Sam Cassell Knows The Secret To Sixers Success Under Doc Rivers Needs One Thing

Image Credit: Scott Taetsch / Getty

Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach and veteran NBA player Sam Cassell knows the secret sauce to bring Philly closer to a championship: being coachable. The three-time NBA champion and NBA All-Star discusses it with his former teammate Vernon Maxwell on the “MaXed Out” podcast.

“Joel Embiid, you can coach him,” Cassell said. “Think about it, we’ve been here three years and Joel Embiid has had his best two years under Doc Rivers. It’s for a reason. Sometimes you’ve got to put the pressure on the player sometimes and he takes our pressure; he takes our coaching. We got a team around him now that he feels good about, that we feel good about. We’re trying to get healthier as a team. Even when we had injuries, we were always upbeat about our team.”

The Sixers Difference

Currently sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers have won their last three games, with one being a home-avenging win against the Pelicans, who they lost to in New Orleans. The team is looking to gel and create a symbiosis with Embiid, and James Harden is the apparent link the fans believe will make a difference. However, Cassell also sees third-year player Tyrese Maxey as another secret weapon to their success.

“I love watching guys like Tyrese Maxey. I’m seeing a kid who no one said in this league he could shoot the basketball. I remember Doc said, ‘Sam, you got to work on his shot’ and he’s going through these shooting drills and making 85 of 100 shots and I’m like, ‘Doc, this kid can shoot.’ ” He said Rivers asked him, ” ‘So what is it, Sam? He’s missing in his game?’ I said, ‘Doc, instead of 12 minutes, let’s give him 25 minutes and once his confidence was growing; he’s a bad boy but the best thing about him, he’s an awesome kid.”

Still, the duo of Embiid and Harden are blockbuster both in ticket sales and on the court, and Cassell believes that each having their strengths and staying coachable will make their deep post-season dreams possible.

James Harden and Joel Embiid: Dynamic Duo

“James Harden is one of the best pick-and-roll players in NBA history. Joel Embiid is one of the best shooting bigs in NBA history and one of the best finishers; when he decides he wants to finish, he’s unstoppable. I just try to tell James different angles; James is an MVP, but he’s awesome for me to work with. James been the main star for so long, and he’s still a star. To average 20 points in this league is hard to do. He ain’t averaging 30 points no more, so? He’s a good player for us, man. We’re going to figure this thing out. He’s allowing Doc to coach him. Joel allowing Doc to coach him, so let’s see.”

Cassell is an NBA veteran who has been connected to Doc Rivers as an opponent during their player days, a member of the Rivers-led 2008 Boston Celtics championship team, and now as one of his assistant coaches. Although he is searching for a way to bring another chip to Philly, he also has more personal aspirations.

“I definitely want to be a head coach in this league,” Cassell said. “I know I can do it. It took me 13 years to become an NBA All-Star, I thought I should have been an All-Star before that. But hey, it didn’t happen until it happened. Just keep teaching these young kids on how to win because winning is very hard in this league. As an assistant coach, my job is to get the guys up and ready to play basketball and have fun because this life, this NBA career, goes fast.”

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.