We have arrived at “that” point in the NBA season.
The time where non-competing teams clean house and reflect on what changes they will need to elevate them into NBA Championship contention, and it almost certainly starts with an evaluation of the head coach. In five cases already this season, that evaluation … didn’t go very well for the incumbent:
Nets — The Nets’ new core is finally healthy and Sean Marks will get his shot to put together a championship unit. Kenny Atkinson stepped down in March after four seasons, likely hinting that the team was looking to move on from him at the end of the season.
Pelicans — Alvin Gentry was nixed for not producing results and because of the fresh hire of David Griffin. In five years Gentry went 175-225 and had one playoff appearance. Ultimately after David Griffin was hired as Executive Vice President of Operations last year, it was a countdown of how many days Gentry had left.
Pacers - Nate McMillan was fired Wednesday just two weeks after receiving a one-year extension. His record in Indiana was 186-136.
Sixers — Brett Brown endured one of the worst starts to a head coaching tenure that any NBA coach has ever had. Ultimately he was nixed for not producing with a roster that looked good on paper but had all the wrong ingredients.
Bulls — Former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was fired after a 39-84 record and two seasons at the helm of the franchise. The Bulls hired a new general manager in May, Marc Eversley, who will now be able to hire his coach.
Brooklyn Nets — There is no other way to put this, the Nets looked pretty bad against the Toronto Raptors in their playoff opening-round series. However, I’ll give them a pass simply because we have not seen their big three together on the floor yet. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan did not play in the bubble, so it’s still to be seen what this team will look like when those three huge pieces are inserted into the starting line up. According to reports, candidates at the top of the list here are Ty Lue, Greg Popovich, Jason Kidd, and Jeff Van Gundy.
The Nets need an offensive-minded coach that can fit all their pieces. together. There will be a lot of pick-and-roll with the Irving and Jordan combo, but their next coach will have to try to figure out how to get Durant the ball and keep the whole crew happy.
I’d like to suggest some new names into the Nets’ shuffle: Becky Hammon and Jarron Collins. Both Hammon and Collins coach on proven championship teams. They have a familiarity with large personalities and keeping all parties satisfied with touches throughout the game.
Pelicans — With David Griffin taking over, he will inevitably get the keys to hire the coach of his choice within the first two seasons. Pelicans ownership believes the team underperformed in Orlando. Fair, but the next coach will have to figure out how to puzzle together disfigured pieces absorbed in the Anthony Davis trade to Los Angeles last summer. I suspect Griffin will be making some roster moves before he hires the next coach because he says that “this is not a rush.” Griffin was spotted before the Pelicans left the bubble going to dinner with Ty Lue. Griffin and Lue have a history working together with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Griffin will be looking for a proven coach in the league which explains why he possibly had a conversation with Lue. There are still some moves that need to be made with this roster to elevate them into the Championship contention conversation.
I’d like to suggest looking at: Kenny Atkinson or Becky Hammon. Both of these coaches are names that have been around the league for a while and they have had success and I think Griffin will take to that.
Pacers — Between Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis missing due to injuries throughout this season, I thought the Pacers over-performed even making it to the playoffs. Sabonis didn’t go to Orlando for health reasons, but everyone believed two weeks ago McMillan was at least going to get one more year with this team.
It’s early, but there are reports that Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni is at the top of their list.
I don’t think highly proven coaches will gravitate to this job even with the ability to coach intriguing players like Sabonis. McMillan’s tenure in Indiana and the premise for why he was let go was a bit unfair. The next coach will have that lingering thought in the back of their minds.
I want to suggest looking at: Ime Udoka or Adrian Griffin. This offseason Udoka and Griffin will likely get their shot at a head coaching job and I feel the Pacers opportunity is the least risky. Factoring in more well-known names around the league might turn their nose up at this job, this opportunity will go to a first-time head coach.
Sixers — The firing of Brett Brown could be smelled a mile away. Fans had been begging for it for years, and after Elton Brand was hired as general manager two seasons ago, you knew that at some point, he would get to hire the coach he wanted for this team. The Sixers have many problems that were exposed this season, such as if Ben Simmons is not on the court, they might not even be a playoff team, and Al Horford and Joel Embiid not being able to play together.
The Sixers are eyeing Lue, Jay Wright and Dave Joerger. I don’t think any of these guys are right for this type of team.
The perfect candidate for this Sixers team, in my opinion, is David Fizdale. It all centers around a comment Sixers guard Josh Richardson said, “I think going forward, we’ve gotta have some more accountability. I don’t think there was much accountability this season, and I think that was part of our problem.”
Richardson was traded to the Sixers last season from the Miami Heat, and I suspect that since Pat Riley is still running things in South Beach, a championship culture is what he demands. Richardson was honest on Sunday, and I think his assessment after hearing from Embiid is correct.
Fizdale was an assistant under Eric Spolestra while Richardson was in Miami. There is already familiarity with his coaching style and the culture he brings.
Bulls — The Bulls did not compete in Orlando, but they are among the more promising rosters in the league. Coby White, Denzel Valentine, and Shaquille Harrison looked like a young core that the franchise will be building around, giving Chicago fans a reason to be excited. I think the right coach putting this unit together is crucial. There haven’t been any front runners announced for the Bulls head coaching gig.
This being Eversley’s first GM job, the direction the Bulls might go is a bit of an unknown. I presume whoever he settles on as a coach will have a niche for developing young talent.
I want to suggest looking at: Hammon, Udoka, and Mark Jackson. All three of them have a track record of developing young talent and harnessing that into playoff squads.