5 Best Potential Coaching Candidates for Brooklyn Nets

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2012

5 Best Potential Coaching Candidates for Brooklyn Nets

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    Avery Johnson is out in Brooklyn.

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Brooklyn Nets have elected to fire their head coach of two-plus seasons.

    Though the move is somewhat surprising—especially considering Johnson won NBA Coach of the Month honors for October and November—it is not entirely shocking.

    After beginning the season 11-4, the Nets have gone 3-10 over their last 13 games and are now clinging on to the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot by a mere half game.

    While such circumstances render the move easy to justify, the issues in Brooklyn are far from resolved. The team will now be tasked with finding a suitable replacement for the departed Johnson.

    Per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo will assume the interim head coaching duties for now. As for what will happen next, that much remains unclear.

    One thing, however, is for sure—there are no shortage of viable candidates to take over the reins in Johnson's stead.


    *All stats in this article are accurate as of December 27, 2012.

Honorable Mention: Phil Jackson

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    Head Coaching Record: 1,155-485

    Let's be clear: The Nets would be hard-pressed to bring Phil Jackson out of retirement.

    That said, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, that isn't going to prevent them from trying.

    And why should it?

    Jackson is an 11-time coaching champion who is no stranger to piloting a plane with multiple superstars. He kept a player like Kobe Bryant in check for five championships-worth of basketball, so his impact on Deron Williams and even Joe Johnson would undoubtedly be instrumental.

    However, while I wouldn't put it past Mikhail Prokhorov to play the "this is your chance to exact revenge on the Los Angeles Lakers" card, I doubt Jackson would be willing to assume control of a team in disarray. Especially one that doesn't have the necessary personnel to run the Triangle Offense.

    I mean, if he didn't want to coach a "clumsy" New York Knicks team that is now second in the East, there's nothing that makes me believe he'd be willing to attempt and sort through the mess Brooklyn is currently housing.

    Still, given his track record (1,155 career regular-season wins), you can't fault Prokhorov and the Nets for covering all bases.

5. P.J. Carlesimo

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    Head Coaching Record: 204-296

    Personally, I'm not a fan of P.J. Carlesimo, but in the interest of convenience, his name must be considered.

    As previously noted, he will be taking over the head coaching duties on a temporary basis, yet he has seven-plus years of experience that renders him as a possible solution.

    Though Carlesimo is perhaps best known for being choked out by Latrell Sprewell while he was coaching the Golden State Warriors, he does have three playoff appearances to his credit.

    What is concerning is he has not headed a team since 2008-09, when he coached the Oklahoma City Thunder for a mere 13 games. He's also never made it out of the first round of the playoffs either.

    That said, Brooklyn must have some faith in him after putting the team in his hands, even if only on a temporary basis. Let's also not forget that he was the chief assistant under perennial coaching stud Gregg Popovich for three San Antonio Spurs championships.

    Simply put, the guy has been around the block and (clearly after Sprewell) there's nothing he hasn't encountered.

    As such, don't be surprised to see him emerge as one of the leading candidates to fill Johnson's post permanently.

4. Nate McMillan

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    Head Coaching Record: 478-452

    Nate McMillan has nearly 12 years of head coaching experience under his belt.

    While he has only been to the playoffs five times in those 12 years, he is no stranger to balancing the egos that come with superstars and headcases.

    Yes, he ultimately lost control of the locker room with the Portland Trail Blazers, but he was dealing with a roster that had little to no stability. Make no mistake that things would be different with a steady roster and a willing group of veterans.

    Also, he's one of the best defensive minds there is in the league, hence the Los Angeles Lakers' interest in adding him as an assistant this upcoming summer.

    If Brooklyn is committed to playing tough defense and developing more continuity on the offensive end, giving McMillan a call would be more than a wise decision.

    The Nets just have to make sure Deron Williams is on board. 

3. Flip Saunders

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    Head Coaching Record: 638-526

    Flip Saunders is a good coach; he just needs a group of veterans who understand the game.


    Saunders wasn't the right fit for the Washington Wizards. But he may be for the Nets.

    He has 16 years of coaching experience, 638 career regular-season wins and a lifetime winning percentage of .548. He's also been to the playoffs 11 times.

    Though his coaching style is not for the faint of heart, Brooklyn is chock-full of gritty veterans who have played for tough coaches before. He's no stranger to developing budding young big men (I'm looking at you Brook Lopez) and he may be more apt to catering to the needs of one Deron Williams.

    Yes, his time in Washington was marked by losing—a lot of losing—but his tenure with the Wizards is not indicative of the coach he really is.

    All the Nets must do is check out his track record with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons to see that.

2. Mike Budenholzer

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    Head Coaching Record: N/A

    Somebody give this man a job.

    Mike Budenholzer has spent the last 16 years alongside one Gregg Popovich, so obviously he knows his stuff.

    How much so?

    To the tune of four NBA championships.

    Of course, I understand the trepidation that surrounds hiring a first-time coach, but Budenholzer isn't your average assistant.

    He knows what it takes to win and he's no stranger to managing numerous superstar egos. He also understands how to run an efficient two-way attack. We credit Popovich with the Spurs' dominantly consistent attack, but he hasn't done it alone.

    Also, plenty of people chastised Tom Thibodeau for remaining an assistant for too long, and he wound up winning the Coach of the Year award in his very first season as the Chicago Bulls head coach.

    Did I mention Budenholzer knows what it takes to win as well?

    If Brooklyn is looking to restore order and contend immediately, giving Budenholzer an extensive look is definitely a must.

1. Jeff Van Gundy

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    Head Coaching Record: 430-318

    I love Jeff Van Gundy. I love him as an analyst, I love him as a coach and I love him for the Nets. Especially considering that his brother Stan has no interest in this job, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel.

    Van Gundy has 10-plus years of coaching experience. He led the Knicks to six straight winning seasons before resigning in the middle of his seventh during the 2001-02 campaign. It's worth noting he left with the Knicks posting a record above .500 as well.

    After taking a short hiatus, he returned to the sidelines with the Houston Rockets. He spent four years there, three of which culminated in winning seasons, before seemingly hanging up his clipboard for good.

    That said, the Nets should consider attempting to lure him off out of his current position as an ESPN analyst.


    Because he's a sideline-meandering genius.

    He's no stranger to coaching great teams and even led an eighth-seeded Knicks squad to a finals appearance in 1999.

    Toss in his 430 career regular-season wins and a .575 winning percentage, and his defensive ideals may be just the recipe for success the Nets need.