NBA coaching carousel in full swing

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: The Starters discuss Mike Brown’s latest ouster in Cleveland

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The list stands at seven. As of this moment.

Give it a few hours and that could change.

Such is life in the roller-coaster business that is NBA coaching. Much like the playoffs, things change quickly in a tumultuous environment where everyone is looking for an advantage, for the one perfect fit that can boost a team to the next level.

Mike Brown was gainfully employed in his second stint as the Cleveland Cavaliers coach until Monday morning, when he joined a list that includes Mike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Mike D’Antoni and others who were pink slipped since the end of the regular season.

The best part: Many of the guys on the ousted list are candidates for the other jobs.

We take a quick look at what is available and the coach who fits each vacancy best:

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

This one is fresh. There were rumblings for months that Brown’s latest run in Cleveland was not going to end well. Once it started to become clear that general manager David Griffin would get the interim tag removed from his title,  it was only a matter of time before he’d part ways with Brown, a defensive-minded coach who simply could not corral a young group led by the talented but enigmatic backcourt duo of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The Cavaliers were expected to make a run at the playoffs and did give chase late in the season — after Andrew Bynum was cast off, Griffin took over for the fired Chris Grant, and Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes were added to the mix via trade. But the Cavs couldn’t manage the eighth seed in a depressed Eastern Conference playoff chase. What they need is a system designed to fit Irving, who has to be the No. 1 priority for Griffin moving forward.

The best fit: Mike D’Antoni. He has history with Griffin from their time together in Phoenix. All Kyrie has to do is ask some of his former point guards what working in D’Antoni’s system has done for their careers.

DETROIT PISTONS

Another team that was expected to contend for a playoff bid, the Pistons posses an interesting assortment of talent — including  Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — that Mo Cheeks couldn’t figure out what to do with during his short stint at the helm. John Loyer had no chance of cleaning up that mess after Cheeks was fired. There were too many things that needed fixing. Without someone in place to take over for long-time team president Joe Dumars (who resigned at season’s end and is now serving as a consultant), it’s hard to know what direction the Pistons are headed in at such a crucial time in the franchise’s history. What’s needed is strong leadership from the bench, someone who can blend the bold personalities in that locker room into a cohesive group.

The best fit: Mark Jackson. Jackson’s issues in Golden State had nothing to do with his roster. The Warriors ran through brick walls for Rev. Jackson. The Pistons would do the same.

UPDATE: According to reports, Stan Van Gundy has agreed to become the Pistons’ coach and president of basketball operations.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

With Steve Kerr reportedly no longer an option for the Warriors, they wisely have turned their attention to candidates with completely different sets of credentials. Both former Magic and Heat coach Stan Van Gundy and former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins have moved to the front of the list. Van Gundy, whatever his faults might have been in his previous stops, is still held in the highest regard among front-office types around the league. He’s gotten consistent results and is a known commodity. Hollins brings a measure of toughness to any situation. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Draymond Green and the crew are plenty feisty. And this is as explosive an offensive group as there is in the league. All that’s needed now is some steadiness and leadership that balances the entire equation.

The best fit: Lionel Hollins. People forget that Hollins had the Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals last season. He ran into a bit of a philosophical disconnect in Memphis with the front office. He’ll know how to navigate that relationship much better this time around.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

If they’d just listened to Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson might still be coaching the Lakers and they might still be in the contender mix in the Western Conference. But as Lakers fans know all too well, Jim Buss decided a long time ago that his vision for the future of the franchise trumped anyone else’s. The Lakers have paid for that dearly the past two years, hiring and firing guys (the Mikes, Brown and D’Antoni) who had no chance to fill the enormous void left by Jackson. Now the Lakers have a two-year window with Bryant (and whoever and whatever else they can pull together for a roster) to try to regain some semblance of the championship-caliber form they’ve lost. Keep in mind that this remains the most difficult job in the entire league, one that shouldn’t be thrust upon a coaching newbie like Derek Fisher (as has been widely speculated) just because of his ties to the organization. Then again, if he has Kobe’s blessing and endorsement …

