The names and faces linked to the Sixers' head coaching position are more varied than Arya Stark’s mentor on Game of Thrones. Since Brett Brown was fired, it seems like if you’re a high-caliber coach and you’re available, then you’re a candidate for the Sixers vacancy. Names like Dawn Staley, Mike Brown and both Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy have all had some association with the bench boss opening.
As an organization, the Sixers have built themselves around culture. They wanted to glean whatever Brown learned from the Spurs and permeate that through their franchise. It’s largely why the organization chose Tobias Harris over Jimmy Butler in free agency. Culture is important.
In many instances, how you do one thing is how you do everything. If so, the Sixers should avoid the “culture” misstep in not giving Ime Udoka proper consideration for head coach.
Depending on who you ask, Tyronn Lue, Billy Donovan and Mike D’Antoni are the favorites to lead the Sixers in the post-Brown era. Udoka came over from San Antonio and spent a season as the Sixers’ top assistant under Brown and as one of the highest-paid assistants in the league.
Udoka has been considered for the Knicks and Bulls' openings and various other positions around the league, but his name hasn’t been recently tied to the Sixers despite a de facto apprenticeship with the franchise over the last year.
The 43-year-old has a relationship with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, has had a full season to ingratiate himself to them and knows all of their warts. If a person with that type of insight into your franchise and its best players isn’t seriously considered, other than playoff experience leading a team, what’s the criteria that he lacks?
The team can let Udoka walk and hire a big name to coach the team, and no one will bat an eye unless Udoka's success elsewhere outweighs what the Sixers accomplish under their new front man.
The Sixers have had three former assistant coaches under Brown move on to coach NBA teams in Lloyd Pierce, D’Antoni and Monty Williams. With the attention other organizations with head coaching vacancies are giving Udoka, it’s only a matter of time until he becomes the fourth. Before the team brings in a retread or even a fresh face to hand the reins to, the Sixers need to make sure they’re not letting a gem slip through the cracks.