Which Head Coaching Hire Will Ensure Chris Paul Stays with LA Clippers?

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Which Head Coaching Hire Will Ensure Chris Paul Stays with LA Clippers?
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Does George Karl give the Los Angeles Clippers the best shot at keeping Chris Paul?

Just as is the case in real life, the NBA world differentiates between needs and wants. Chris Paul falls into the latter category for the Los Angeles Clippers, but the organization should be treating him like he's in the former. 

The head-coaching vacancy, on the other hand...well, that's a need. You can't play without a coach. And yet, it's a secondary concern, as the Clippers should be seeking to hire the clipboard-holder who gives them the best chance of luring CP3 back to town. 

This world of needs and wants, as Dave Davies and the rest of The Kinks might inform us, is a mixed-up, muddled-up and shook-up one. (Except for Lola, but I don't really think that applies here.) 

The Clippers' vacancy on the sideline is an attractive one, despite what the history of this beleaguered franchise would tell you. It presents a head coach with the opportunity to truly compete in the Western Conference while shaping a handful of talented young players and trusting a number of wily old veterans. 

As such, multiple big names have already presented themselves as options: Brian Shaw, Lionel Hollins, Stan Van Gundy and George Karl above all else. 

When general manager Gary Sacks and team owner Donald Sterling decide who will be the Clippers' next coach, they must consider whether or not the hire ensures that Paul will remain with the team. They also can't publicize that this is their motivation, because that didn't work out so well during the letting-go of Vinny Del Negro. 

So, which of the four aforementioned coaches gives LAC the best shot at retaining the league's best point guard? Let's break it down. 

 

4. Stan Van Gundy

Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

While we're at it, let's go ahead and immediately scratch Van Gundy from consideration thanks to two quotes he's given in the last few weeks. 

The first comes courtesy of NBC's David Baumann on Sulia:

NBC Sr. NBA analyst Stan Van Gundy spoke to @StashowerShow regarding Clippers & Nets head coaching vacancies: "The problem in both of those jobs is while on they are the 2 most talented teams that have jobs available at this point, I think both of those rosters are a little bit overrated at the same time. I'm not sure either one of those teams are ready as they are currently made up, I don't think either one of them are ready to contend to get to the Finals," 
@SportsTalkFLA

All right, SVG. Way to make a good impression in case you actually are considered for the job. 

Then there's this bit, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi: 

I guess there's a chance. ... The reason I say that is because I don't know when it will be a good time (to return). If I'm going to wait until everyone is out of high school, we're talking another four years. By then, I'd still be young enough, but I don't know if there would be any interest (from NBA teams). Every year, you're out of it, it gets harder and harder to get back in.

None of this sounds like it's coming from a man who's ready to pace the sidelines of the Staples Center.

 

3. Lionel Hollins 

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Even though he's stuck in the old days, Lionel Hollins is still a fantastic coach who would do great things for the Clippers. However, his apparent disdain for analytics and interference from management that understands the numbers spells trouble. The following comes via Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski: 

Since the analytics-driven new ownership group of Robert Pera took over control of the franchise this season, there's been dramatic conflict between management and Hollins. Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien has given vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger significant latitude in constructing the roster and a philosophy.

Management wants a coach willing to buy into the analytic movement, using those mechanisms to make roster, lineup and system decisions. Hollins has resented what he considers undue interference by management, and has stood by his track record and success in maintaining productivity with a roster of diverse and difficult personalities.

During the Grizzlies' playoff run, tensions turned to a confrontation when Hollins exploded during a practice session upon finding Hollinger had walked onto the practice court and engaged forward Austin Daye during a shooting drill, multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Even though the Clippers haven't shown any overt affection for the analytical trends, this still doesn't bode well for Hollins' ability to handle Mr. Donald Sterling. Plus, the NBA is headed in this direction, embracing programs like SportVU and consistently trending toward anything that makes teams more efficient. 

Despite Hollins' potential status as an NBA dinosaur (for the sake of the metaphor, John Hollinger's hiring serves as the meteor), he does bring many positives to the table. 

He's fantastic at balancing different attitudes and personalities, something that would be quite necessary as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan continue to have fun while Paul is always completely serious. He's also a fantastic defensive coach, one who helped Marc Gasol win Defensive Player of the Year. 

