As the Sixers’ search for a head coach continues, three names remain prominent.
Billy Donovan, Mike D’Antoni and Tyronn Lue are among the candidates expected to be part of the team’s next round of interviews within the following 10 days, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported the news.
General manager Elton Brand is leading the head coaching search and is continuing to assess options for the front office, a source told NBC Sports Philadelphia. Brand on Aug. 25 said he'd be doing a “thorough assessment” of the front office. The Sixers have yet to make any personnel changes.
Lue, who served as the lead assistant coach on Doc Rivers’ Clippers staff, was eliminated from the postseason when L.A. blew a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals. Donovan’s Thunder were knocked out in the first round, D’Antoni’s Rockets in the second, and the two hit free agency after their contracts expired.
The 43-year-old Lue is likely best known for his fruitful partnership with LeBron James, although Allen Iverson’s step over him in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals is an indelible memory for Sixers fans. He won an NBA title in 2016, his first year as a head coach, and won Eastern Conference championships the following two seasons.
One interesting question with Lue would be how he’d coach the Sixers’ defense. The Cavs finished in the bottom 10 in defensive rating in both of Lue’s two full seasons, and he was known to defend the pick-and-roll aggressively. Under Brett Brown, dropping the big man was the foundation of the Sixers’ pick-and-roll coverage.
Another important topic for Lue (and any candidate, for that matter) is how he plans to use Ben Simmons. Lue might have an advantage in that regard because of his success running actions with James creating from the elbow/high post region, something he could mirror with Simmons. Brown shifted Simmons to a point forward position after the NBA’s restart, and the All-NBA Third Team selection then suffered a season-ending left knee injury in the Sixers’ third game at Disney World.
D’Antoni has established a reputation as an offensive guru, most notably for his stints with the Steve Nash-led Suns and James Harden-led Rockets. If the Sixers ultimately hire him, it’s natural to wonder how Embiid would fit into the offense, especially given Houston eschewed centers completely after the trade deadline.
In a different era, Donovan was Al Horford’s head coach at Florida. He made the playoffs in all five of his seasons with Oklahoma City and finished third in Coach of the Year voting this year. Donovan only advanced beyond the first round in his first year with the Thunder, when the Warriors came back from a 3-1 Western Conference Finals deficit to beat OKC.
“Just someone that’s going to lead this team to the next level,” Brand said last month when asked what he was looking for in a head coach. “All options are on the table. We’re going to figure out their temperament, how they plan to use Joel and Ben (Simmons), their philosophies. I’m looking forward to a thorough interview process with some great candidates that are out there and that could be out there.”