Let the coaching carousal begin. Three NBA teams have found a new head coach and one brought back an interim. A playoff teams head coach is not expected to return and two California teams have head coaching vacancies. Also, what is Phil Jackson going to do? Lets rank the new head coaches and look at potential candidates for teams who need a new head coach.
4.) Earl Watson, Phoenix Suns
Earl Watson was signed as the Phoenix Suns interim head coach after the firing of Jeff Hornacek. The Suns went 9-24 during that span. Watson was given the toughest job in the league. He was down two star guards and given an unstable locker room. He brought stability. Once Watson took over, Alex Len and Devin Booker took off. Len dropped 14 double-doubles at the start of 2016. Booker dropped 20+ points in 16 games during that same span. Watson’s ability to coach young players allowed him to return to the bench.
3.) Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn Nets
Kenny Atkinson was an assistant to Mike Budenholzer who was an assistant to Gregg Popovich. History tells me he has the skills to thrive in the NBA. The only reason he isn’t higher on my list is the team he is on. The Brooklyn Nets are a terrible team and have no picks to compensate for. Their only way out of the massive hole they are in is coaching and free agency. The Nets have their coach, now it is up to the GM to do his job. Hopefully Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t become impatient in the rebuild.
2.) Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards
Scott Brooks first job as head coach is to persuade Kevin Durant to come home. Brooks coached Durant while in Oklahoma City. In Oklahoma City, Brooks won 73 playoff games, earned 2010 Coach of the Year and brought the Thunder to the 2012 NBA Finals. He is brought to a team that has the talent to make the playoffs. The only problem is Washington doesn’t have an elite scorer. Brooks needs to prove he can coach team basketball over two top-5 NBA players taking over games on a nightly basis.
1.) Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
I almost fell off my chair when I found out Tom Thibodeau to the Minnesota Timberwolves was true. Thibodeau is a defensive mastermind who worked with Kevin Garnett in 2008 when the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship. Minnesota is where he started his coaching career. He is now in charge of a young team loaded with talent. The Timberwolves proved they can score, but not from stopping others from scoring. The Timberwolves will be scary once their defense tightens up. Thibodeau has the potential to build a dynasty in Minnesota.
Teams next to find a coach:
Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings
Potential coaching vacancies:
Houston Rockets, New York Knicks
Luke Walton took over as head coach for the Golden State Warriors when Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery. Walton coached the Warriors to 39-4, including a 24-0 start. Unfortunately, Walton wasn’t given any credit for any victory. His success should surprise no one. He is the son of an NBA player so he lived and breathed the game of basketball from a young age. Of all the coaches on the market, Walton will receive the most interest.
David Blatt was fired mid-season from the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers. He brought the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2015. Blatt’s coaching record is 83-40 and 14-6 in the NBA Playoffs. That is a nice resume for a team looking for a new head coach. No one knows how successful Blatt will be as a coach without LeBron James. At least all the teams looking to hire have James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins a bunch of cap space.
Becky Hammon would be the first female head coach in NBA history. She is currently a San Antonio Spurs assistant. There are six head coaches in the NBA who branch off Popovich’s coaching tree (Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown, Steve Kerr, Earl Watson, Quinn Snyder, Alvin Gentry). Hammon is the leagues first ever female assistant on an NBA All-Star team and the face for females in the NBA. Even if she isn’t a coach in 2016-2017, Hammon has the best chance to become the NBA’s first female head coach.
Kevin McHale is an old-school coach with championship experience as a player. He puts a lot of expectation on his players to win. His expectations led to his firing from a Houston Rockets team who embarrassed themselves in 2015-2016. McHale led the Rockets to the Western Conference Finals last season, so it is clear he knows how to coach a competitive team. Of the teams listed above, we know McHale won’t be returning to the Rockets.