Ranking the NBA's Coaching Newcomers
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will enter the 2013 NBA draft Thursday night without a head coach.
At some point before the 2013-14 season begins, they will each be hiring a new coach to fill their vacancy.
In the meantime, 11 other head coaches around the NBA will use the offseason to acclimate themselves with their new surroundings. After a staggering amount of turnover, there expects to be at least 13 new head coach / team combinations in the league next year.
As the Celtics and Sixers continue their searches, 11 of those combinations have been officially identified.
This power ranking slots those newcomers in terms of coaching impact they project to have on their new teams next season.
No. 11: Steve Clifford, Charlotte Bobcats
The good news for Steve Clifford is that he won't have to win all that many games with the Charlotte Bobcats in order to demonstrate substantial improvement from a season ago.
The bad news for Clifford, though, is that his first NBA head coaching job is with a Charlotte organization that has been a perennial loser for the past decade.
With the overall talent expected to be at his disposal, Clifford could earn NBA Coach of the Year considerations in 2013-14 by winning 30 games.
That's because Charlotte only won 28 games over the last two seasons combined.
Prior to joining the Los Angeles Lakers as an assistant coach in 2012-13, Clifford was an assistant under Stan Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic. Before that, he was an assistant under Jeff Van Gundy with the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks.
No. 10: Michael Malone, Sacramento Kings
Michael Malone is an NBA coach I've always admired.
As the son of longtime coach Brendan Malone, he earned the head coaching opportunity he now has with the Sacramento Kings by making an impact throughout his career at every stop.
Like Steve Clifford in Charlotte, however, Malone will be charged with turning around a franchise that has struggled mightily in recent years. Despite a roster full of first-round selections, his biggest challenge with the Kings will be blending that individual talent into some sort of cohesive team.
If I didn't think that job would be so difficult, I'd rank Malone's impact next season higher on this list.
His experience alongside Mark Jackson with the Golden State Warriors, however, has certainly prepared Malone as much as possible for the task at hand in Sacramento.
Prior to coaching with Jackson, Malone was an assistant with the New Orleans Hornets. From 2005-10, he was also a prominent assistant on Mike Brown's Cleveland Cavaliers staff during the LeBron James era. Before that, Malone was an assistant with the New York Knicks.
No. 9: Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns
Jeff Hornacek was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 46th overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft.
Nearly 27 years later, the Suns selected Hornacek again—this time as their head coach.
While I'm not sure how long it will take him to turn things around in Phoenix, I expect Hornacek ultimately will build a winning program.
After an NBA career that spanned 15 seasons, he will command the respect of the Suns locker room upon his arrival. The time he spent from 1993 to 2000 under Jerry Sloan as a player for the Utah Jazz will have prepared him well for this opportunity.
Following his retirement as a player, Hornacek's coaching experience has included being a special assistant role in 2007-08 with the Jazz along with being a full-time assistant with Utah since 2011.
No. 8: Maurice Cheeks, Detroit Pistons
Maurice Cheeks has been selected as the man responsible for helping the Detroit Pistons restore a winning culture.
Since winning 59 games in 2007-08, the Pistons have finished each of the last five seasons under .500.
Building upon the foundation of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond inside, however, the opportunity for Detroit becoming a consistent winner under Cheeks may only be a couple seasons away.
After a 15-year playing career, Cheeks gained his first experience as a head coach with the Portland Trail Blazers from 2001-05.
Following his time in Portland, Cheeks coached the Philadelphia 76ers from '05-08 before becoming an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Heading into the 2013-14 campaign with Detroit, Cheeks has compiled a 284-286 overall record as a head coach.
No.7: Larry Drew, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Drew was the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks from 2010-13.
Prior to that, he had spent 18 years as an NBA assistant for the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, New Jersey Nets and the Hawks.
He led the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his three seasons as a head coach in Atlanta. Drew won 10 playoff games along the way, compiling a regular-season record of 128-102.
With a new regime led by general manager Danny Ferry taking over in Atlanta, however, the Hawks did not renew Drew's contract for 2013-14. He did not stay on the unemployment line long, however, being tabbed by the Milwaukee Bucks to fill the position previously held on a full-time basis by Scott Skiles.
Drew takes over a Bucks' roster that is currently in flux, and it will take time to see how it is eventually finalized. Monta Ellis has opted out of his deal to become a free agent, and nothing has been decided yet with restricted free agent Brandon Jennings.
No. 6: Dave Joerger, Memphis Grizzlies
According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN, the Memphis Grizzlies will hire assistant Dave Joerger as their next head coach.
