NBA PM: Head Coaching Pool Full Of Big Names
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Head Coaching Pool Full of Big Names: For NBA head coaches, the fight for job security is constant. Contracts provide salary guarantees, but at any point in time you can still lose your position.
It’s not just about meeting expectations and being successful anymore either. It’s about being the perfect fit for the job, someone who everyone is comfortable working with from the front office on down. It’s about always being viewed as the best solution in the short and long term. Not even the Coach of the Year award can get you through an offseason anymore.
What adds even more pressure is that the pool of potential head coaching candidates is loaded with experienced coaches who have had success in the league.
Earlier this offseason, HOOPSWORLD’s Moke Hamilton evaluated the job security of every head coach by conference (read the Eastern Conference here and the Western Conference here). In today’s NBA PM, we take a look at who the coaches on the hot seat should worry about potentially replacing them.
Note: This list only includes former head coaches who are currently without a coaching job in the league.
First Coaches To Get Called
Lionel Hollins – Last coached the Memphis Grizzlies in 2012-13
Career record: 214-201 (.516)
From the moment new ownership and management took over the Grizzlies, the writing was clearly on the wall that Hollins was on thin ice. The writing was so clear that even in spite of leading the team to their best season ever and advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals, they still opted to promote Dave Joerger rather than re-sign Hollins, whose contract had expired.
Hollins has a reputation for being difficult to work with, which is partially why he’s still without a job, but he’s also been one of the best in the league over the last three years. When a team struggles to the point where they let their head coach go, Hollins will be one of the top candidates on their list.
George Karl – Last coached the Denver Nuggets in 2012-13
Career record: 1131-756 (.599)
The breakup between the Nuggets and Karl was one of the more surprising stories of the summer. He won the Coach of the Year award after leading the team to a 57-win campaign, their best under his guidance. However, changes started early in the summer with Masai Ujiri leaving to take over the Toronto Raptors. Afterward, it became clear that there were incurable differences between Karl and the Nuggets, so they replaced him with Indiana Pacers top assistant coach Brian Shaw.
Karl still wants to coach, though, and feels like he has more than a couple years left in him. Sources told HOOPSWORLD earlier in the summer that Karl prefers to stay on the West coast, ideally with a playoff contender.
When the Nuggets hired Karl during the 2004-05 season it was with only 40 games left in the season, showing willingness from Karl to take over a team midseason.
Stan Van Gundy – Last coached the Orlando Magic in 2012-13
Career record: 371-208
Things were never the same for the Magic after advancing to the 2009 NBA Finals. A lot of things went wrong, some of them within Van Gundy’s control, some of them not. Still, even after he was fired in 2012, there was no question that he was a quality head coach. The Magic just needed to move into another direction and Van Gundy decided to follow in his brother Jeff’s footsteps and take some time away from the game.
During that time, like Jeff, he’s realized that he enjoys the lifestyle on the outside. He’s been in hot pursuit as his value has actually risen due to everything that transpired in the league this past year, but he never showed any strong inclination that he would leave his current life of leisure.
It’s hard not to think that at some point the itch to coach is going to be too strong to ignore (the same was said about his brother Jeff, though, whose been away for six years now), but it’s going to take a really attractive situation, probably with a contending team.
Avery Johnson – Last coached the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-13
Career record: 254-186 (.577)
The situation that Johnson went through with the Nets happens all too often. Coaches sign up for rebuilding situations, thinking that they’ll build a solid foundation early on and then when the big moves come and they’re ready for the jump, he’ll be the one to guide them to the promise land. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.
Just as Johnson had the most amount of talent at his disposal in his time with the Nets, ownership became impatient. Impatient to the point where when Johnson got off to a 14-14 start, they let him go, even though he was named Coach of the Month in November.
Perhaps hasty and a bit premature, Johnson will still be viewed as a viable candidate for teams looking for a new head coach. He was already in the final year of his contract with the Nets, so he could be looking to get right back into things, not take a break like he did when the Mavericks fired him early in his contract.
