Rockets, Clippers, Pelicans, Pacers, Thunder: Where do these NBA coaching searches stand?
There are five open coaching jobs around the NBA.
Those NBA coaching searches are moving fast, with some of the same people — Tyronn Lue, Jeff Van Gundy — interested and interviewing for multiple jobs. It’s been hard to keep track.
Here’s an update on where things stand with all five open coaching jobs. (Note: This is as of the writing and posting of this article, things are changing fast and this information has a shelf life.)
The big names here are Tyronn Lue and Jeff Van Gundy, both of whom interviewed with the Rockets this week, and both of who also are in the mix for the Clippers job, creating a potential bidding war. Those two have been the names linked to the Rockets’ job since before it officially opened (everyone knew Mike D’Antoni was on his way out for most of the season). If owner Tilman Fertitta is willing to pay top dollar — a question some around the league still wonder about — then one of those two likely gets the job.
Lue has won a ring as a coach handling a superstar in LeBron James, and he has spoken highly of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Van Gundy would be coming back to coach the Rockets after years in the broadcast booth, and he reportedly is itching to get back on the sidelines.
If it’s not one of those two, then long-time Rockets assistant coach John Lucas is a name to watch. Kenny Atkinson, Stephen Silas, Wes Unseld Jr., and David Vanterpool also have been linked to the job.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
When a frustrated Steve Ballmer pulled the trigger on firing Doc Rivers, the buzz was instantly that Tyronn Lue — Rivers’ top assistant — would just move up a chair. This is a championship coach already in the organization and who already has a relationship with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
It hasn’t worked that way, at least not yet. Jeff Van Gundy is in the mix. Mike Brown impressed at his interview and has a real chance to land the job after four years as Steve Kerr’s assistant at Golden State. While some long-shot assistant coaches — Darvin Ham, Wes Unseld Jr. — have been linked to the job, it’s highly unlikely this high-pressure, win-now job will go to a first-time head coach. Sam Cassell has now been interviewed for the head job as well.
One advantage of having Ballmer as the owner compared to other teams targeting top coaches: There’s no question he is willing and can afford to pay top dollar.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Tyronn Lue is in the mix for this job as well, and it’s a tempting one with Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as young stars on a team with playoff talent already. Also, Lue has a relationship with David Griffin (the man with the hammer in the Pelicans’ front office) going back to when Lue was a coach and Griffin the GM in Cleveland.
This has been a patient — or slow, if you prefer — search that has not had a lot of rumors flying around the league. The latest one is Stan Van Gundy, the veteran NBA coach who can develop talent and knows how to maximize a roster, he is in the mix now and has interviewed with the Pelicans.
Some name coaches, such as Jason Kidd, Kenny Atkinson, and Jacque Vaughn, have been linked to the job. There has been speculation around the league about the fit of Mike D’Atnoni with this roster, but there have been no reports of an interview yet.
Another question with this job: Will the small-market Pelicans be willing to pay the going rate for a coach of Lue or Kidd or D’Antoni’s stature?
Pelicans’ assistant Chris Finch appears to be the frontrunner here. Mike D’Antoni has been linked to this job before the bubble and long before Nate McMillan was fired, and there are reports he is still in consideration.
The Pacers have cast a wide net in this search, reportedly talking to more than 20 people about the job. This week that includes Miami assistants Dan Craig and Chris Quinn. There are conflicting reports about Dave Joerger being in the mix for this job, but he appears to be on the outside looking in at this point.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
This has been the quietest of the head coaching searches. Early on Maurice Cheeks and Kenny Atkinson were names speculated about, but not much has come of that early talk. With Billy Donovan out (and now in Chicago), it appears the Thunder are serious about a rebuild at this point, and that likely means hiring a top assistant coach focused on player development. Darvin Ham, David Vanterpool, and Adrian Griffin are all names that fit that bill.
Thunder GM Sam Presti is taking his time and keeping his cards close to the vest on this one.