Best Options for Next Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach
Fortunately, the NBA's schedule gives the Sixers no reason to rush to get a guy at the end of the bench. Hiring someone now would probably silence a few critics, but with training camp typically beginning in late September/early October, actual coaching isn't yet a concern.
In the absence of competition for the remaining head coach candidates, due diligence is the only priority for the new 76ers management team. Josh Harris and Sam Hinkie can only bid against themselves at this point, so being patient and waiting to get their guy is the name of the game.
"Their guy" is going to have some unique requirements compared to many coaches around the league. Development of young players such as Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel will take precedence over winning games, which might be a tough pill to swallow for assistants looking for their big break.
So who appears up for such a challenge?
The Incumbent: Michael Curry
Michael Curry, formerly the assistant coach under Doug Collins, seems like a logical place to start. Curry is the man largely responsible for the Sixers defense over the past few seasons.
The Sixers ranked seventh, third and 15th, respectively, in defensive rating during his three seasons, encouraging rankings for teams without much stopping talent to speak of outside of Andre Iguodala.
The top-three ranking was impressive, but last year's middle-of-the-road showing might be the most impressive of all. After losing one of the NBA's elite defenders in Iguodala, Curry was still able to guide the team to a respectable ranking despite relying on players like the Charmin-soft Spencer Hawes.
Curry is still young at 44 and received multiple endorsements from current and former Sixers on his knack for getting through to his players:
"I've known him for the last three years," Holiday said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "He's somebody I trust, and somebody I'd love as a head coach."
"I think he was the glue to our team last year," Holiday said of Curry. "Obviously we were defensive-based, which is big for us. That was our calling card, and Mike was responsible for that."
"He was great because he was calm in certain situations, and that helps," Turner said. "He never really panicked. That's something that players need."
Curry struggled at his last head coaching stop with the Detroit Pistons, where he lasted just one season, but that's not necessarily an indication of the job he would do in Philadelphia. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, he's one of the organization's top choices.
Curry would be a solid hire, but moving on from the Collins era is probably going to require moving on from one of his most trusted assistants.
The Favorite: Brett Brown
Brown has a lengthy coaching history that dates back to the late '80s on the shores of Australia. Brown worked his way up from assistant of the NBL's Melbourne Tigers to head coach of the Australian national basketball team, a post he still holds today.
More relevant to the Sixers is his background in personnel. Brown served as the director of player development for San Antonio from 2002-2007 before moving to the bench as an assistant coach.
While it may be a coincidence, Brown arrived right around the same time as international imports Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. How much of an impact he made on their careers can't be measured, but their ascension during his tenure seems like a checkmark in his favor.
His progression through the ranks in both Australia and America does not appear to be an accident. Brown has shown flashes of his basketball knowledge and willingness to adapt to the modern game in interactions with players.
In this video where Brown details a defensive drill, he emphasizes the value of the corner three: "The corner three in the NBA is the third-highest-percentage shot behind a free throw and a layup... A shot that we don’t give up."
It's not exactly rocket science, but it's the type of thinking that meshes well with numbers-obsessed guys like Hinkie.
The Hometown Hero: Ed Pinckney
Philadelphia sports fans are familiar with the name Ed Pinckney, but it was his playing—not coaching—that etched his name into Philly basketball lore.
Pinckney was the Most Outstanding Player on the 1985 Villanova men's basketball team that remains the lowest seed to ever win the NCAA tournament title. Having a coach who understands what it's like to be the underdog might be valuable as the Sixers undertake a rebuild.
Serving under defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau garnered attention for the 50-year-old, as the Sixers aren't the only analytics-based team that took an interest in Pinckney this offseason. Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago reported that Pinckney was a candidate for the Memphis coaching job that was eventually filled by Dave Joerger.
His resume isn't as robust as some of the other candidates, but if Hinkie and Harris want to pull on some heartstrings, the man known as "Easy Ed" would appear to be a solid choice.
The Local Product: Chris Finch
The Sixers might want to make sure he pops up again.
Finch is a former Division III All-American at Franklin and Marshall College who has played and coached overseas, mainly in England. From 1997-2009, Finch amassed a nice collection of accomplishments that includes the following:
- Three British Basketball League (BBL) Titles
- Three BBL Coach of The Year awards
- Made playoffs 11 out of 12 years
- Led Euphony Bree to first ever Belgian Basketball League title in 2005
Finch continued this success as the head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Developmental League, where he guided the team to two straight finals, winning one.
Even before he was hired by the Rockets, people like Yahoo! Insider Adrian Wojnarowski claimed the organization was, "enamored with Rio Grande’s Chris Finch, and some see him as a future head coach in the NBA." Following one of his former bosses to Philadelphia would appear to be a natural step.
The most appealing trait Finch would bring (other than his winning background) for the fans is his offensive philosophy. After years of watching Doug Collins' stagnant, uninspired sets, Finch's stated philosophy would take the team lightyears into the future:
JCF: I know you believe in freedom on offense and virtually no freedom on defense. What do you want to define this team offensively?
CF: I want us to always be on the attack. I want us to look and feel like a herd of horses coming down the floor every single time. I want us to really, first and foremost, put the defense under pressure every way possible and I want to see us share the ball. We want to run and keep the tempo high, but to do that we have to value the right shots and we have to do it unselfishly.
Letting supreme athletes like Carter-Williams and Noel get out and run seems like a visually and strategically sound brand of basketball.
The Young Guy: David Vanterpool
At the ripe old age of 40, David Vanterpool is barely older than some of the veteran players he'd be up against night in and night out.
But on a team filled with young players, a relatable voice might be just what the doctor ordered.
Vanterpool is currently an assistant for the Portland Trailblazers, where he has garnered attention for his strong relationship with reigning Rookie of The Year Damian Lillard.
"I've been working with coach David a lot," Lillard said. "Even when I first got here we got up every morning to work out before the team workouts and all the lifting. I think we're building a relationship. I ride with him to the track to do conditioning. We talk there and back... Me and David, we really hit it off when I first got here... We've been working on a lot of pick-and-rolls, in-between stuff, floaters, pull-up jumpers, keeping it simple."
"They say players like coaches who sweat with them," Lillard said. "Every morning, he's out there sweating with me. Working hard with me. He's kind of a younger guy, he knows how we are. He knows how it is, what we like to do, what we're interested in. To have someone like that who is around, a coach, who isn't afraid to get on you, to tell you what you need to hear, instead of what you want to hear, it's always a good thing."
This willingness to put in the work with his players would be big in Philadelphia, where the Sixers have an incoming point guard of their own who could use a guiding hand to get his career going.
Also of note is Vanterpool's stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he served as head scout for two years. According to reports in 2012, Vanterpool was considered for the assistant GM position on the Thunder, an indication that his eye for talent was valued by an organization with a strong personnel reputation.
Vanterpool was reportedly interviewed by the Sixers on Monday.