The Milwaukee Bucks made their hiring of Doc Rivers official recently, announcing the terms of his contract that will run through the 2026-27 season. However, since his name was put out as the Bucks' first choice shortly after the news broke that the team was firing Adrian Griffin after 43 games, the grumbling began almost immediately.
Instant claims that Doc Rivers has only one championship ring and has had all of these amazing players that fans, Bucks fans and others among the NBA fandom, like to throw out as a reason that the Bucks are somehow foolish for selecting Rivers to be their next coach surfaced.
There is one graphic in particular that has circulated pretty quickly on social media, inspired by a tweet from Micah Adams, labeling Doc Rivers a playoff choking coach by showing the series in which his team had a lead and went on to lose the series. The first part of this graphic that should be immediately disregarded is 1-0 leads in a series, 2-1 lead in a series and yes, 2-0 leads in a series.
The last one may be a bit of a hot take, but if you are the home team and get out to a 2-0 lead, that isn't some massive advantage, that's what you're supposed to do. The phrase goes "the series doesn't start until a road team wins a game".
Even still, this graphic goes all the way back to Doc Rivers' time with the Orlando Magic, back to the 2003 season. So looking at the years that Doc Rivers had a playoff team, I am going to dispel the claims that Doc Rivers has had the better teams and better players and give context as to what the other teams had that Doc was going up against.
Bucks fans are overreacting to Doc Rivers' playoff record: 2003
The 2002-03 Orlando Magic were coached by Doc Rivers to a 42-40 record and the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They were matched up with the top seed Detroit Pistons, the same Detroit Pistons who went on to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003 and then won the NBA Championship the next season.
Honestly, I give credit to Doc Rivers for even managing a 3-1 lead on the Detroit Pistons that season in the first place. That said, there has to be a heaping scoop of praise thrown to Tracy McGrady, who played an absolutely bonkers series. In Game 1, T-Mac dropped 43 points in a Magic win. In Game 2, McGrady scored 46 of Orlando's 77 total points! McGrady would lead all scorers in Games 3 and 4 before Detroit remembered that they were the top seed and came back from the 3-1 deficit to win the series.
With this playoff series, Doc Rivers had the best player, Tracy McGrady, however, the Pistons were a far better constructed roster and clearly the better team overall. For the 2002-2003 season, I actually give Doc Rivers and Tracy McGrady credit for even getting out to a 3-1 lead. I wouldn't consider an eighth seed losing a 3-1 lead to the top seed a playoff choke.