Making Sense of the Latest Rumors from Detroit Pistons' Coaching Search
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Pistons are searching for Lawrence Frank's replacement, the person who will become their fourth coach in five years.
General manager Joe Dumars has enlisted the services of coaching great Phil Jackson to help select the best man for the position.
Dumars has already begun to interview candidates despite the fact that many top assistant coaches are still in the midst of playoff runs.
The Pistons will likely have competition for the man they do want for the job. There are 10 other teams with head coaching vacancies and ESPN Insider Chris Broussard has ranked the Pistons' opening as the seventh-most attractive option.
Other candidates may still emerge throughout the interview process, but these are the men that the Pistons have shown interest in so far.
Nate McMillan is considered the front-runner for the Pistons' vacancy on the bench and has already interviewed with Dumars. He has had two previous stints as a head coach with the Seattle Supersonics and the Portland Trailblazers.
In 12 seasons as a head coach, McMillan accumulated a 478-452 regular season record and reached the playoffs five times, but he made it past the first round only once.
Perhaps McMillan's biggest draw was his experience in Portland with a team in the same rebuilding mode as the current Pistons. In a matter of four seasons, McMillan raised the Trailblazers' win total from 21 to 54 with a roster built almost exclusively of players under the age of 30.
McMillan is also considered to be at the top of the Pistons' list because he is arguably the safest choice available. Although he has never turned a team into a true championship contender, he has proven that he can consistently make the playoffs. For a franchise that hasn't been to the postseason since 2009, that alone makes him one of the favorites to be coaching in Detroit next season.
It has been reported in Detroit by WXYZ-TV that the Pistons will interview Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw after their season has ended. The Detroit News has reported that Pacers GM Donnie Walsh will not allow his assistants to interview for head coaching positions until after the playoffs.
Shaw was an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers from 2004-2011, winning championships under Jackson in 2009 and 2011. After winning the second ring, Shaw left the Lakers to join the Pacers.
With Jackson advising Dumars in the coaching search, Shaw may have a leg up on the other candidates. Shaw is considered one of the top assistants in the NBA anyway, but it is something to keep in mind.
As an assistant, Shaw has been part of two distinctly different teams. Shaw helped coach the Lakers to be a team that ranked in the top 11 in offensive efficiency in each of his seven seasons there, per ESPN.com. The Pacers ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency this season.
Shaw will be high on the Pistons' list as well, but they may have competition for his services as WXYZ-TV reported that he has been contacted by the Brooklyn Nets as well.
Former Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter has already interviewed with the team, according to the Detroit Free Press. He began last season as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns, but was named their interim head coach when Alvin Gentry was fired in mid-season. He had a 12-29 record in 41 games with the Suns.
Hunter had two stints with the Pistons as a player—from 1993-2000 and then from 2003-08. He was a tough, defensive-minded player and a solid three-point shooter.
Hunter would bring a defensive mindset to a team in desperate need of an identity. If Brandon Knight or a rookie starts at point guard for the Pistons next season, Hunter could be incredibly valuable as a mentor.
Budenholzer is considered one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA, and he would likely be near the top of Dumars' list if he were willing to leave San Antonio.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, it seems unlikely that he will leave his current position. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com, he "could ultimately be Popovich's successor should he decide to stay until the Spurs' future Hall of Fame coach retires."
Another former Pistons player, Darrell Walker, is also expected to interview for the Pistons job.
A former assistant coach in Detroit under Michael Curry and John Kuester, Walker is currently an assistant under Mike Woodson with the New York Knicks.
According to The Detroit News, Walker was a well-liked assistant in Detroit:
He garnered respect from the locker room, mostly due to his low-key demeanor and playing experience. He once vociferously protested Kuester taking guard Will Bynum out of a game at home against Portland during the fourth quarter, when Bynum was on a scoring binge, yelling, "What are you doing? You can't take Will out of the game now!"
Walker may not be the Pistons' top choice, but he is one of the few candidates with previous head coaching experience. His Pistons' connections don't hurt his cause either.
Who should the Pistons hire as their next head coach?
The Pistons interviewed Houston Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff last week. He is the son of Lakers assistant Bernie Bickerstaff, who was their interim head coach when Mike Brown was fired five games into the 2012-13 season.
The youner Bickerstaff. is just 34 years old, but he already has nine years of assistant coaching experience. He was with the Minnesota Timberwolves for four years, the Charlotte Bobcats for three years and has been with the Rockets since the 2011-12 season.
Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson was thought to be targeted for the job, as reported by Ken Berger of CBS. However, he has yet to interview with Dumars despite the Rockets exiting the playoffs well over a week ago.
Sampson was a college head coach with Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana. He was also an NBA assistant with the Bucks.
David Fizdale, a Miami Heat assistant coach, has been reported to be on the Pistons' radar although they have yet to contact him. They cannot interview him until after the Heat's playoff run has concluded so he could still emerge as a major candidate. Fizdale has also been an assistant with the Golden State Warriors and the Hawks.
The biggest wildcard in the Pistons' coaching search is Zeljko Obradovic, the "Serbian Phil Jackson." He has previously spent time around the Pistons, and Brady Fredericksen of PistonPowered.com reported that they could have interest in Obradovic.
The rumor does not appear to have any legs, but that could easily change before all is said and done. With many candidates still unavailable for interviews and 11 coaching vacancies, seemingly anything can happen before the Pistons sign Frank's replacement.
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