HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It’s been 140 days since Nate McMillan was fired as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Blazers still don’t have a full-time replacement.
But they’re close. Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that the Blazers’ list of candidates is down to two…
The Trail Blazers’ head coach next season will either be Terry Stotts or Kaleb Canales, The Oregonian has learned, after general manager Neil Olshey on Wednesday informed Steve Clifford and Elston Turner that they are no longer finalists.
Stotts, 54, is the former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, where he compiled a combined 115-168 record. He has never had a winning season, but did advance the Bucks to the 2006 NBA playoffs, where they lost in the first round. He has been the top assistant in Dallas since 2008, and head coach Rick Carlisle credited Stotts’ offensive innovation in helping the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title.
Canales, 34, is the former video intern hired by the Blazers in 2004 whose ascension has included stops as video coordinator, assistant coach and interim head coach for last season’s final 23 games after Nate McMillan was fired. He went 8-15 with the Blazers and was overwhelmingly supported by the players after the season to be the next head coach. When Olshey was hired in June, he also gave a strong endorsement, saying Canales had “set the bar high” for other candidates to clear.
The Blazers improved offensively under Canales last season, but they really regressed on the other end of the floor…
Blazers efficiency, 2011-12
Of course, Stotts has just two full seasons as a coach under his belt, and both times (2003-04 with Atlanta and 2005-06 with Milwaukee), his team ranked 25th defensively. So he doesn’t exactly have an advantage in that respect.
There’s no indication as to when the Blazers aim to make a final decision, but the sooner, the better. The new (or returning) coach will need time to put together a staff and formulate a game plan for a roster that has undergone some turnover this summer. Gone are veterans Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton and Kurt Thomas. And in their place are rookies Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard and Damian Lillard.