From Boston to Portland: NBA coaching search update on every opening
The coaching carousel is spinning fast around the NBA this offseason.
There are six openings, with most sources around the league expecting at least one more job to open up in the coming days or weeks. No new coach has yet been hired, and some of the top candidates in searches — Chauncey Billups with the Clippers, Ime Udoka and Mike D’Antoni with the Nets, Darvin Ham with the Bucks — are still busy working their day jobs. Teams are taking their time with the searches. There have been no Chris Finch-speed hirings.
Here’s an update on where every NBA coaching search stands. Not included in this list is Atlanta, where Nate McMillan is technically an interim coach for the Hawks but is widely expected to be retained after the season.
New team president Brad Stevens is casting a wide net to replace himself as coach. It looks like it will be a long, thought out, detailed process, so pretty much exactly what you’d expect from Stevens. There is no reported strong frontrunner yet.
Stevens started by interviewing his former assistants, with longtime Celtic bench coach Jay Larranaga getting a lot of attention, as did Scott Morrison. Jerome Allen and Joe Mazzulla also were interviewed.
Then Stevens turned to potential coaches from outside the organization, primarily top assistants from several teams. Here is who we know Stevens has at least spoken with: Chauncey Billups (Clippers), Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks), Charles Lee (Bucks), Jamahl Mosley (Mavericks). Other names linked to the search via rumors and reports include Jason Kidd, Sam Cassell, Kara Lawson, Lloyd Pierce, and Mike D’Antoni.
Following the recent discussion of racist treatment of players in Boston, multiple reports say hiring a coach of color is a potential priority for Stevens. Jaylen Brown’s recent Tweet only added to that discussion.
Analytics : 7 nba teams are remaining 4 are lead by African American head coaches— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) June 15, 2021
Former Portland coach Terry Stotts has been considered the frontrunner for this job since before it officially opened up, and there is no reason to doubt that has changed.
Several other former head coaches in the league have been linked on some level to this job, most prominently Mike D’Antoni but also Steve Clifford and Brian Shaw. If (maybe when) Mike Budenholzer is let go in Milwaukee, he is expected to get a look from the Pacers.
Since GM/president Kevin Pritchard interviewed around 20 people for this job a year ago, he has a lot of the research and legwork already done. While Pritchard will likely revisit that list and speak with a top assistant or two around the league, after the disaster of hiring a top assistant in Nate Bjorkgren last time around, it is expected the Pacers will go with an experienced head coach this time.
It’s a rebuilding project in Orlando, and the Magic front office is looking at coaches they believe can help develop young players. Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. has been interviewed for the job and there is a growing buzz around the league linking him to Orlando. Spurs assistant Becky Hammon also has been interviewed.
A few other names to watch include current Clippers assistant Kenny Atkinson, the head coach during the Nets rebuild, and helped develop players such as Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Jason Kidd’s name has come up, and remember that Magic general manager John Hammond hired Kidd in Milwaukee in 2014. Jaron Collins, who recently left Golden State looking for the chance to be a head coach or lead assistant, reportedly has had conversations with Orlando.
Other rumored targets include assistant coaches Udoka (Nets), D’Antoni (Nets), Ham (Bucks), Dan Craig (Clippers), and former Trail Blazers coach Stotts.
Since the moment Jason Kidd took himself out of the running for this job, Chauncey Billups has been the name most strongly linked to the job in the buzz around the league. He is reportedly on the interview list for the job.
D’Antoni reportedly has interest in the job and could be a good fit if GM/president Neil Olshey realizes he’s not going to change the roster much but wants to boost the offense (at his widely-panned postseason press conference, Olshey said he wanted the next coach to have a defense-first mentality). D’Antoni is expected to be interviewed, along with Hammon (Spurs) and Allen (Celtics). Also linked to this job are Jeff Van Gundy (unlikely), Dawn Staley, and Spurs executive Brent Barry.
Who should Portland hire? Whoever Damian Lillard wants. This hire is about keeping the superstar happy and in the Pacific Northwest. Lillard may not be injecting himself into the search, but at the very least he gets a Roman Emporer thumbs up/down on the pick of management.
It’s early in the process, but the early reports are GM/president David Griffin is interested in promoting from within and is seriously considering long-time Pelicans’ assistant Fred Vinson — he has been there 12 years, going back to Monty Williams — or potentially Teresa Weatherspoon (although Griffin seemed to throw cold water on that rumor in his press conference).
Other names linked to the job via rumors and reports are top assistants around the league, including Kidd (Lakers), Udoka (Nets), Lee (Bucks), Will Weaver (Rockets), and former Orlando head coach and current Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn. Griffin and the Pelicans interviewed nine people a year ago for this job, he can fall back on a lot of that research.
After hiring and firing Stan Van Gundy within one year — and now about to give Zion Williamson his third coach in three years — there is pressure on Griffin to nail this choice and provide some stability for the franchise.
It’s very early in the process — a process that reportedly will be diverse and inclusive — but you can bet both Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook will have some input on how that goes. Both superstars liked Brooks and general manager Tommy Sheppard decided to move on; now they will have some say in who the new coach is.
The one name that came up quickly: Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. Expect a lot more names in the coming days, including coaches from the international ranks.
Chase Hughes at NBC Sports Washington reports that a woman head coaching candidate — Hammon, Lawson, Witherspoon, and/or Dawn Staley — will get serious consideration for the job.