Let's take a ride on the NBA coaching carousel, shall we?
Seven vacancies have been filled since the end of the 2012-13 regular season, with Mike Brown back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jeff Hornacek reuniting with the Phoenix Suns, Steve Clifford taking over the Charlotte Bobcats, Mike Malone heading east of Oakland to the Sacramento Kings, Larry Drew joining the Milwaukee Bucks, Mike Budenholzer replacing Drew with the Atlanta Hawks and Maurice Cheeks stepping in for the Detroit Pistons. Five more—with the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers—remain in need of occupancy.
Along with the glut of openings is a long list of high-profile candidates, including (but certainly not limited to) reigning Coach of the Year George Karl, recently fired Memphis Grizzlies head man Lionel Hollins, the well-traveled Byron Scott, Indiana Pacers lead assistant Brian Shaw, former Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers overseer Nate McMillan, longtime Utah Jazz guru Jerry Sloan and outspoken brothers Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.
For those keeping score at home, that's more coaching names (eight) than coaching jobs (five). And that's before bringing Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt, Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger, Miami Heat helping hand David Fizdale and the newly retired Jason Kidd into the conversation.
Mathematically speaking, some strong candidates are going to lose out on this year's game of Musical Chairs: NBA Edition. But who?
To start, at least three of those names—the Van Gundys and Sloan—haven't popped up in some time. Jeff Van Gundy fielded calls from the Clippers and the Nets but didn't bite on either. As for Stan, he has yet to be mentioned in connection with any job in particular, despite being touted as one of the top coaches on the market.
Sloan, on the other hand, had reportedly been in the mix for the Bucks job that ultimately went to Larry Drew. According to Jody Genessy of The Deseret News, Sloan might soon return to the Jazz organization in a non-coaching capacity.
That leaves us with at least nine serious, qualified candidates to fill five spots.
Or, eight and four, respectively, if the latest news out of the Big Apple holds true. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Jason Kidd is in the driver's seat to be the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Kidd retired from the rival New York Knicks on June 3rd and (thus) has no past experience in the position.
But he's arguably the greatest player in Nets history, at least since Julius Erving suited up for them when they played in New York with the ABA. Kidd also has a strong relationship with star guard Deron Williams and plans to stuff his staff with assistants who either have been or are prime candidates to be head coaches.
The book isn't closed on this case yet, though. Per The Associated Press, Nets general manager Billy King still intends to let Brian Shaw make his case for the position.
Shaw previously traveled to LA to discuss the Clippers' opening. According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, he'll be competing with a swath of experienced coaches—including Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins and Nate McMillan—for the right to coach Blake Griffin and (if all goes according to plan) Chris Paul.
In some ways, Shaw is the perfect choice for the Clips. He understands the local landscape, having won three championships as a player and two as a coach with the Los Angeles Lakers under Phil Jackson. Hiring Shaw, after the Lakers overlooked him back in 2011, would allow the Clippers to irk their Staples Center co-tenants even more, after sweeping them in a season series for the first time in franchise history in 2012-13.
Not to mention that Shaw, the only of the aforementioned bunch who's never been a head coach, would probably come cheaper than his competition—which is always music to Clippers owner Donald Sterling's miserly ears.
Don't count out Byron Scott, though. He played his high school ball at Morningside High in Inglewood and is intimately familiar with the Lakers-Clippers rivalry. He was drafted by the Clippers (then still in San Diego) and promptly traded to the Lakers for Norm Nixon back in 1983. Scott went on to win three titles with the "Showtime" Lakers.
And, more importantly, coach a slew of superb point guards that includes Chris Paul, during their days together with the New Orleans Hornets. That pre-existing relationship could prove vital to Scott's hopes of securing new employment, less than two months after getting his walking papers from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nate McMillan and Lionel Hollins have both been said to be in the running for the Clips' gig, as well, though according to Hall of Fame hoops columnist Peter Vecsey, the job will fall to one of the two candidates whose initials are B.S.
Hollins better pray he can find empty coaching chair when music stops. Nuggets may b last spot.I'm told Clips will decide tween Scott & Shaw— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) June 11, 2013
But all bets are off if Doc Rivers decides to part ways with the Boston Celtics, as ESPN's Chris Broussard suggests he might. Such a stunner would throw the whole coaching carousel into an even more chaotic fit. For now, though, Rivers is in Boston, so we'll treat him and the C's job accordingly.