The best fit: Stan Van Gundy. Kobe needs someone who will agitate his competitive juices in a different way than either Brown or D’Antoni ever could. He needs someone who will refuse to acquiesce to his every whim, the way Jackson did when he was in his prime. Stan Van is just crazy enough to do all that.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

How much longer can the Timberwolves, with talents like Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, go without breaking through to the playoffs? That’s the question Flip Saunders has to answer as he searches for a replacement for Rick Adelman, who despite being one of the best and most respected coaches of his generation, simply never could manage to get the Wolves into the playoffs. Bold leadership is required in this job, someone who will develop Rubio into the complete point guard he has to be in order to take that next step in his career. The superstar-friendly coach isn’t always the best fit, either. There are times when a star needs to be challenged. The Timberwolves appeared to get comfortable under Adelman. The next coach has to raise the bar.

The best fit: George Karl. His style doesn’t work for everybody. And when it does, there’s no long-term guarantee the organization can suffer his demanding ways. But if Karl could work as well as he did, for the most part, with Carmelo Anthony, he should be able to do wonders for Love and Rubio.

NEW YORK KNICKS

The drama surrounding this job revolves around one candidate and only one candidate. Steve Kerr. He is reportedly working out the details on a deal that will reunite him with his one-time coach, the Zen master Phil Jackson, so they can dive in on the long and arduous task of trying to rebuild the Knicks into an Eastern Conference power and championship contender. Kerr will have a host of challenges, financial and otherwise, that are sure to make it a more difficult task than anyone realizes. The salary cap mess and the free agent uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony means the next coach, be it Kerr or someone else, will have little flexibility in terms of roster makeup, until the summer of 2015. As we know now, there is no guarantee a coach makes it through that first year on the job. Kerr’s connection to Jackson and the fact that they have a shared philosophy certainly works in his favor. But that James Dolan factor is always lingering.

The best fit: Steve Kerr. The one no-brainer marriage between the team president/GM and coach in the entire landscape.

UTAH JAZZ

Jerry Sloan is not walking through that door, folks. It’s not happening, no matter how much Jazz fans would love to see him at the helm of a young and precocious group, led by promising young point guard Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter. The Jazz have a pair of first-round picks, one a top-five selection, giving them two more quality young pieces to add to a nucleus that, while not necessarily prepared for prime time right now, if cultivated properly should serve as a key part of the foundation for years to come. The tricky part for Kevin O’Connor, Dennis Lindsey and the rest of the Jazz brass is whether to go off the grid for their next coach (four-time Euroleague champ Ettore Messina‘s name has been mentioned often) or follow the recent trend of locating a Steve Clifford-type. Their process couldn’t be more inclusive. They announced they would interview some 20-plus candidates for the job.

The best fit: David Fizdale. The Miami Heat assistant has developed a reputation for being one of the best molders of talent in the business, having worked his way up the ranks the past decade-plus. He’d be a fresh face in a situation where one is desperately needed.


VIDEO: Golden State GM Bob Myers waxes on the Mark Jackson firing and what’s next

32 Comments

  1. mrkeyman says:

    i believe in the saying: players win games coaches lose games, its always the coaches heads roll when teams lose. so mark jackson’s head rolls not the players

  2. Unkle Daddy says:

    First off there should be a clause that states if your team makes the playoffs you can not be fired – for every coach (Mark Jackson being fired was rediculus). Second off, Mike Woodson, Mike D’Antoni and Mike Brown are all terrible coaches, always have been. Stop brining these guys back for God’s sake. Get me Sam Mitchell, I need more Sam Mitchell. With the Timberwolves, it doesn’t matter who you bring inMike Woodson, Mark Jackson, Mike D’Antoni, Love is gone and so goes your team. Same for the Lakers their over for atleast 3-4 years unless they convince someone to make major trades. Cleveland and Detriot were never making the playoffs and will not again next year.

  3. reddog says:

    Astroboy,

    Im with you on D’Antoni. I’ve watched his stuff work it’s way into the NBA since he was Coach of the Year. But I don’t get what Lin said. Lin’s a smart kid and he said “D’Antoni’s a genius. You move two steps and you change the whole focus of the play!”
    I never got that.