Byron Scott – Last coached the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012-13
Career record: 416-521 (.444)
When the Cavaliers hired Scott, they hoped he would be the man to help convince LeBron James to re-sign with them. Instead, he became the man to guide them in the post-James era, which was rough as expected. The Cavaliers accumulated a lot of promising young talent during that stretch, though, and combined that young talent with proven veterans this offseason. However, they also replaced Scott with Mike Brown, who they felt more comfortable with as expectations increase significantly.
Scott is now four seasons removed from his last winning campaign, but the 2008-09 season was also the last time he had a team capable of making the postseason.
The smart move for Scott would be to remain patient for the right situation, where he can join a team that is either a playoff team already or right on the verge of making that step. He’s still well respected around the league and has a strong resume. The call will come eventually.
Only Answering if Situation is Perfect
Larry Brown – Last coached the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010-11
Career record: 1098-904 (.548)
Brown is currently the head coach at SMU, a program that he already has headed towards national prominence. He recently received a commitment from Emmanuel Mudiay, who is unanimously regarded as a top five recruit in the 2013 class, and realistically could never coach another NBA game.
If there’s one thing we know about Brown, though, it’s that he rarely ever stays put. He coached nine different teams in his 30+ years in the NBA. He’s said he’s open to the idea; one last final run in the NBA could be appealing, but Brown turns 73 this month. He’s not going to be considered by teams looking for a long-term solution, nor would he likely have any interest in being a part of a rebuild.
It’d have to be a contending situation, but based on the competition for jobs like that and the way things ended in the NBA, the chances aren’t high. We’re still not done hearing his name come up when jobs are open, though; the door is slightly open.
Phil Jackson – Last coached the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010-11
Career record: 1155-485
Like Brown, Jackson’s door is open just by the smallest of margins. Even smaller in fact, because the only team that could get Jackson out of retirement is the Los Angeles Lakers. Jackson came close to re-joining the team when they fired Mike Brown early last season, but ultimately they decided they wanted to go with Mike D’Antoni.
D’Antoni now sits on one of the hottest seats in the NBA. Jackson is still beloved by the Lakers fans and many of the players in the locker room, but Jackson has continued to say that he is not interested in coaching again. He’s turned down multiple opportunities to interview with teams, but his wife Jeanie Buss, part owner of the Lakers, maintains that he is fully capable of coaching and that she wants to see him do so with her team.
The problem is getting Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, who run the basketball side of things while Jeanie handles business matters, to agree. Right now they’re committed to D’Antoni, but let’s see if both sides change their tune next offseason if the Lakers are coming off of a sub .500 season while trying to lure in All-Star free agents.
Jerry Sloan – Last coached the Utah Jazz in 2010-11
Coaching record: 1221-803
Sloan worked closely with the Jazz coaching staff during summer league and clearly has the desire to still be involved in the game. Right now, Ty Corbin still fills his old spot and the franchise remains committed to him, but they’re entering a rebuilding year. So far Corbin hasn’t blown anyone away with what he’s done with the team, but he hasn’t been bad enough to get fired yet.
Corbin is entering a contract year and will have a very young team. If they don’t feel confident in his development as a head coach, they’ll opt to not re-sign him this offseason. They wouldn’t be doing their due diligence if they didn’t gauge Sloan’s interest in the job and if he’s interested, we could see him back in his old post.
Other experienced head coaches of note available: Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Dunleavy, Jeff Van Gundy, Keith Smart, Nate McMillan and Doug Collins.
Suns Officially Waive Beasley: The Phoenix Suns waived forward Michael Beasley today, just a year into the three-year contract he signed with them last offseason. Beasley was arrested for possession of marijuana last week, his third legal incident since January.
“The Suns were devoted to Michael Beasley’s success in Phoenix,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. “However, it is essential that we demand the highest standards of personal and professional conduct as we develop a championship culture. Today’s action reflects our commitment to those standards. The timing and nature of this, and all of our transactions, are based on the judgment of our Basketball leadership as to how best to achieve our singular goal of rebuilding an elite team.”
“We have high standards for all of our players,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “We expect them to represent the team and the community in a positive manner both on and off the court.”
Beasley averaged 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Suns last year. It has been reported that the Suns used the stretch provision for the final $3 million on his deal, spreading the final payments over multiple years. Because they waived him after August 31, they will pay him the $6 million he’s owed this season as regularly planned.