It's no secret that Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers was thrown into a tough situation this past year. The former Boston Celtics boss was hired midseason to replace Adrian Griffin, going 17-19 with Milwaukee before bowing out in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Now it appears that his star player would rather play for other coaches, as Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo professed his admiration for EuroLeague coach Ergin Ataman on Sunday.

Ataman guided Greek club Panathinaikos AKTOR Athens (PAO) to its seventh EuroLeague championship Sunday night, and Giannis was in attendance to watch his brother Kostas play for the powerhouse team. Ataman was appreciative of Giannis' praise, via Basket News.

“Thank you to Giannis Antetokounmpo, he came after the game and told me that I'm the best coach in the world,” Ataman said. “If the NBA MVP tells you this, I'm very proud. He didn't say from Europe, he told me the best coach in the world. Thank you, Giannis.”

PAO defeated Real Madrid 95-80 in Sunday night's Championship, securing Ataman's third ring. Rivers meanwhile, hasn't reached the NBA's pinnacle since 2008.

While winning an NBA title is more difficult than a EuroLeague crown, Rivers' championship pedigree is losing more and more cache by the day. If his star player is openly fawning for overseas coaches, it can't be a good sign of his popularity in the locker room.

What can Rivers do to regain the basketball world's respect?

Rivers must win a ring with the Bucks next season, while also taking accountability

Apr 9, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) is helped off the floor in the third quarter and left game against the Boston Celtics with an injury at Fiserv Forum.
© Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Rivers has taken plenty of flak over the years for choking in the playoffs. The 62-year-old is 16-33 when his team has three wins in a seven-game series. He's also 6-10 in Game 7s, with three blown 3-1 leads, four 3-2 leads, and one 2-0 lead, with four Game 7 losses at home.

One of the reasons why he's villainized is because he typically deflects blame whenever he's criticized. Former Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, who played for Rivers in Tinseltown, called out his former coach for constantly making excuses back in February, via Awful Announcing.

“I've seen the trend for years,” Redick said. “The trend is always making excuses. Doc, we get it. Taking over a team in the middle of a season is hard… it's always an excuse. It's always throwing your team under the bus… there's never accountability with that guy.”

Rivers fired back in early May, citing Redick's issues with him, via The Stephen A. Smith Show.

“JJ’s had a problem with me for a while and that’s fine,” Rivers explained. “Players do. When you coach, you can be called a player’s coach, or whatever you want to be called, but if you make decisions that the player doesn’t agree with, and in JJ’s case, we didn’t sign him back. With the Clippers, I stopped playing him as much because he wasn’t very effective in the playoffs. That’s all known, but I’m fine with that. Usually, they come back to you, they do, because they know everything you tried to teach them or do for them was in good–JJ Redick’s best numbers of his career was under one coach and you’re looking at him. Right here. I’m the one who grabbed him out of Milwaukee and decided to start him. From that point on, his career took off.”

While Redick may be salty about playing time, it may benefit Rivers to take the high road in the future with these situations, even if he doesn't truly feel that way inside.

While there's no doubt that this past playoff run was ruined by injuries to both Giannis and Damian Lillard, there won't be any excuses left for Rivers next year if he can't take a healthy Bucks squad all the way.