Best Candidates to Replace Doug Collins as Philadelphia 76ers Coach

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2013

Best Candidates to Replace Doug Collins as Philadelphia 76ers Coach

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    Doug Collins is fed up, and he's finally throwing in the towel on the Philadelphia 76ers. According to reports, Collins informed the team that he won't return as its coach next season:

    Y! Sources: Doug Collins has informed Philadelphia 76ers ownership that he will not return as coach next season.

    — Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) April 15, 2013

    The move was made official in a press conference on Thursday, April 18.


    Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris just made it official that Doug Collins is stepping down as head coach.

    — Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) April 18, 2013


    First, we have to address the bad-assery with which Collins approached the situation. People have called for his head for a good chunk of the season, and despite the fact that injuries ravaged his team and Philadelphia traded away his best player over the summer, the team reportedly supported that notion.

    Instead of sitting on the conveyor belt and waiting to be chopped into bits and pieces, he simply hurled himself into a wood chipper. It was the old, "You can't fire me, I quit!" routine.

    Collins had a year left on his deal, and if he had stuck around to the end, it would have marked the first time he coached a team for more than three seasons.

    At this point, he is 109-119 with two games left to go to make it three seasons with the 76ers, one of which was last year's lockout-shortened season.

    With Collins out the door, the 76ers become the first team to officially put a head coaching search at the top of their offseason to-do list, so they have a head start on compiling a list of replacement candidates.

    A few names should pop up near the top of that list as they look to take a step forward this summer after a huge step back throughout this season.

The 'Dream On' Category

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    There are two names that bounce around every single time a team fires its head coach, whether it be the Los Angeles Lakers or Charlotte Bobcats:

    Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan.

    These two incredibly old, incredibly successful, incredibly wise head coaches could come in and snap any halfway decent team into winning shape within a season or two.

    Are they miracle workers? No. But they could take a borderline playoff team and insert it into the top six with almost no problem at all.

    Their names command respect, people know who they are and they don't really come with the stigma of having to prove something.

    The only problem is that Jackson is 67 and Sloan is 71, and both have been retired for an extended period of time for a reason.

    It will take an incredibly compelling argument to get either of them to leave their La-Z-Boys to coach a good team, let alone a mid-level project.

7. Mike Malone

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    Mike Malone has ridden the assistant coach train for quite a while now, yet he hasn't had a head coaching gig as of yet.

    Malone worked as an assistant for the New York Knicks starting in 2001, followed by stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Orleans Hornets and now the Golden State Warriors, giving him over 10 years of experience on the sidelines in the NBA.

    The young Malone interviewed for the head coaching gig with the Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats last summer, so it makes sense that he would get another look from teams this time around.

    Of course, Malone has never been a head coach before, so he's a bit of a risk, and the 76ers might look for somebody with head coaching experience.

6. Michael Curry

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    If the 76ers look within their organization and try to find a fellow with a bit of head coaching experience, Michael Curry might just be their man.

    Curry coached the Detroit Pistons for the 2008-09 season, finishing with a respectable 39-43 record that put them into the playoffs, setting them up for a sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. For his efforts, Curry was fired.

    Detroit then devolved into a shame spiral, missing the playoffs in each of the next four seasons following Curry's dismissal.

    Of course, at this point it might make sense for an entire regime change, and putting Curry into the head coaching spot might just be more of the same old, same old.

    Curry was a finalist for the Orlando Magic head coaching job last summer, so there's at least some evidence that he remains a desirable head coaching candidate.

5. Stan Van Gundy

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    The biggest question surrounding Stan Van Gundy is whether or not he's ready to come back to the NBA to take over another team.

    Van Gundy spent his first year away from the head coaching game in the past five years as a trial television and radio analyst for NBC.

    He's talked frequently about getting back into coaching in the NBA, but something that might concern folks in Philadelphia is that he talked about not wanting to coach in cold-weather cities after having been in Miami and Orlando for his last two gigs.

    While he is definitely a tremendous option to take over the vacant spot, there will be a bit of a fight to get him to come north and spend the winter in Philadelphia.

4. Jeff Van Gundy

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    Jeff Van Gundy hasn't been a head coach in the NBA since the end of the 2006-2007 season. Instead, he's spent his time complaining about flopping, bemoaning bad calls in the NBA and just ranting and raving like a madman in general.

    However, with talk about the Brooklyn Nets possibly chasing him as an option at head coach, a bit of information slipped out that Van Gundy hadn't voiced before: He wants to coach again.

    With P.J. Carlesimo coaching the Nets on an interim basis, Adrian Wojnarowki of Yahoo! Sports asked Van Gundy about the vacancy, to which he replied with a de facto "no comment." The interest was there, however.

    Van Gundy is the type of coach who doesn't necessarily command respect from players, but he has a reputation around the league that breeds respect.

    He's an excellent coach with the fire in the belly that this young team needs, and if Andrew Bynum sticks around, Van Gundy would have a shot at helping him as much as he helped Patrick Ewing.

3. Mike Budenholzer

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    Mike Budenholzer remains the silent assistant coach in San Antonio who never gets a shot at a head coaching gig.

    Whether it's the fact that he doesn't demand respect as a former NBA player or that he's just comfortable as Gregg Popovich's longtime assistant is beside the point. You never even hear his name mentioned in coaching search rumors.

    Budenholzer has been an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs since 1996. Even if he's napped on the bench for the past 17 seasons, some know-how has to have seeped into his brain in nearly two decades.

    Better yet, he has head coaching experience. Budenholzer was the head coach of Team Chuck at this year's BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, and he coached his squad to a 163-135 victory over Team Shaq.

    So yeah, he knows what it's like to coach the big game.

2. Brian Shaw

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    Brian Shaw has become the superstar assistant coach around the league ever since being passed over for the Los Angeles Lakers' head coaching gig in 2011.

    The last time an assistant got so much publicity, the Chicago Bulls courted Tom Thibodeau from the Boston Celtics. The only difference is Thibodeau ended up with a head coaching job, and Shaw remains an assistant with the Indiana Pacers.

    Shaw's coaching career started under Phil Jackson back in 2004, but he's spent the past two seasons with the Pacers after becoming fed up with the Lakers' post-Jackson direction.

    This seems to be the season that Shaw ends up landing a gig, whether it be with the Philadelphia 76ers or elsewhere.

    There's only so much a guy can be talked about before he ends up sticking in the mind of some general manager out there.

    As far as experience goes, you could do a lot worse than a guy who won two titles alongside Phil Jackson.

1. Nate McMillan

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    Nate McMillan remains atop the list of accessible, successful head coaching candidates who have a solid history.

    The Portland Trail Blazers fired McMillan last March, despite the fact that he coached a team held together with athletic tape.

    He should end up getting another chance with a head coaching gig before long; he is the guy who presided over the turnaround of the Trail Blazers.

    The best thing he brought to Portland was a sense of direction, which he also brought to the Seattle SuperSonics following their late '90s lull.

    What most people see in McMillan is a solid head coach, but a guy who has had a rough time in the postseason, which is undeniably true.

    However, he is a guy who can bring the same sense of direction into Philadelphia and turn the 76ers back into a solid team, perennially making a trip back to the playoffs. Success will come with the proper development and personnel.