Doc Rivers’ venture into NBA broadcasting had a prior stint that lasted a year. Between his departure as coach of the Magic and his appointment by the Celtics, he spent a season, primarily alongside Al Michaels, on ABC’s premier NBA broadcast team inexpressed
Comparatively, his recent broadcasting tenure was considerably shorter and marked by unexpected twists. Rivers departed from ESPN/ABC’s top NBA broadcast team last week to assume the role of head coach for the Bucks. This decision, although not entirely surprising given his departure as 76ers coach in May, raised eyebrows due to its rapidity. Coaches, it seems, seldom resist the allure of returning to the court for long.
The abruptness of Rivers’ departure blindsided ESPN/ABC, which had recently revamped its lineup to welcome Rivers, pairing him with close friend Mike Breen and Doris Burke. ESPN/ABC’s decision to move on from Jeff Van Gundy, a long-standing and insightful analyst, stemmed from concerns that he might pursue coaching opportunities. Therefore, Rivers’ swift transition back to coaching was particularly jolting for the network.
Just a month ago, Rivers expressed contentment with his broadcasting role, describing it as a joyous experience that provided him with a comprehensive understanding of NBA teams. However, his sudden pivot to coaching caught many off guard.
The revelation of Rivers’ decision came unexpectedly, with the initial report surfacing on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” studio show rather than from the usual NBA information sources. Despite initial skepticism, the news was eventually confirmed by various outlets, including CNN.
ESPN management expressed disappointment with Rivers’ departure, acknowledging his rapid acclimatization to the analyst role and anticipating his success during the NBA Finals. However, they also understood that the allure of a coaching opportunity as significant as the Bucks’ was too enticing for Rivers to pass up.
Moving forward, ESPN intends to maintain Mike Breen and Doris Burke as a two-person broadcasting team, with potential consideration for J.J. Redick’s inclusion in the future. While the departure of Rivers was handled with good humor on air, ESPN faces the challenge of adjusting its broadcasting lineup amidst unexpected changes.