The offseason hasn’t even started yet, but the NBA’s coaching carousel is in full gear, with two stunning moves in the last two days sending reverberations around the entire basketball landscape.
First, former Orlando and Miami head coach Stan Van Gundy spurned an offer to coach Golden State, instead deciding Tuesday night to become Detroit’s new head coach and team president, agreeing to a reported five-year, $35-million deal. Then, Wednesday night, ex-Bulls guard Steve Kerr, after not being able to come to an agreement with New York — new Knicks president Phil Jackson coached him in Chicago, leading most observers to believe he’d join his mentor — took the Warriors job Van Gundy turned down, reportedly for $25 million over five years.
It’s ironic that Kerr will replace Mark Jackson, who Golden State controversially parted ways with just last week, as the two share a similar background as a TV broadcaster with no head-coaching experience. But the Warriors clearly have a better roster than the Knicks, Kerr is both a California native and resident, and if Jackson couldn’t get Knicks owner James Dolan to ante up — there was reportedly a stalemate during contract negotiations — it was already a sign that things might not be so smooth in New York, especially with the challenge of trying to retain superstar Carmelo Anthony in free agency.
As an aside, Bulls fans might want to take heart in the fact that Anthony could come to a similar conclusion, perhaps strengthening any impulse he has to relocate this summer.
Meanwhile, Van Gundy’s presence in Detroit, even he doesn’t make a major impact immediately, should have the Central Division, let alone the entire Eastern Conference, on notice. Equipped with the coveted power of personnel so many coaches desire, Van Gundy has always been regarded as a good coach and with the ability to tweak the Pistons’ roster, which isn’t devoid of talent, it’s realistic that he could build the team into a formidable club. Young center Andre Drummond is an excellent building block — his game is often compared to Dwight Howard, who Van Gundy coached with the Magic, a team he took to the NBA Finals — and if Van Gundy can figure out the frontcourt logjam between impending free agent Greg Monroe and the enigmatic Josh Smith, not to mention point guard Brandon Jennings, Detroit could not only end its playoff drought, but make some serious noise in time.
It will be hard to top the Van Gundy and Kerr hires for sheer shock value, but with a fresh opening in Cleveland — the Cavaliers fired Mike Brown, in his second stint with the team, while subsequently promoting David Griffin to general manager after he held an interim title through the second half of the regular season — to go along with vacancies for the Jazz, Lakers, Timberwolves and the aforementioned Knicks, there will be more moves to come and in one last Chicago-related angle, Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin is reportedly a candidate for the Cleveland and Utah jobs.