  4. Sunny says:

    So to speak,Stan Van Gundy is going to Detroit,ok! Another loser to the team again. There are good coaches out there,people just need to learn the hard way.Good luck to Mark Jackson,Jeff ,George ,and one more Alvin Gentry too.

  5. James says:

    Is Avery Johnson not looking for work anymore? One would think he would be best fit for Minnesota while Karl would be best for the Lakers gig.

  6. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Anyone who thinks mike is not a good coach probably a lakers fan boy.

    This guy makes Nash a MVP, make Lin looks good at the garden and coach last year disaster Lakers team to playoff.

    Yes, he needs to work on his defensive end but so do George Karl. His run and gun offense style is similar to Karl and everyone admits Karl is a great coach.

    All in all, I think dubs suits best for Mike.

    Karl probably a good coach if he can hold Kobe’s ego. Karl pretty much had experiences with some of those egomaniacs players like GP, Kemp, Big Dog, AI and Melo.

  7. okc2014 says:

    Why do teams recycle fired coaches? That standard mode of operation doesn’t work to me. I like what the Hawks and Celtics did.

  8. DHStrongheart says:

    Stan V. Gundy is definitely the choice for the Lakers. Good call. Most of your other coaching pics are pretty uncreative, though. Seems like you’re not looking too far beyond the NBA-experienced coaches that currently are unemployed.

  9. lakerslakerslakers says:

    mike dantoni would fit the sixers minus noel

  10. lakerslakerslakers says:

    stan van gundy should team with kobe and take out the rockets in next years playoffs. make dwight feel like an idiot again.

  11. DutchNBAfanEB says:

    *I realise George Karl isn’t a defensive minded coach like for example a Lionel Hollins is ….but Karl would however be a great fit for this wolves team, and the teams Karl coach weren’t all that bad defensively.. The ppost season is the most important goal for this team and he is the one to make that happen

  12. DutchNBAfanEB says:

    In my humble opinion the Timberwolves(the only team of which i watch practically every game of during the regular season) need a coach who can bring a defensive mentality to this offensive minded team. The great coach he was, Adelman did not made the T-wolves defend…although Adelman is an underrated defensive mind…The Kings and Blazers under his watch did end in the top 10 in defensive efficiency at least a year…he at time looked like he gave up on the team and especially the defense..His biggest fault this last season however was the lack of imagination and ingenuity in his rotations..If he weren’t so hesitant to play rookies(another issue of adelman’s coachin this year ) he could have put Gordui Dieng(or even Turiaf(the games he started, the wolves played great(ok, not great, but good)defense) in the starting line up and used Pekovic in a sixth man role, limit the minutes for a injury prone Pekovic, let Dieng get more exerience and on top of that the starting line up would have gained a above the rim protecter they lacked, in Dieng and get a great scorer on the bench to increase the bench production , which was terrible this year. If the new coach whoever it will be does this, a few prolems oof the wolves are solved. When they trade Barea and get a good backup point guard, or a wing player who can shoot the 3 and defend the wing they would solve another. They have the talent to be a playoff team and have the chance to be the portland of next year’s regular and postseason. IF that happens there meight be a chance love stays.. Quit whining about Rubio’s jumper….the offense never was the problem, the offense is great even without Rubio shooting like a point guard should… He runs the Wolves offense well and he is far from beaing the reason the Wolves underachieved. I sincerely hope Flip Saunders and the coach he will choose the next couple of weeks/months fix the real problems the wolves have and show the rest of the league what a talented team the wolves really are. If i were the one to choose, i would at least interview George Karl. He may have not been that succesfull in the post season liks some will say, although, he dit take the sonics to the finals and the rest of his losses….well….was the victory of the Warriors on Denver last year (if you see them playing now…taking the Clips to seven games without Bogut)….a upset?Right, I didn’t think so either… , the real goal for the Wolves should only be making the post season in the first place, Karl is the ideal man to help the wolves achieve that goal

  13. astroboy2112 says:

    Mike D’antoni is a former Coach of the Year who pretty much revolutionized the game during his PHX years. Pretty much all NBA coaches have stolen stuff from MDA including the championship coaches (Spo, Popovich, Carlile.) Erick Spolstra even said they wouldn’t be a Miami Heat without D’antoni. All those fast small lineups going on fast breaks, throwing alley oops galore, and jacking up 3’s where unheard of back in 2004 when D’antoni took the NBA by storm. Now most successful teams play small or have some sort of fast small lineup they roll out depending on match ups. D’antoni has been very very influential on the NBA game regardless of what ignorant fans might think.

