Coaches play musical chairs around the league

Coaches play musical chairs around the league
June 4, 2013, 7:45 pm
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Imagine if Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls didn't come to terms on a contract extension just before the start of the season. One more big name could have been in the mix during the current spate of coaching searches that has affected approximately one-third of the league.

Several moves have already been made, starting with Mike Brown returning to Cleveland to replace Byron Scott after an aborted stint with the Lakers that ended extremely early in the regular season.

Another head coach landing on his feet was Larry Drew, who was given permission to interview for other jobs and was hired in Milwaukee, clearing the way for top Hawks executive Danny Ferry to hire a coach that shares his Spurs ties, longtime San Antonio assistant Mike Budzenholzer, who still has to deal with the upcoming NBA Finals.

Other teams also went the assistant-coach route: Charlotte hired away Steve Clifford from the Lakers and ex-Golden State aide Mike Malone (the son of Brendan Malone, the late Chuck Daly's right-hand man with the "Bad Boy" Pistons, is regarded as one of the top up-and-comers in the business) got the Sacramento vacancy, as the Jeff Van Gundy disciples (like Thibodeau) replaced former college coach Mike Dunlap, who lasted a lone season, and Keith Smart, respectively.

Chicagoland native Jeff Hornacek, after assisting former teammate Tyrone Corbin in Utah, was hired by new Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to be the head coach in Phoenix, another team the shooter played for during his distinguished career.

There are still openings, however, though the competition for the remaining jobs is thick.

Detroit could be the closest franchise to making a decision, as the Pistons are reportedly down to either Oklahoma City assistant Maurice Cheeks, a Chicago native, or Nate McMillan, who last coached in Portland, where Cheeks also had a stint. But now that the Pacers have been eliminated from the playoffs, there is talk that Indiana lead assistant Brian Shaw could be in the mix, which would validate speculation that Shaw mentor Phil Jackson's consultant role (the Hall of Famer, along with former Orlando boss Stan Van Gundy, are two coaches who insist that they won't be patrolling the sidelines next season) to owner Tom Gores outweighs the say of top executive Joe Dumars.

Detroit might not be the most appealing option for Shaw, who is said to be on the short list of the Nets and Clippers, as well as the 76ers, though Philadelphia is considered a longshot to woo the coveted candidate.

Memphis' Lionel Hollins is the other hot name in coaching circles after a bizarre scenario in which the Grizzlies presented him with the aforementioned option the Hawks gave drew, despite advancing to the conference finals. Hollins is seemingly in direct competition with Shaw for both the Nets' and Clippers' positions, although he continues to state his desire to return to Memphis, even as the Grizzlies' new front office declines to commit to the best coach in franchise history and is reportedly likely to promote lead assistant Dave Joerger.

The Clippers, after letting go former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro amid reports that superstar point guard Chris Paul didn't exactly prevent his dismissal (in turn, that didn't please the soon-to-be free agent and has fueled rumors that he'll leave Los Angeles this summer), have perhaps the most muddled process. In addition to Hollins and Shaw, ex-Suns head coach Alvin Gentry and Scott, Paul's former coach in New Orleans, as well as Denver's George Karl -- the Coach of the Year is entering the final year of his contract and with Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri recently departing for Toronto, there's supposedly some unease after another first-round exit -- are all reportedly under consideration.

Reports indicate that the elder Van Gundy, currently a television analyst, isn't a candidate for the Clippers job, but could be vying with Hollins and Shaw in Brooklyn.

While the Sixers job probably isn't the most attractive to Shaw, if he doesn't land one of the more plum openings after years of coming up short in his quest to become a head coach, it could be a fall-back plan, as Philadelphia is moving slowly. Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson, who's familiar with new Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie from Houston, and former Doug Collins assistant Quin Snyder -- who coached in Russia this season -- are two names that have been mentioned in connection to the opening.

As if that wasn't enough, we could be looking at a similar situation in a year, as several coaches could enter next season in the final season of their present deals.

Besides Karl (who will be coping with Danilo Gallinari's absence after a late-season ACL injury and potentially, Andre Iguodala leaving in free agency), Toronto's Dwane Casey (new GM and increased expectations after the midseason acquisition of Rudy Gay), New York's Mike Woodson (pressure stemming from the Knicks' second-round flameout against Indiana), Washington's Randy Wittman, Utah's Corbin (a young team with an uncertain future, pending summer moves by the Jazz) and Houston's Kevin McHale, for whom the Rockets hold a team option for the 2014-15 season, are also so-called "lame duck" coaches.

A handful of other coaches are in situations that some observers can envision them leaving. Speculation about whether Boston's Doc Rivers sticks around to see if the Celtics can get back to contending status continues to abound and when Minnesota head coach Rick Adelman's wife's ongoing illness is coupled with the Timberwolves' run of injuries, it wouldn't surprise many if he eventually walked away.

Meanwhile, despite having approximately four million per year on the remaining two seasons of Mike D'Antoni's contract -- not to mention still paying Brown -- it wouldn't be at all shocking to see the quick-trigger Lakers once again attempt to find the right coaching fit to both appease stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (let alone Dwight Howard, if he decides to stay in Los Angeles) and get back to being a title contender.