Six Sensible Picks For Coaching Success



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.

Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.

But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.

Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.

What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.

“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”

That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.

The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?

He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.

There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …

Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors

In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.

Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst

No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks

Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.

Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz

The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.

Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat

With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.

Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic

After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities.  Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.

25 Comments

  1. SpoIsBIG says:

    Oh come on how can anyone not say that Spo isn’t a great coach doesn’t know anything. You can’t fault him for having three superstars in his roster. He’s made it to the post season every single year he’s been a head coach, and yes even those years before James and Bosh came to town. He’s changed the way the franchise has played and practically how the NBA plays. He always has a great game plan going into a game and adjusts accordingly when things don’t work. If you make the argument that Spo isn’t a great coach because he has Bosh/Wade/James in his team then it’d be the same as saying Phil Jackson isn’t a great head coach because he’s had either Jordan or Kobe in ALL OF HIS TEAMS HE’S COACHED.

    • sports fan says:

      I completely agree. It’s not easy to manage a bunch of egos. Everyone needs to be reminded that Phil Jackson didn’t win a championship his first year as head coach of the Bulls and then won it the following year. Same goes for Spoelstra with the big 3. It takes a great coach to manage a bunch of egos & utilize everyone in proper roles to develop chemistry. Great talent is useless without chemistry & coaching. Which is why a healthy Lakers team will have problems next year – loads of talent but not the best chemistry & no great coaching.

  2. Gillsy says:

    As everyone says Brian Shaw is more than worth a try. As the last person wrote Shaw learning everything from the Zen Master would work well with Jordan. Even better sign him with the Nets they would probably get Phil Jackson more interested in really further coaching Shaw and enviably the Nets from a distance. The biggest job for me is Atlanta.

  3. Bigmatta23 says:

    If I was writing this article, my take on this subject would look like –
    Milwaukee – Sloan (this is beyond a perfect fit)
    Charlotte – B Shaw
    Atlanta – Budenholzer (Ferry gave shot to Mike Brown now will give shot to Bud)
    Brooklyn – SVG (this is the star power personality that Russian loves)
    Detroit – McMillan
    Philly – Larry Drew

  4. Kimmy says:

    I know it’s not official yet, but the writing is clearly on the wall…..

  5. Kimmy says:

    Best wishes to Larry Drew. Will miss him, but ready to see the Hawks get fresh and new. Can’t wait. Lets Go Hawks!!!

  6. Than says:

    Sloan for the Pistons?? Great! Let’s watch some East toughness! Well, Spoelstra is not a heck of a talented coach. And as far as I’m concerned, only when we watch him do something good without Lebron, can he really get some appreciation.

  7. Dan says:

    He is staying in LA and coming back 100% :). He will lead the Lakers to their 17 title and in a few years get his statute in LA.

  8. Henry says:

    Everybody want Dwight

  9. PistonsFan#3 says:

    Sloan would be a good look for the Pistons other than McMillan …Go Pistons !

  10. Baron says:

    What about Clippers ?………

    I know!……….why don’t get Both Gundys in Clippers, like Lakers, with D’Anthony and his brother!!!

  11. JamesT says:

    What about Brian Shaw?

  12. Erien says:

    I think Michael Jordan should coach the Bobcats. Bahahaha. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  13. Scott B says:

    As much as I would hate to see him leave San Antonio, Mike Budenholzer should be considered a top prospect for a head coaching job. He has been Popovich’s right hand man for several years, and let’s face it, there could be worse head coaches to learn from than Pop!

    • Bigmatta23 says:

      Maybe he is holding out for the Duncan/Pop retirement party before being handed the keys there? Succession plan

  14. Jason says:

    And Stan led the Magic to the finals in 2009! Can you be any stupider?!

  15. Jason says:

    Did you really just say recycle coaches that never made any significant success?! Look at all the banners in L.A. from Phil Jackson!!!!! What planet are you from dude?! No success. What a moron.

  16. iivviiccaa79 says:

    for the love of god,
    why do you recycle some of the coaches that NEVER made any significant success, is there anyone new , anyone that has not yet been given a chance who might become new Spolstra?

    • ??? says:

      Why would you want a new Spoelstra? He doesn’t seem like much of a coach to me yet. Maybe he’s good but doesn’t get his props because of the big three or maybe he gets by because of all the talent. EH! I rather have a Stan or a Jeff.

    • Floridian says:

      I have been a real long time Miami Heat fan since 95. I do not agree with you Spo being a really good coach. That is why Miami Heat always has problem with a good coached teams like Boston, Bulls etc. Spo is the biggest reason we could not get title 2 years ago. I can clearly explain his rotation mistakes in Dallas series. He was a better coach last year and this year but an elite one. I love Doc Rivers’s coaching..