The Philadelphia 76ers got knocked out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the third straight year. Doc Rivers, who guided the team over that time, has been dismissed as the head coach.
The Sixers have not made it past the conference semifinals since 2000-01, when Allen Iverson led Philadelphia all the way to the NBA Finals.
There are plenty of available names out there with championships on their resume, both in the NBA and college ranks.
The Sixers’ first call should go to hometown hero and former Villanova coach Jay Wright.
Would Jay Wright make a good candidate for Sixers head coach?
Wright easily has one of the most decorated resumes ever in basketball, whether we’re looking at college or the pros. He has already been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame with the class of 2021.
The Philadelphia native coached at Villanova for 21 years and won two National Championships (2016 and 2018) and reached four Final Fours.
Not only did Wright win 72.5% of his games on the Main Line, Villanova became an NBA factory toward the end of his tenure. Many players under Wright have had prolonged NBA careers and have made a ton of money. Some include:
- Jalen Brunson
- Josh Hart
- Donte DiVencenzo
- Mikal Bridges
- Saddiq Bey
- Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
- Eric Paschall
- Ryan Arcidiacono
Some players earlier in Wright’s time also made a name for themselves:
- Kyle Lowry
- Dante Cunningham
- Randy Foye
One of Wright’s best attributes at Villanova was the culture he implemented. Jay Bilas, a well-respected ESPN college basketball analyst, has often said Wright’s Wildcats had the best culture in basketball.
It would be interesting to see if Wright’s “attitude” culture would be able to translate into the NBA. Also, if the Sixers decide to keep Joel Embiid, figuring out his playoff woes would be at the top of Wright’s list. There is no denying Embiid’s talent, but his game frequently declines in the playoffs.
There are not too many examples of college basketball coaches making the transition to the NBA successfully. Brad Stevens would be the best and latest example, coaching the Boston Celtics for eight seasons (2013-21) after taking Butler to two National Championship games. Stevens had decent success, reaching the conference finals three times.
Wright, who grew up in Churchville in the Philadelphia suburbs, said last April he wouldn’t shut the door on a coaching return. He did not specify what level.
Other potential Philadelphia 76ers head coaching options
It is one of the best offseasons of all time for NBA teams filling head coaching vacancies. Those with superstars such as the Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, along with the Milwaukee Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo, each have openings. And now the reigning MVP needs a new head coach.
ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted a list of candidates the Sixers are looking into:
- Mike Budenholzer
- Sam Cassell
- Mike D’Antoni
- Nick Nurse
- Frank Vogel
- Monty Williams
Three coaches on this list have won NBA championships as recently as 2021, when Mike Budenholzer led the Bucks to their first ever title. Nick Nurse won with the Raptors in 2019 and Frank Vogel won with the Lakers in the bubble in 2020.
It’s hard to ignore coaches with championship pedigrees like those above.
Sam Cassell has served under Rivers for the last three seasons and seems to be the most logical choice, knowing the team the way he does. Cassell has no prior head coaching experience in the NBA.
Monty Williams, who just got fired by the Suns, is also another interesting option. Williams would be on his third NBA team, and has a great reputation around the league. Williams has experience with Embiid, serving as an assistant coach under Brett Brown in 2018-19. He was on the bench when the Sixers fell to Nurse’s Raptors in Game 7 on Kawhi Leonard’s four-bounce shot.
The Sixers have a number of directions they can go. A lot of it depends on what happens with James Harden, who has a player option this summer. They can either bring in proven NBA winners or go outside the box with a hometown hero, however, one with no NBA coaching experience.