Jordan, Bobcats Scouring Coaching Market
Following statistically the worst NBA season a franchise has endured in the 60+ years of this league’s history, the Charlotte Bobcats find themselves searching for a new head coach. Paul Silas, who had spent the last year and a half coaching the Bobcats, is done at the helm and Charlotte is looking for a fresh direction for the team.
One factor in determining who will end up being the Bobcats’ next head coaches hinges on how the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery goes tonight. Charlotte obviously isn’t to make a decision before then and just how high of a pick the team lands could be a major sticking point to entice a potential head coaching candidate.
As if the 7-59 record this past season wasn’t evidence enough, this is a massive rebuilding project in Charlotte. Even if the Bobcats land the number one overall pick and prized prospect Anthony Davis, this team still faces a long, uphill climb back to contention.
Barring the use of the amnesty clause, key contributors Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullins, Corey Maggette and Tyrus Thomas will likely be the core for this team (along with the team’s first-round pick) next season.
That being said, both Thomas (making roughly $26 million over the next three season) and Maggette ($10.9 mil next year) are amnesty candidates. Ridding either player’s bloated contract would work to give the Bobcats financial flexibility this offseason and will be huge in terms of continuing to create a young and talented foundation in Charlotte.
Both D.J. Augustin and D.J. White are eligible for qualifying offers, which would make them restricted free agents and allow Charlotte to match any offer that comes their way. However, with Walker seemingly primed to be the point guard of the future of this team, it seems unlikely that the Bobcats will be willing to break the bank should Augustin receive a hefty offer in free agency. White, on the other hand, isn’t expected to be as in demand and Charlotte would be better served bringing back the versatile forward.
Veterans Matt Carroll and DeSagana Diop are each expected to exercise their opt-in for next season and they join small forward Reggie Williams to close out what Charlotte is expected to start with roster-wise this summer. Aside from Maggette, Carroll and Diop, there’s not one player over the age of 25 currently penciled in on the Bobcats’ roster for next season.
This team needs someone who is not only a skilled head coach but an excellent teacher to guide these young guys to grow as both individual players and as a team.
It was originally believed that Silas’ son and Bobcats assistant coach Stephen Silas would be in line for a shot but, even though he has already interviewed for the position, it’s unlikely Charlotte goes in that direction.
Orlando Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing, Golden State Warriors assistant Michael Malone, former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan are among some notables that have already interviewed for the vacant head coaching spot. Numerous other reports have the Bobcats sitting down with Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Quin Snyder over the next few weeks.
Don’t discount other big name head coaches (Stan Van Gundy and Mike D’Antoni to name a few) that could be lured to the Queen City if the price – and the pitch – is right.
For now, let’s break down the notable candidates who have already interviewed for the job and what they could bring to the table for Charlotte:
Over 26 seasons as a head coach in the NBA, Sloan has compiled a 1221-803 (60.3 winning percentage) career record and has two NBA Finals appearances on his resume. Sloan would immediately implement his hard-nosed defensive approach on this team and would almost assuredly turn around the 27th ranked defense (allowed 100.9 points per game) from this past season.
Working against Sloan is both his age and the question of whether or not he’s still seriously committed to coaching at 70 years old, but Sloan says he’s serious about a return to the bench.
“I wouldn’t talk to them if I wasn’t interested,” Sloan told SI.com’s Sam Amick. “I wouldn’t waste their time. That’s not something I’m interested in doing.”
Before being fired midway through last season by the Portland Trail Blazers, McMillan compiled a 266-269 record with the Blazers and had been to the playoffs in each of the previous three seasons. Although Portland was bumped out of the postseason in the first round in each of those trips, McMillan is viewed as a quality head coach in the NBA.
If he wants to be a head coach in the NBA next season, there’s no doubt McMillan will have plenty of suitors around the league. The former N.C. State star has a reputation for squeezing the most talent out of an NBA roster and could be looked upon to work his magic for Charlotte with a player like Tyrus Thomas. While he’s underachieved since joining the Bobcats, Thomas is still just 25 years old and, when healthy, has the tools to be a force defensively.
Among those vying for the position without a previous head coaching stint on his resume, Ewing is in the upper echelon in terms of experience on the bench. Ewing has nine seasons as an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.
Let’s also not discount the fact that Ewing has spent the past five seasons tutoring Dwight Howard, helping him to become the best center in the game. If the Bobcats were to luck out and get coveted big man Davis with the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Ewing’s experience could be a huge factor in the Bobcats’ decision.
Arguably the hottest name on the coaching carousel, Malone has also spent numerous seasons as an assistant coach in the NBA. Most recently with the Golden State Warriors, Malone has 11 years of coaching experience on the pro level.
Known for his defensive expertise, Malone could play a huge role in turning around one of the worst defenses in basketball last season. If the desire is to give an up-and-coming head coach a shot, especially with a younger team in Charlotte, a disciplinarian like Malone might be the most worthy and also the best risk/reward of the bunch.
Whether the Bobcats decide to go with a proven commodity like Sloan or McMillan, or an up-and-comer like Ewing, Malone or even Brian Shaw, the key will be how the new man in charge connects with this young team right off the bat.
The best bet for Charlotte is to find a coach who features patience as one of his strong suits because this can’t be looked at anything less than a two to three year voyage back to respectability. This means whoever comes in is going to have plenty of work to do this offseason to try to make sure this team is heading in the right direction.
The moves Charlotte makes over the next year are going to be crucial in trying to satisfy an increasingly frustrated fan base that has already begun to sour on majority owner Michael Jordan.