Doc Rivers, then LA Clippers, shouts his team at sea in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Mavericks in the fourth game of the first round of the Western Conference during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 23, 2020 Buena Vista, Florida.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images
Chief Performance Officer.
This is the label NBA insider Doc Rivers gave after his quick move from the L.A. Clippers to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Within a week, Rivers moved from LA to Philly, from a team that belonged to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to another team that belonged to Wall Street investor Josh Harris. Harris is a co-founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management and co-owns the Sixers and New Jersey Devils with David Blitzer under Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment.
"Chief Performance Officer," said an NBA executive when describing Rivers' hiring. "You have CEOs whose job it is to deliver a message. Well, a head coach is more than a message – it's a message and results."
The NBA manager agreed to speak to CNBC on condition of anonymity as the team business discussion is sensitive.
"In the circumstances, it is appropriate," added former NBA manager Andy Dolich when he heard about the "CPO" label.
And now Rivers is the new CPO of the Sixers. He is responsible for a Sixers squad that did not live up to expectations last season, the chatter of dissatisfaction among the star players and the associated pointing of the finger.
Behind the scenes, current and former NBA executives, including New York Knicks executive Donnie Walsh, approve the hiring of Rivers.
Dolich, the former president of the Memphis Grizzlies operations, called it a "positive move" by Sixers thanks to Covid-19, "as long as they have the patience to deal with all the uncertainties every NBA team has to deal with".
Rivers' new five-year contract is north of $ 40 million and includes incentives that have an impact on team performance. If he can deliver a title for Philadelphia, the $ 280 million that Harris and the company invested in the Sixers could push the valuation beyond its current $ 2 billion. But Rivers will face challenges, from repairing the product to making its own coaching adjustments when it comes down to it.
Joel Embiid # 21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts ahead of Chris Silva # 30 of the Miami Heat in the third quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on November 23, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mitchell Leff | Getty Images
After the team left the NBA postseason in the first round in August, the Sixers fired Brett Brown. The Sixers leadership, which includes Scott O'Neil, CEO of HBSE, and Elton Brand, the team's general manager, were confused about the team's 31-4 home record but the poor performance on the road between 12 and 26. As a CPO, Brown paid the price.
An NBA team official, well aware of Sixers affairs, said the club hadn't focused on the street and the team's travel group was too large. The employee called the Sixers "disorganized" and added that the club had too many front office staff with titles but undefined roles.
Rivers, who turned 59 on October 13, also has to fix the Sixers' locker room and connect his franchise players to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Sixers give Rivers and Brand the keys to making basketball operations decisions, drawing on Rivers' history of mending messy teams.
Review of Rivers' second coaching job helping Danny Ainge transform the Boston Celtics who finished the Antoine Walker-Paul Pierce experiment.
The Celtics exchanged Walker for Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks in 2003 and eventually won the 2008 NBA final. The team returned to the finals in 2010 and fell in Game 7 to the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant.
With the Clippers, Rivers failed to live up to expectations and secured a championship, but he switched teams from what many believe to be the black mark in NBA history – and sacked former owner Donald Sterling for making racist comments. Rivers is also credited with helping Ballmer get through his early years in the NBA.
"Your head coach delivers the narrative. That's why coaches like Doc Rivers are so damn good and cost so much money," said the manager, adding that Ballmer would hire another good coach. "But he will never find anyone better [than rivers]."
On Thursday, the Clippers replaced Rivers with assistant coach Tyronn Lue, who will oversee a squad that took a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs.
Scott O & # 39; Neil, Chairman of the Philadelphia 76ers Board of Directors in New York, September 26, 2016.
Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Although Rivers has been praised for setting the team culture, he also has to deal with his coaching.
In the NBA, star players judge coaches based on adjustments made especially in the playoffs. In league circles, Rivers is criticized for not adapting. This is where he has to innovate when it comes to hiring assistants as he has 3-1 postseason leads following him more than in the 2008 championship.
During his Sixers launch on October 5th, Rivers, now 91-89 postseason, was reminded of a quote printed in Sports Illustrated in 1999 when he first coached Orlando Magic: "Winning is Safe "said Rivers. "But if you want to be the winner, you have to get out of that comfort zone."
When asked by CNBC if that's exactly what he's planning to do – get out of his comfort zone – and how he's going to get his star players to follow suit, Rivers replied, "I'm always changing. I'm always looking for other employees. I pull in, I believe not that you will ever stop growing as a coach or as a person.
"If we win, you just can't do what you've always done and you think you will get different results," Rivers continued. "You have to do something different. You have to give yourself to the team. You have to give up something."
In an aerial view from a drone, this is a general view of the Wells Fargo Center on July 6, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Bruce Bennett | Getty Images
If Rivers and Brand can help give Harris a championship, O'Neil's job could get a little easier, as winning means more business in the NBA.
"It's the ultimate money magnet," said Dolich.
According to Forbes, the Sixers have sales of around $ 300 million, of which $ 90 million is from operating income. The team has set its broadcast rights at the Comcast property NBC Sports Philadelphia through 2029. The rights of the radio media with the Beasley Broadcast Group are also secured for a further three years.
O & # 39; Neil is credited with helping turn 3,500 subscribers into around 14,000 – number one in the NBA in tickets sold and in attendance last season. He also received the NBA's first jersey patch deal and Harris received a new $ 86 million practice complex in Camden, New Jersey.
And the Sixers are partnering with representatives from Philadelphia and Comcast, which owns the Wells Fargo Center, to host an NBA All-Star game in 2026.
But like others in the NBA's owning club, including Ballmer, Harris wants a flashy new arena with better fan experiences once the club's lease ends in 2031.
The building was renovated for $ 250 million, but newer arenas, thanks to Covid-19, require better 5G, esports, engagement in virtual and augmented reality through sponsorship activation and more health technologies.
The Sixers may also want to mimic the Washington Wizards' in-arena sports betting game as sports betting is active in the state.
The team was turned down because of its proposal to build a new complex on the city's Penn & # 39; s Landing site, which is expected to bring $ 1 billion in jobs and training to the Philadelphia Black Community.
The time it takes to build arenas is typically seven years so it will take O'Neil to navigate politics and secure funding, which could include taxpayers' money.
Harris could envision a spacious site to also build hotels, restaurants, shops, and apartments to surround the new arena. However, if staying in Philadelphia is vital, the team could settle for a downtown location.
Things get easier to deal with when the Sixers win a championship among Rivers. Dolich, also the former COO of the San Francisco 49ers, said the new trio of Rivers, Brand and O'Neil of the Sixers must have "unity" in order for the "Trust the Process" era to be behind them.
"And if you don't have that, it's dangerous," he said. "With that on, Doc and Elton have more to do with the Chief Product Officer than Scott, because those feet are the most important thing in the field.
Dolich added: "The unity of these three must translate into a profit."
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which is owned by CNBC.