Nat McMillan Fired: 5 Coaching Replacements for Disgraced Trail Blazers

Peter EmerickSenior Writer IIMarch 15, 2012

Nat McMillan Fired: 5 Coaching Replacements for Disgraced Trail Blazers

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    In the midst of all the trades that were made before the March 15 trade deadline, the Portland Trail Blazers went ahead and fired their head coach, Nate McMillan, who really wasn't the Trail Blazers' main problem. 

    While it was probably the right move to make, coming off a 40-point loss to the lowly New York Knicks and sitting at 20-23 overall for the year, it's clear that Portland's issue isn't the guy in the head coaching spot; it's the inconsistent play of everyone not named Nicolas Batum or LaMarcus Aldridge.

    Either way, there's now a head coaching vacancy that will need to be filled this upcoming NBA season, which means it's time to start speculating on which guys are the most likely to become the Trailblazers next head coach.

    While you won't find Phil Jackson on this list, you'll find some names that are real possibilities to fill the Blazers coaching void. Ahead are five names that Portland should entertain as candidates for the head coaching vacancy.   

Mike D'Antoni

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    While Mike D'Antoni recently resigned from his head coaching duties in the Big Apple, there's no doubt that he'll want to find his way back to the rankings of head coaches in the NBA.

    D'Antoni wasn't a bad coach during his years in New York.

    His main problem was that he had egos like Carmelo Anthony's on the roster, and it's evident that D'Antoni doesn't have what it takes control egos like that, which isn't an issue as long as he finds a place that doesn't have those egos, and Portland is just that place.

    Portland doesn't have many big names on the roster, aside from LaMarcus Aldridge, and even he isn't anywhere close to being on the same level, ego-wise, as Carmelo Anthony.

    There's no doubt that D'Antoni can win games in the NBA, and the Trail Blazers will be in rebuilding mode over the next year or two, which is the perfect place for a guy like D'Antoni.  

Caleb Kanales

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    For all of you out there who have no idea who Caleb Kanales is, don't worry; you're not alone.

    Kanales is was an assistant coach under Nate McMillan, and now, he's the interim head coach until Portland finds the right man for the job.

    There's a high likelihood that if Kanales can get through the 2011-12 season, leading the Trail Blazers to a better than .500 record, that they might entertain the idea of bringing him back on staff, this time as the head coach of the team.

    Kanales has the perfect opportunity ahead of him, with guys like Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby gone and new pieces like Johnny Flynn and Mehmet Okur on the roster.

    He has the opportunity to show the Trail Blazers front office that he's ready to take the reins of the franchise and turn them into a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

    Kanales has a long, hard road ahead of him, but he certainly has a great opportunity that hopefully he can make the most of. 

Jerry Sloan

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    Jerry Sloan's name has been circulating around the New York Knicks head coaching vacancy, but that shouldn't be the only job he's interested in.

    Sloan spent all his years in the NBA with the Utah Jazz in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference, which just happens to be the same division where the Portland Trail Blazers play the majority of their games.

    That might not be a real difference-maker in Jerry Sloan coming back to the Western Conference as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.

    If Sloan takes his talents to Portland, there's no doubt that he can take their hodgepodge of talent and turn them into legitimate contenders in the Western Conference, like he did in his final years while he was with the Utah Jazz.

    Who knows whether or not Sloan will even be interested in the Trail Blazers job, but Portland should definitely pursue him as a candidate for the job because he's the right man for the position. 

Patrick Ewing

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    Patrick Ewing's name is often thrown around when there are head coaching vacancies that pop up around the NBA, and the same should happen with the Trail Blazers head coaching vacancy.

    Hiring Ewing as McMillan's replacement would have to come at the end of the season, as NBA teams can't hire active NBA assistant coaches for head coaching gigs during the same season.

    The Trail Blazers would be wise to wait for Ewing, though, because he could bring a solid defensive focus and intelligence to a Portland team that desperately needs it.

    With big man LaMarcus Aldridge at the foundation of the Trail Blazers' future, having Ewing on staff, as the head coach would be a stellar move to make, as he could help Aldridge develop into a more complete big man in the NBA.

    While Patrick Ewing has yet to prove himself as a head coach in the NBA because he's never had the chance, at least pursuing Ewing would be a solid move to make, as they would benefit from Ewing's NBA experience as an All-Star player for the New York Knicks.  

Flip Saunders

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    After a 2-15 start to the 2011-12 NBA season, the Washington Wizards gave Flip Saunders the boot, and honestly, they made the wrong decision.

    The Wizards had a great head coach; they just had horribly immature players that couldn't figure out how to play like a team, which was somewhat Saunders' fault, but it was more the fault of the players on the Wizards roster.

    As a head coach with the Detroit Pistons from 2005-2008, Saunders led Detroit to three straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, which is a ridiculously impressive feat that most other NBA coaches couldn't even dream of.

    The Portland Trail Blazers need a proven winner running the show with the talent they have, and that's exactly what Flip Saunders is.

    Saunders, in only a year or two, could transition the Trail Blazers from being an average team to being a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. Portland would be foolish to not pursue Saunders, even with his recent lack of success with the Wizards.

    Thanks for checking out the article, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @petermerick, because who knows, maybe the Trail Blazers will contact me about their head coaching vacancy.