Wednesday, January 24, 2024

What does Bucks hiring Doc Rivers mean for the Celtics?

Only a day after firing Adrian Griffin, the Milwaukee Bucks quickly addressed their coaching vacancy by hiring former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers Wednesday.

Rivers, who spent the past three seasons with the rival Philadelphia 76ers, was dismissed following their second-round exit last spring to Boston in seven games.

With the East being so competitive this season, the Bucks clearly felt a coaching change was needed to keep up with the conference's elite teams. Knowing Rivers' coaching history and the Bucks' current roster, what could this mean for the Celtics?

Boston is currently the top team in the East at 34-10, but will have its fair share of competition. It won't get any easier with the Bucks (30-13) hiring of Rivers. Already proven he can lead a team to an NBA title, Rivers brings the type of experience Milwaukee needs. With first-time head coach Griffin, there was a lot of inexperience and uncertainty for a team with championship aspirations.

Roster wise, the Celtics and Bucks are relatively even as both have a lot of talent across the board. However, coaching wise the addition of Rivers certainly levels the playing field a little more.

Comparison to Celtics Coaches -

Joe Mazzulla is still a young coach, and while he's been impressive during his short tenure with Boston, he still has to prove he can get the team to the NBA Finals. He's already been to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year as the Celtics head coach, and through his time as an assistant coach with the team, he has created relationships with his players -- a critical component for any championship team. Knowing he needed some new voices in the locker-room, especially with the departure of some key pieces, Mazzulla reassembled his staff in the offseason to bring some new leadership and experience to the team.

A member of the 2008 Celtics championship team and former assistant on Rivers coaching staff with the 76ers, the addition of Sam Cassell certainly has positively impacted the growth of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Also adding Charles Lee -- a former Bucks assistant, Mazzulla yet again found another strong assistant for his staff, who was under consideration for some head coaching jobs.

Rivers certainly has the edge on the Celtics with his experience coaching in the NBA for 24 years. He has everything you want out of a coach -- someone who holds players accountable, builds relationships easily with his players, and knows how to get the most out of his teams. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, he'll have another star duo to work with which could make his transition much easier.

Like Mazzulla did in the offseason, Rivers will have his opportunity to shake up the coaching staff, and add some key assistants to the team. One rumored candidate could be Dave Joerger, who was the head coach of the Sacramento Kings from 2016 until 2019 and was a member of Rivers' coaching staff in Philadelphia. The Bucks likely will keep some of the current assistants on the staff, but it's notable that Rivers already has a plan in place to bring some new voices to the locker-room. With their No.21 ranked defense, he'll have his hands full trying to emphasize that end of the floor when he takes over.

Are Bucks the Celtics Biggest Threat?

With teams including the 76ers, Bucks, and emerging Cavaliers all considered the Celtics biggest threats coming out of the East, the question arises -- who could dethrone Boston as the best team in the conference? 

That question may already be answered now that the Bucks have added a championship coach to the team. As mentioned before, the rosters between both teams are very similar in talent, with both teams having a strong starting-five. The knock on the Bucks was their defense and coaching. One of those has been addressed with the hiring of Rivers, who could also work on solving their other weakness. 

While the 76ers have emerged as one of the more underrated teams in the Eastern Conference behind Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid, Milwaukee has a superstar tandem of their own. Cleveland is a team on the rise, but are a tier below the Sixers and Bucks. Not many teams have a duo as dynamic as Milwaukee, and they've already proven they could give Boston trouble -- just look back at their 135-102 blowout victory over the Celtics earlier this month.

The Bucks may have added one of the best head coaches on the market, but still have to prove they can build on their defense. Offensively, they can hang with anyone, but will need to collectively find a way to slow teams down, especially come the postseason. Although the C's have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they will still have their hands full once the playoffs arrive. One thing is for sure -- Rivers could once again be standing in the Celtics' way of clinching another spot in the NBA Finals, and winning banner 18.

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of USA Today

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