Thursday, May 23, 2013

Previewing the NBA Coaching Vacancies

Will Stan Van Gundy return to the bench next season?
By Bennett Corcoran

While some teams are fortunate enough to be fighting for an NBA championship, others have already shifted gears toward next year. With coaching situations yet to be resolved, the ongoing slew of interviews and the assembling of long lists of candidates has begun. Although it’s difficult to make predictions as teams are bringing in many of the same candidates for the same positions, here we outline which coaches could fit specific teams and what each NBA team is looking for in their coach of the future.

Brooklyn Nets
Savvy Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has insisted that the team is searching for an experienced, big name coach to take over the helm for the Nets after firing Avery Johnson midway through this season and opting not to give P.J. Carlesimo a second chance. However, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of big names on the market. Phil Jackson is a definitive "no." Jeff Van Gundy seems like an ideal fit because he can handle the big market and isolation heavy offense, but doesn’t seem like he yearns to return to the sidelines. Lionel Hollins has been linked to the Nets, but he seems like a long shot to leave Memphis. Scott Skiles has been a name recently circulating the rumor mill as well and seems like the frontrunner given Brooklyn’s very specific requirements. Despite the need for a big name, the Nets may be better off hiring someone like Brian Shaw to take over.

Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee fired Scott Skiles midway through the season and has elected not to bring back interim coach Jim Boylan. With plenty of questions surrounding the Bucks this offseason, including which players stay and which leave out of their backcourt trio of Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, and J.J. Redick, it’s difficult to pinpoint which coach would be an ideal fit at this point. Jerry Sloan interviewed for the position but reportedly isn’t interested. Based on their current construction, it seems like Kelvin Sampson, a longtime Indiana Hoosier coach now with the Houston Rockets, could be a good fit based on his up-and-down offensive system, which could tailor to the quick Milwaukee guards.

Philadelphia 76ers
Now that Doug Collins has stepped down and the 76ers have hired new general manager Sam Hinkie from the Rockets, it seems like their coaching search can finally progress. Hinkie, just like every other Houston disciple, is well known for his emphasis on analytics, and this could imply that he goes with a young, unproven coach that is willing to buy into this way of thinking. Names like Shaw, Mike Malone, Quin Snyder, Larry Drew, and even Michael Curry if they decide to hire from within, could fit the bill. It’s tough to predict where guys like Shaw and Malone are going to end up, given the fact that they’re both on pretty much every team’s wish list, but it wouldn’t be a shock if one of them landed here.

Phoenix Suns
The Suns are in a situation very similar to that of Philadelphia - with new GM Ryan McDonough officially in control after leaving the Celtics' organization, Phoenix can now move forward with their coaching search. Like Hinkie, McDonough leans heavily on analytics, and given the current mess that he just inherited, a younger coach seems like it would make sense. I have a hard time justifying bringing back Lindsey Hunter after he had a worse winning percentage in his tenure than Alvin Gentry did (and Gentry got fired). Along with the usual suspects (Malone, Shaw, Synder), Jeff Hornacek could be an interesting name to keep an eye on.

Atlanta Hawks
Larry Drew is technically still under contract, but Atlanta appears ready to move on. Considering current GM Danny Ferry didn’t hire Drew initially, he may want to make his own hire despite the fact that Drew led a Hawks team that had just lost Joe Johnson to a playoff birth. While Stan Van Gundy has been the hot name here, I’m not convinced he is ready to return to coaching. Another big rumor is that Atlanta is looking to hire Ettore Messina from CSKA Moscow, and I personally think this is the most likely scenario.

Charlotte Bobcats
Another year, another lengthy coaching search for the Charlotte Bobcats (Hornets?). Based on the status of the team, it would make sense to hire a young, up and coming coach to mentor the few core pieces already in place. However, given the fact that this failed last year and Mike Dunlap is already without a job, Charlotte may seek a more proven name. Perhaps Nate McMillan or Alvin Gentry will land here.

Detroit Pistons
Believe it or not, out of all the teams without a coach, the Pistons are in an enviable position compared to most. With Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight, and another lottery pick on the way, Detroit could be back in the playoffs as soon as next season with the right coach. Therefore, a proven coach with a strong defensive mindset would align well with their current structure. Someone like Nate McMillan makes plenty of sense, but with Phil Jackson helping the team with their coaching decision, Brian Shaw cannot be ruled out given their history in Los Angeles and devotion to the triangle offense.

Los Angeles Clippers
It’s unclear what Lob City intends to do with Del Negro at this point. After making several questionable substitutions against the Grizzlies ultimately leading to a first round exit, it appears he could be on the way out. The Clippers need a proven coach to guide them further into the postseason, but there hasn’t been much speculation as to whom that person could be. Whatever the Clippers choose to do will likely be with free agent to be Chris Paul in mind as they hope to persuade him back to Clipperland this summer.

Sacramento Kings
Keith Smart is technically still the coach of the Kings, but with a new ownership group in place, neither Smart nor GM Geoff Petrie is safe. It’s unclear what Sac-town will do moving forward, but now that the sale is official and the team is definitely here to stay (sorry Seattle), I expect corresponding moves to be made accordingly soon enough.

Memphis Grizzlies

Technically, Lionel Hollins’s current contract expires at the end of this season, but given the mutual interest between Hollins and Memphis combined with their current playoff success, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the two sides don’t reunite and come to terms on a lengthy extension.