    • Unkle Daddy says:

      Don Nelson ran small ball, run and gun offence a decade or more before ol’ Mike showed up in the NBA. He changed nothing…

  14. anonynous says:

    People saying D’antoni is a bad coach are idiots. He was the coach of the year back in phoenix in 06ish. Yeah, you don’t remember that. The lakers did not have many players to fit his style of play, which emphasizes offense

    • rayray says:

      Keywoard ‘WAS.’
      The Lakers may be lacking talent, but the Knicks surely wasn’t.
      He has not shown any tyoe of success since he departed with Steve Nash.
      Hmm.. Maybe Nash should coach?

  15. Tom says:

    Let’s bring Mark Jackson to the Cavaliers please. I don’t want any part of hiring Mike D’Antoni.

  16. joe richardson says:

    3 mikes and a mark!

  17. RON says:

    Understand this my friends. The NBA, as well as all other professional sports organizations, are governed by politics and money. Each organization will make the best decision from a financial standpoint. If it takes investing more to ultimately get a greater return, they will. The hard job is finding the coach that dynamically matiches with a random combination of players. A true coach is not determined by their name, but rather their intellegence to outthink the next man. Strength, Athleticism, Agility, and so forth are important. However, mind over matter is what seperates champions from career seekers.

  18. Kamau says:

    Some teams are afraid of winning, Golden State won’t be happy until they are fighting for last place again

  19. Lakeman says:

    Is dat you magic?

  20. joe says:

    I don’t trust u ””””””’,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  21. None Of The Above says:

    The Warriors situation sounds strange especially as they have been consistantly improving with Mark Jackson. The journalist asked Bob Myers for details of Mark Jackson’s departure, but, you notice he moves around the issue and doesn’t answer it directly. I wonder if there was a major bust up behind the scenes that the Warriors do not want to make public.

  22. mayo says:

    mike dantoni is the worst coach ther i ever see !!!!! wtf!!!!!

  23. shoot1askl8 says:

    Steve Kerr. What does Steve Kerr bring to the table other than being the mouthpiece for Jackson? The Knicks should have bribed Lawrence Frank from the Nets. He can still be a puppet, but he also brings deep thinking and good advice into the mix

  24. FrankL2010 says:

    What a coincidence guys, all fired/ resigned nba coaches starts with letter “M” :)

  25. Batpebble says:

    Why did they fire Marc Jackson?

  26. The Fan says:

    Guys,

    D’Antoni should just go to the D-league or NCAA.

    Please don’t let him ruin in anymore teams. The NBA has this thing called defense which he keeps on denying…

  27. standard says:

    dantoni is not good for any NBA team he is just
    finished!
    got to eat some pringles

  28. I know it’s not that important but how you miss Gordon Hayward when naming the Jazz’s young crop. He’s arguably their best player.

  29. d’Antoni best fit for the Cavs?? U gotta be kidding me!!
    All Kyrie has to do is ask Steph Curry how Mark Jackson was. I see a better fit in Mark J.or even Lionel Hollins for the Cavs. Lionel knows how to improve a team that couldn’t qualify for the playoffs for years and the Cavs need some defensive improvement too.

    Let d’Antoni go to Utah. They have nothing to lose there since the days of Stockton-Malone were over…..hehehehe sorry for that :)

  30. steppx says:

    mike dantoni? Are you serious? What a laugh. First off, it would never in a million years happen and second itsnt about time that D’Antoni is lsited as a huge failure??? How many chances do guys get??