Celtics, next the Philadelphia 76ers, and now Milwaukee. Not many coaches can say they've had that unique opportunity.
Wednesday morning, Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes broke the official news that Rivers will be Milwaukee's next head coach. An NBA Analyst for ESPN, Rivers will take over for Bucks, who have the second best record in the NBA. At 30-13, the firing of Griffin came as a shock to many.
As of this morning, Shams Charania announced on X, Rivers will sign a contract through the 2026-2027 season. The deal is thought to be worth near the $40 million range.
Doc Rivers was named head coach after the firing of Adrian Griffin
Sources: Doc Rivers is signing a contract through the 2026-27 season worth in the range of $40 million to be the Bucks’ head coach. Milwaukee is paying out former coaches Mike Budenholzer and Adrian Griffin, and now Rivers for next 3.5 years. pic.twitter.com/TJNafNFms9— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 25, 2024
Griffin's time with the Bucks was short lived. Replacing Mike Budenholzer, Griffin originally interviewed for 14 different coaching opportunites over 13 years. It was this off season, Milwaukee took a chance on Griffin, inking him to a multi-year deal. This comes after former coach Budenholzer was let go after the Bucks conceded to the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs. In fact, Budenholzer led Milwaukee to their first NBA Title in 50 years. It was expected the Bucks would regress slightly before the Damian Lillard trade.
Before we dive into the Rivers deal, there's an insane catch to all this. Having three head coaches in two years, Milwaukee is still paying Budenholzer and Griffin their salaries. With the breaking news, the Bucks will now pay for all three salaries this year. If you didn't know the team, you would think they had the worst record in the NBA. Budenholzer and Griffin are on the books for the next 3.5 years.
Under Griffin, the Bucks are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second best win percentage. However, they rank 21st in defensive rating (116.5), allowing nearly 120.5 points per game. Allowing a league worst 94.5 field goal attempts per game, their point differential is only a +4.0.
Aside from blowing out the Boston Celtics 135-102, the Bucks have a point differential of +6.75 in their last four wins. Escaping back-to-back wins over the league worst Detroit Pistons, they allowed them to put up 124 points over two matchups. On the offensive side, Milwaukee ranks second, behind the Indiana Pacers.
According to CBS Sports, the firing of Adrian Griffin caught Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo "by surprise." "At the end of the day I trust the ownership decision, I trust the front office." (Jack Maloney)
Can Doc Rivers help shape Milwaukee's identity?
Doc Rivers is someone who knows how to coach, and has done so very well. Over his career, he's led the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angles Clippers, and the Philadelphia 76ers. Most notably, he helped bring a NBA Title back to Boston in 2008. During that championship run, he coached the trio of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. He's also coached several stars, including Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.
A few months into his broadcasting career, Rivers has the availability and experience to coach two superstars in Lillard and Antetokounmpo. Although the Bucks are an excellent offensive team on paper, they lack fluidity and chemistry at times.
Bucks General Manger Jon Horst admitted this team could be more efficient on the defensive end, and the acquisition of Lillard makes this team a serious contender in the NBA. According the ESPN, Horst had an "urgency to win," especially after they made a late push for a second super star. He also believes the team has time to "find an identity."
Overall, it's very clear Horst believes in this team, and their capabilities are greater than they've shown. Often in the NBA, there is a short window to win championships, especially with salary cap space and max contracts of various players.
Rivers has been heavily criticized in the playoffs
Rivers has 24 years of coaching experience, with a regular season win/loss record of 1097-763, and playoff record of 111-104. Racking up the 9th most regular season wins as an NBA coach, Rivers is one of the best to ever do it. With that, after watching Rivers all these years, he loves to coach the game of basketball.
While Rivers is a great coach, he's been heavily criticized, especially in the playoffs. Expected to bring a NBA Title to the Clippers, he led Los Angeles to the playoffs in six out of his seven seasons as head coach. In 2015 and 2020, both teams blew 3-1 leads in the playoffs against the Warriors and Rockets. As 76ers head coach during the 2022-2023 season, his team blew a 3-2 lead to the Celtics. In a dramatic ending, Philadelphia got crushed 112-88 in a game 7 loss. He was fired by Philadelphia after that, which led to his broadcasting career.
With all the scrutiny, the Bucks feel Rivers is the right coach to help this team build an identity, and win another NBA title. He's done it in the past with the Celtics, especially with the big three.
Can Doc Rivers finally lead a team to the NBA Finals? Can help establish an identity and defensive plan? With the second best record in the NBA, can Milwaukee outshine the other contenders in the East? Only time will tell. The Bucks are getting themselves a future Hall of Fame coach.
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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislifebets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.Tweets by Ballislife