7 Rumored Coaching Candidates Who Should Never Work in the NBA Again
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Sometimes the best coaching changes are the ones never made, but that won't stop another offseason from playing its annual game of musical chairs.
Coaches are ready-made scapegoats in today's NBA. Never mind that their rosters are dotted with 19- and 20-year-old prospects who eschewed the benefits of an extended collegiate career.
And never mind that locker rooms have been hijacked by the real power brokers in professional basketball: the agents.
Fair or not, coaches can't get too comfortable on any given bench. They're the ones held accountable when teams descend into chaos, or—at least—to the bottom of the standings. Sometimes they're even canned for no good reason.
That doesn't mean that any and all replacements represent an upgrade—some will create a different set of problems altogether. Others are still quality coaches, but best-suited to calling it a career. Here are seven coaching candidates who should stay on a permanent vacation.
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It's not that Mike D'Antoni is a bad coach, and he'll be mentioned from to time when new positions open. Four of his five seasons with the Phoenix Suns were unquestionably successful.
That doesn't mean he'll ever be able to duplicate that success, though.
D'Antoni's fortunes were largely the product of circumstance. He brought a fast-paced, run-and-gun European system to a team that was seemingly built for it. If you take away Steve Nash and his band of merry sharpshooters, well... you have a team that looks more like D'Antoni's Knicks.
For most teams, D'Antoni's antics (can we call them "D'Antics"?) just aren't the right fit. And as we learned in New York, attempting to fabricate that kind of fit can be painful.
Of course, D'Antoni fans should also note the shared failure of coaches like D'Antoni and Don Nelson to win rings. As exciting as their product is to watch, it remains an unproven if not counter-intuitive championship formula.
Jeff Van Gundy
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Jeff Van Gundy would be an upgrade for the majority of coaching staffs in the NBA, but he should resist the impulse for one reason and one reason alone: This man needs to be behind a microphone.
Few pundits and media personalities have either the guts or wherewithal to speak their minds like Van Gundy. As a coach, his ability to speak the truth was curtailed by the long arm of the NBA thanks to hefty fines and the league's utter refusal to accept public criticism from one of its own.
Of course, this isn't only about the value of unpopular opinion—Van Gundy doubles as one of the funniest guys in sports, with an IQ that puts most of his peers to shame. Sunday afternoons just wouldn't be the same if this guy returned to the bench.
Until New York makes long-term plans with Mike Woodson, though, Van Gundy will be linked to the Knicks. He'd probably do a good job there, too.
But his coaching ability notwithstanding, he's an absolutely irreplaceable television personality.
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It should go without saying that Jackson could make the Knicks—and just about anyone else—quite a bit better. Few coaches even belong in the same conversation as Jackson.
Still, Jackson shouldn't get caught up in all the possibilities. He's already won 11 championships and has absolutely nothing left to prove.
Returning to a coaching gig would only risk tarnishing his reputation. If he came to the rescue of the Knicks and their superstars, the criticism that he's chased rings with teams built on the backs of other coaches would ring more true than ever.
And if he wins anything less than a championship, his career would end on a note few would like to remember.
More importantly, how many times is this guy going to retire?
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After Isiah Thomas was fired from his coaching gig at Florida International University, rumors immediately began linking one of the NBA's most nagging nuisances to James Dolan and the New York Knicks.
Please, Dolan, don't do this to us. Don't let him coach (obviously), and don't consult with him on anything other than what a great Piston he once was. Most importantly, don't let him anywhere near Jeremy Lin.
This is the man who mortgaged New York's future (two lottery picks in hindsight) for Eddy Curry and gave Jerome James a $30 million contract after watching him play okay in a couple of playoff series. After two seasons as president of basketball operations, the Knicks had the league's highest payroll while mustering only its second-worst record.
A guy who thinks every big man with some muscle is going to be the next Shaq shouldn't be involved with running a professional basketball team. His record has proven ineffective at best, toxic at worst.
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Paul Westphal wasn't wrong to want DeMarcus Cousins traded—a coach deserves his players' respect, or at least their cooperation.
What really did Westphal in was the way he went about the Cousins's feud and his inability to get through to the guy. In this case, the coach may well have been 100 percent right about everything, but a coach's job isn't to be right—it's to make things work. Making a situation unnecessarily public is almost never the way to do that.
He hasn't turned up on the radar for any teams in need, yet, but his successful tenure in Phoenix makes him a perennial option.
Westphal might work better with a more veteran squad already groomed for the professional demands of life in the NBA, but how many of those teams need a coach at the moment?
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Though Flip Saunders was fired amidst a miserable season with the Washington Wizards, he can't be blamed for everything that went wrong.
The Wizards went from a team with playoff ambitions to one in the basement of the Eastern Conference somewhere between a state of rebuilding and perpetual failure. On the one hand, you'd like to think any coach could get his guys to play harder and smarter than these Wizards—and Randy Wittman may be proving just that.
Saunders may still have some shelf life in the unimaginative coaching rumor mills, thanks to his three straight Conference Finals appearances with the Detroit Pistons. It should be remembered, however, that the foundation there was built by Rick Carlisle's two successful seasons with the team.
Prior to working with the talented squad in Detroit, Saunders proved little more than capable of taking the Timberwolves to a first-round exit. Flip should enjoy the $18 million the Wizards gave him and take some time off.
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It's a good thing John Calipari isn't planning on leaving Kentucky, mostly because the school needs him. He's as impressive as it gets in adding elite recruits, and he could build quite a legacy with his current job. Why mess up a good thing?
Plus, Calipari is still an unknown commodity at the pro level—his 72-112 record with the New Jersey Nets in two-and-a-half unremarkable seasons has to raise some question marks.
Still, at only 53, Calipari has a lot of coaching left. Given all he's accomplished at the NCAA level, it's only natural speculate he might one day want more.
Just not anytime soon.