Predicting the Next Stops for the NBA's Top Unemployed Head Coaches
Only three axes have fallen on NBA head coaches since the 2012-13 regular season came to a close, but despite the currently limited sideline vacancies, it's never too early to start predicting where some of the top unemployed coaching candidates could end up next.
Doug Collins showed himself the door in Philadelphia, but he hopped right on the elevator up to the front office. So he's staying put for the foreseeable future.
But Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank, both recently fired from their respective positions with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, are on the job hunt again.
And bigger, more elusive catches like Phil Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy and even Nate McMillan are fly fishing in Montana or talking into microphones (as the case may be). Any one of them could be suiting up (literally) for an NBA team soon.
There's bound to be some more shuffling before long (don't get too comfortable in L.A., Vinny Del Negro), but for now, it's worth looking around the NBA landscape to see where these sideline stalkers could wind up.
After three seasons at the helm, Byron Scott is out in Cleveland.
That's a disappointing result for all parties involved, as Scott failed to coax any notable improvements in team performance or nurture growth in his young players. But on the plus side, at least Scott doesn't have to live in Ohio anymore.
See? There's a silver lining in any situation if you look hard enough.
It may be a while until he lands another gig, though, as he has failed to come close to the early heights of his career. After a pair of NBA Finals berths in the early 2000s with the New Jersey Nets, Scott's teams have visited the postseason just twice in his past 10 seasons.
If the Clippers suffer a first-round exit, the blame could very likely fall on Del Negro, creating an opening for Scott to slide into his chair.
Lawrence Frank's career winning percentage of .454 is slightly higher than Scott's .444, but that was hardly enough to keep him from joining the Cavs coach in the ranks of the unemployed.
Frank didn't have much to work with in Detroit, and he did put together a solid stretch in New Jersey before the wheels fell off in a 0-16 start in 2009-10, so there's a good chance he'll be back in the league eventually.
Plus, at just 42 years old, Frank already has a decade of NBA head-coaching experience at an age when most guys are still cutting their teeth as assistants.
He'd be an solid option to take over in Philadelphia, as he'd provide a change of pace from Collins, but Michael Curry is almost certain to get the valuable endorsement of the Sixers' former coach.
With five straight seasons of sub-.500 ball on his resume, it looks like Frank is most likely going to end up as an assistant for a few seasons before NBA owners see fit to give him another shot at the big-boy chair.
Jeff Van Gundy
The former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets head coach hasn't been on the sideline since the 2006-07 season, and based on his success as an analyst , there's little reason to believe he's in any hurry to get back into the much more stressful world of NBA coaching.
Van Gundy is too good of a coach to stay away forever, though. And his absence from the game, along with his visible platform on TV to demonstrate his vast knowledge, have probably made his abilities seem even more impressive than they already are.
He'll be back someday, but it sure won't be in Detroit. Not after he ripped the franchise apart for its treatment of his friend Frank:
So if Van Gundy's not going to take over in Detroit, who is?
Well, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, former Seattle Sonics and Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is in the running:
Names I've heard: McMillan, Sampson, Sloan, Heat assistant David Fizdale. Not sure about the Van Gundy's #Pistons— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) April 18, 2013
McMillan has been away from the game since being fired by the Blazers after the 2011-12 season, so he should be rested up enough to take on the challenge of managing the dysfunctional Pistons. He was around for all of LaMarcus Aldridge's development in Portland, so there's some evidence that he knows how to foster growth in young big men.
Any coach who takes over in Detroit is going to need that quality, as Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are the only valuable commodities on the roster.
One last thing, though: McMillan is not a good defensive coach, despite his reputation. Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk breaks down the myth nicely here:
No team of McMillan’s has ever finished in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession). His teams didn’t allow that many points per game because they played at a painfully slow pace...
As long as the Pistons are realistic about who they're getting in McMillan, he might represent the best option available.
Stan Van Gundy
Like his brother, Jeff, Stan Van Gundy doesn't sound like he's going to be coaching anytime soon. He told Jon Saraceno of USA Today as much earlier this year:
The further away you get, you start idealizing (the job). You forget how many times you got three or four hours of sleep and were grumpy and cranky. And the way losses affect you — you are in misery. Then you become a pain in the ass at home.
I miss coaching. But if I went back to coaching, I would miss this (looks out at the lake).
Sounds nice, right? Life on a lake with no superstar centers trying to get him fired, and he can say all the negative things about NBA commissioner David Stern he wants.
Yep, SVG is pretty happy at the moment.
It's going to be a while before he rejoins the miserable (his own term) ranks of NBA coaches.
Ah yes, the NBA coaching equivalent of Captain Ahab's white whale. Every team wants to catch Phil Jackson and his 11 championship rings, but none of them can.
Jackson notably flirted with the Los Angeles Lakers job in November, but he either demanded too much or was never really offered the gig (depending on which reports you believe). It seems the bridge between the Zen Master and the Lakers has been thoroughly torched.
Because Jackson only deals with teams in position to win championships right away, he's not going near Detroit, Cleveland or Philadelphia. With the stability of the coaching situations in places like New York and Miami, it seems unlikely that Jackson could find a way into either of those positions.
Scott Brooks is no wunderkind in Oklahoma City, but it's hard to imagine Jackson wanting to spend so much time in a small market.
That, of course, leaves the Clippers job (which isn't even available yet) as the lone likely landing spot. If Jackson wants that job, the Clips would certainly pack Del Negro's suitcase for him.
But until the current coach ships out of the Staples Center, Jackson is in a holding pattern.