In the meantime, McMillan will have his shot to kiss Donald Sterling's ring on Thursday (per The LA Times). McMillan hasn't been a particularly hot name among coaching searches, though he was considered for the Pistons' job before Mo Cheeks wrapped it up.
If McMillan's going to impress the Clips, he'll have to do so after Lionel Hollins gets yet another face-to-face with the organization. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Hollins is still very much alive for the opening in LA:
Clipper coach rumble: Lionel Hollins still firmly in mix w/B-Shaw & B-Scott. Today's sitdown, I'm told, will be Hollins' third chat w/Clips— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 12, 2013
Rumbles persist that Donald Sterling A) is a Hollins fan and B) seeks coach w/prior head-coaching exp. Yet Shaw remains strong contender— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 12, 2013
Hollins' prospects aren't limited to the Clippers, though. He'll also be courted by the Nuggets to fill the void left behind by George Karl's ouster. It's entirely possible that Hollins and Karl end up trading places—like Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy—with the former going to Denver and the latter taking his act to Memphis.
It's also entirely possible that neither finds work, even after leading their now-former franchises to banner years. Sam Amick of USA Today recently reported that Karl would be up against Dave Joerger, Hollins' understudy in Memphis, for the Grizzlies' gig:
Top two names in Memphis, to review, are Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger and former Denver coach George Karl.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 11, 2013
Which is all well and good, though Marc Stein and Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal both chimed in to suggest that Joerger was, indeed, the favorite to succeed Hollins in the River City:
NBA coaching sources have said for weeks (months, even) that Grizz assistant Dave Joerger is overwhelming favorite to replace Lionel Hollins— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 11, 2013
But Grizz took nearly 2 weeks after Hollins talks crumbled before announcing his fate & vow another "thorough" process b4 naming successor— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 11, 2013
It should come as no surprise if David Joerger is at the Griz draft workout Wednesday and is named Hollins' replacement soon after.— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBlog) June 11, 2013
Hollins could ostensibly see a similar situation block him from walking in Karl's Mile High moccasins. According to John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Nuggets assistant Melvin Hunt is under serious consideration to ascend to the top job in Denver. Chances are, though, the Nuggets won't decide on a new coach either way until they've hired a new GM to replace Masai Ujiri, who opted for a lucrative return to the Toronto Raptors' front office at the end of May.
Which big-name, experienced coach is most likely to be left without a job for the 2013-14 season?
Until then, Hunt will likely have to play the waiting game. Per The Inquirer, the Sixers are eying Hunt to occupy Doug Collins' old sideline seat, but they have yet to seek permission from the Nuggets to contact him. The same goes for Philly's pursuit of Miami's David Fizdale, who's yet to field a call from the Sixers and, frankly, has bigger fish to fry at the moment (via Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel):
"I ain't even thinking about it. Right now, if they haven't contacted me, it's not even a thought in my mind right now. Because I haven't been contacted, head-coaching job don't even exist to me. I'm so focused on this.
"But, obviously, the right scenario comes up, Coach Riley and Spo have been so great, because if a scenario comes up that they really think that I should explore, they're very honest with me in telling me, 'Hey, you really got to look at this.' "
New Philly GM Sam Hinkie reportedly won't begin his search in earnest until after the 2013 NBA draft on June 27th and isn't likely to consider Karl for the position (per The Inquirer). Hinkie's familiarity with Hunt, from their days together in the Houston Rockets organization, could tip the scales in this case. But if Fizdale gets the nod after the NBA Finals...
And Hunt and Joerger are promoted by their respective bosses...
And the Clippers' coaching search really does come down to Brian Shaw and Byron Scott...
Then, well, we could see Lionel Hollins and George Karl—arguably the two most attractive free-agent coaching candidates around—either out of work or seeking something to do within the ranks of the media.
Just weeks after the former guided the Grizzlies to their first-ever Western Conference Finals, the latter was named Coach of the Year and both finished off the finest regular seasons their employers had yet seen.
Coaching carousel? More like a coaching Gravitron.