The Los Angeles Clippers dumped one of the most respected coaches in the NBA when they fired Doc Rivers, with two years left on his contract.
And my hunch is always that teams don’t make moves like that unless they already know that they can replace him with somebody they perceive to be better.
But you must remember, too, that Steve Ballmer owns the Clippers. He’s a relatively new governor and probably has not yet learned that while money can buy success in sports, it better be smart money.
And keep in mind, too, that Ballmer is worth $71 billion. That means, most likely, that he is very accustomed to getting what he wants and is willing to pay for it. He did that when he bought the Clippers for a couple of billion bucks -- significantly more than they were worth at the time.
I have no inside knowledge about this, but I’m guessing he’d probably go after the very best coach available, regardless of what it would cost him. And I believe one of Ballmer's trusted advisors about the NBA is former Trail Blazer GM Bob Whitsitt, who was always quite adept at spending other people's money, at least in the case of Paul Allen and the Trail Blazers.
Watching Ballmer go wild in the arena during a Clipper game also leads me to believe he’s a VERY emotional fan of his team, which would likely make him prone to emotional decisions about those working for him.
And if so, there’s one coach out there -- one of the best of all time -- who may not be able to resist the money, or the challenge of that job.
And that would be Phil Jackson.
Jackson might like to wipe away the memory of his stint running the New York Knicks and go back to something he’s more comfortable with -- coaching. And the beaches of southern California. He is currently said to be living in Montana.
But would he return to a job where he would be a direct competitor with the Lakers, and his ex-fiancee, Jeanie Buss? Would he put his sparkling championship record on the line for that job?
But he’s won 11 NBA titles and handled many of the biggest egos in the game along the way. And although he is certainly very financially secure, the amount of money Ballmer could offer him would be difficult to resist.
If he is not Ballmer’s choice, or isn’t willing to take the job, my guess would be that another retired coach, Jeff Van Gundy, might be someone he would target.
Van Gundy, well respected for his work with the Knicks and Rockets, had a .575 winning percentage with those two franchises and has been working as a commentator for ESPN.
He has resisted attempts to draw him out of coaching retirement on other occasions. But it’s possible that Ballmer could make just about anyone an offer they couldn’t refuse. And Van Gundy would likely be coaching the most talented roster he’s ever had.
Tyronn Lue has been listed by many as a favorite for the job, but I’m not certain he is the most glamorous choice for Ballmer, who might want to make a splash worthy of Tinseltown.
We will see. But wouldn’t it be something to see Jackson -- or Van Gundy -- back on the bench again?