But will Hollins' old-school style, which frowns upon lobs and flashy plays, mesh with Lob City? Can Paul get over the former head coach of the Grizzlies calling him a flopper on national television? 

Color me skeptical. 

 

2. George Karl

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

Directly on the heels of being fired by the Denver Nuggets, George Karl already has some significant interest from the men in the Los Angeles Clippers' front offices, according to the Los Angeles Times's Broderick Turner. 

And why wouldn't he? He is, after all, coming off winning the NBA's Coach of the Year award, in large part for steering his team to a 38-3 record at home. In fact, he's the first coach to ever be fired without a single game in between the decision and the award. 

In spite of the recent managerial decisions by the Nuggets, Karl certainly has a lot to like about him. 

He's fantastic at crafting high-powered offenses, and it's terrifying to think what he could do with both Blake Griffin and Paul running his sets. The Nuggets can't match the Clippers in the firepower department, and yet L.A. outscored them only by a relatively insignificant 0.2 points per 100 possessions. His up-tempo style would fit in nicely at Lob City. 

Karl is also an established coach—duh, you're pretty established when you win COY, even without Karl's track record—and his veteran presence could help Blake and DeAndre Jordan mature and reach the next level. He demands excellence, and excellence is usually what he gets. 

However, there are a few problems.

Most significantly, Karl doesn't have a good track record in the playoffs. He's great at steering his teams into the postseason, but they tend to flop once they get there.  

With no championships on his resume, Karl has advanced to the NBA finals only once. He did so in 1995-96 with a star-studded Seattle SuperSonics team that included Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf and Hersey Hawkins. 

While he's made the postseason in 22 of his 25 seasons as a head coach, he's moved out of the first round only eight times, three of which resulted in conference finals appearances. 

Paul isn't about making the playoffs. He's been there many times before, but he has yet to get over the hump. He'll be returning if and only if he feels that he can win a championship. 

 

1. Brian Shaw

USA TODAY Sports

Perceived by many as the favorite for the job, this young head coach brings a lot to the table. He's won titles, both as a player and a signal-caller, and he's repeatedly demonstrated that he can develop young players better than anyone else on the market. 

For proof, just look at Shaw's resume. 

He was a crucial figure in the progression of Andrew Bynum, helping the Los Angeles Lakers win back-to-back championships after acquiring Pau Gasol in the late 2000s. Once he joined Frank Vogel's crew for the Indiana Pacers, he immediately helped Paul George and Lance Stephenson take massive strides forward. 

George in particular morphed from a player oozing with potential into an All-Star who went mano-a-mano with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals and almost emerged on top. When Shaw joined the Pacers in 2011 as an associate head coach, George had just come off a rookie season in which he averaged 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per 36 minutes with a PER of 13.0. 

Now take a look at how the small forward progressed over the next two seasons, again using per-36-minute numbers to take increased playing time out of the equation: 

  Points Rebounds Assists PER
2010-11 13.5 6.4 1.8 13.0
2011-12 14.7 6.8 2.9 16.5
2012-13 16.7 7.3 4.0 16.8

Even though his time on the court has increased by 17 minutes per game since his rookie season, George's per-minute numbers are still improving. It's impossible to quantify how much of an impact Shaw had on this progression, but he certainly had a hand in it. 

This is especially relevant for the Clippers because Griffin and Jordan need to develop. Neither made many noticeable strides under the watchful eyes of Del Negro, and their progressions appear to have stagnated. Griffin, if anything, has taken a step backward. 

Which coaching candidate gives the Clippers the best shot at keeping Chris Paul?

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Both young big men are still loaded with potential (see jumping ability for proof), and they need a coach with talents in player development to help them fulfill all of that potential that remains unrealized. 

Given the starting point for George and the ensuing progression, it's scary to think what Shaw could do with Griffin if his career followed a similar trajectory. 

Shaw and his familiarity with the triangle offense doesn't do much for CP3 as an individual, but he'd help Paul's teammates take massive strides in the right direction. Hiring him would also signal that the Clippers are firmly committed to doing whatever is necessary now. 

Just as he's considered the favorite for the job, Shaw is also the favorite when it comes to keeping Paul. 

And that's what really matters here. 

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