After a brief marriage, Doc Rivers has reached an agreement in principle to become the next coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Rivers, an ESPN NBA analyst who led the Philadelphia 76ers to three straight trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals, emerged as a primary target soon after Adrian Griffin was fired. Sources said the two sides held intensive talks late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, and a deal is likely to be agreed upon.
Despite having the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Bucs fired Griffin just 43 games into his head coaching career, largely because the organization believed the young coach could improve, giving them a better chance to compete. A championship, sources said.
Based on Rivers' track record and availability, general manager John Hurst planned to pursue him and convinced him to accept the job to chase his second NBA title as a coach.
The Bucks believe Rivers' history of coaching star tandems makes him uniquely suited to augment Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard together.
Rivers has a long history in Milwaukee, where he was an All-American guard at Marquette in the early 1980s.
He has 16 straight winning seasons since winning the NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 — a streak topped only by Gregg Popovich, Bill Jackson and Pat Riley, according to ESPN Stats and Information. His 1,097 regular-season wins are ninth in NBA history, and his 111 playoff wins are fourth all-time.
Rivers has hurdles to overcome in the postseason, including 10 Game 7 losses and a run of five straight in his career. He has lost nine straight games with a chance to reach the conference finals, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Still, Rivers gets a chance to bolster the Bucks' defense and keep them in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After being fired in Philadelphia at the end of last season, Rivers was the runner-up to Frank Vogel for the Phoenix Suns' coaching job, before assuming an analyst role on ESPN and ABC's NBA game coverage, sources said.
Griffin had a 30-13 (.698) record, but the Bucs slipped from fourth to 22nd in defensive efficiency a year ago — some of which must be attributed to the loss of All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.
Under tremendous expectations, Griffin was hired to replace Mike Budenholzer in June and was tasked with assembling his organization into a star-studded team. Horst believed Griffin would develop into a good NBA head coach, but sources said he had lost hope he could do so within the timeline of the Bucks' immediate championship window.
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