Way before Doc Rivers was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, he served a playing stint in the NBA. After playing a few seasons at Marquette University, Rivers got drafted in the second round of the 1983 NBA Draft.
That's when Rivers landed with his current opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. Although he's had stints with the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, and the New York Knicks, Rivers spent most of his playing days with the Hawks.
Debuting in Atlanta in 1983, Rivers remained with the Hawks' organization until 1991. During his time with the Hawks, Rivers notched his lone All-Star appearance during the 1988 season. Following a successful playing career, Rivers moved on to coaching in 1999.
Once a solid player, Rivers churned out an even better coaching career as he made a name for himself with the Orlando Magic. Then he had two successful stints with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers before signing with the Sixers during the 2020 offseason.
After wrapping up a successful first season, notching the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, Rivers won his first playoff series against the Washington Wizards. Now, he's in Atlanta once again coaching against the team that gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues. Ahead of Game 3, the first road matchup of the series against the Hawks, Rivers discussed his return to his first NBA home.
“I don’t know if it’s emotional but I feel great when I come here," Rivers said during his pregame press conference on Friday night. "I had a really good career here, you know? I still lead them in assists, I’m up there in steals -- but more importantly -- I made a lot of friends here. A lot of them still live here. Whenever I come back to Atlanta, I don’t really reminisce on me. My friends who I know and I’ve kept up with reach out and ask if I want to go to dinner and I usually say no [he laughs]. You know, it’s playoffs but we do talk and so it’s always nice [to talk to] people you’re familiar with.”
Rivers believes that possibly half of his Atlanta-based friends are rooting for him while the other half is likely rooting against him. Regardless of which side they're on during the current seven-game series, Rivers' love for Atlanta won't change. The Hawks might be the enemy for the next week or so, but when it's all said and done, the city and the Hawks' organization hold a special place in the head coach's heart.