As a member of Lionel Hollins' staff in Memphis, Joerger helped the Grizzlies advance to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. Assuming the core of the Grizzlies' team is held together, Joerger will be in a position to pick up right where Hollins left off.
Having Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph to work with, Joerger will coach one of the NBA's best frontcourt tadems in his first year as a head coach.
As long as he continues to put Gasol and Randolph in a position to be successful while embracing Memphis' defensive identity, Joerger will be off and running in his head coaching debut.
No. 5: Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
From 1996 to 2013, Mike Budenholzer has been an integral member of Gregg Popovich's championship-winning staff with the San Antonio Spurs.
He has also long been thought to be the next head coach in San Antonio whenever it is that Popovich eventually retires.
While there's still a chance he could be the head man for the Spurs, Budenholzer will coach the Atlanta Hawks in the meantime.
Hired by general manager Danny Ferry, who once played and coached with the Spurs, Budenholzer will take what he learned under Popovich and apply that to his new position in Atlanta.
With over a decade of winning experience on his resume, I expect his transition to be a seamless one for both Budenholzer and the Hawks.
No. 4: Brian Shaw, Denver Nuggets
Brian Shaw finally has his chance to coach an NBA team.
Long rumored as a finalist for many jobs around the league over the past several years, Shaw was recently made the successor to George Karl in Denver.
Whether he runs the triangle offense he learned as a player and assistant coach under Phil Jackson with the Lakers or the more traditional offense he helped employ with the Indiana Pacers remains to be seen.
What we do know about Shaw, however, is that he certainly has prepared himself for this opportunity.
After playing 14 seasons in the NBA, he has been an assistant since 2003 for the Lakers under Jackson as well as Mike Brown before coaching under Frank Vogel with the Pacers this past season.
The Nuggets team he will now take over will be a talented one, too. We could see Shaw deep in the playoffs during his first season as an NBA coach.
No. 3: Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets
Count me as a guy who believes that the "Jason Kidd Experiment" will be a massive success for the Brooklyn Nets.
As a point guard in its truest sense, Kidd embodied the ideal of being a coach on the floor throughout his career.
Before playing under quality NBA head coaches like Rick Carlisle and Mike Woodson, Kidd spent some of the best years of his career under Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank with the New Jersey Nets from 2001-08.
During the 2001-02 season, he finished second behind Tim Duncan in the MVP race. He was named to five of his 10 All-Star teams as a member of the Nets, along with leading New Jersey to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Returning now as a head coach after having won an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks under Carlisle in 2011, Kidd will help a Nets team which advanced to the postseason in 2013 take a step further next year.
Based on his accomplishments as a player, Kidd will command the respect of the Nets' locker room from Day 1. Being so closely removed from his playing days, he will also know how to communicate with the players he's now tasked with coaching.
Following Mark Jackson's lead with the Golden State Warriors, expect Kidd to be the next player-turned-coach who helps elevate a franchise in his first head coaching job without any previous coaching experience.
No. 2: Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers
Mike Brown is back for his second tour of duty with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After being unceremoniously discharged during the summer of 2010, Brown spent parts of two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12 and 2012-13.
He was fired just as the 2013 campaign began by the Lakers, but was quickly sought after to replace Byron Scott in Cleveland.
The reason he was sought after by the Cavaliers—as well as why he's ranked so highly on his list—is because Brown is a proven NBA coach that has done nothing but win when given an honest opportunity.
He returns to the Cavaliers with a regular-season coaching record of 314-167. In each of his six full seasons as an NBA head coach, Brown's teams have never posted a winning percentage lower than .549.
He has been to the postseason in each of those six years as well, winning the Eastern Conference championship in 2007.
Known for his work on the defensive end primarily, Brown will attempt to build a winner during the Kyrie Irving era in Cleveland, just like he once did during LeBron James' tenure there.
No. 1: Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Outside of Gregg Popovich, there isn't a coach in the NBA I'd rather have on my team's sideline than Doc Rivers.
Throughout his career as a coach, Rivers has compiled a regular-season record of 587-473 in addition to winning the 2008 NBA championship.
The upgrade made by the Los Angeles Clippers in acquiring Rivers to replace Vinny Del Negro is substantial.
Besides helping in the effort to re-sign Chris Paul, Rivers' signing adds a credibility to the Clippers' sidelines that hasn't been there in quite some time.
With Rivers in charge of a roster led by Paul and Blake Griffin, it's hard not to believe that the Clippers have a legitimate chance at an NBA championship—an argument that was difficult to make before his arrival.
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