Ranking NBA's Best Available Coaches for Hire
We're still early into the season, but a few seats around the league are already starting to heat up. For teams that are supposed to be competing right now and aren't, patience may no longer be a virtue.
Remember, just last season we saw Mike Brown get fired after five measly games. While every coach around the league has survived that benchmark, it might not be long before some changes are made.
While most of the focus seems to be in New York when it comes to potential coaching changes, teams like the Washington Wizards and Utah Jazz could be in line for big changes relatively soon as well.
For the sake of this exercise, we'll deal strictly with former NBA head coaches and leave out assistants or college candidates. Let's take a look at the best available coaches out on the market.
7) Jerry Sloan
Career Coaching Record: 26 years, 1221-803
Possible Landing Spots: Utah Jazz.
We may have already seen the last of Jerry Sloan in the NBA. Sloan's flex system is renowned around the league, but it's not something that players can pick up instantly and have success with.
It takes years and years of work in the flex to master its little nuances, and at age 71, Sloan may not have the patience to teach a team its concepts from the ground up.
While it seems likely that Sloan will stay in retirement, perhaps he'd come back to Utah if Tyrone Corbin was let go at some point this year. A good deal of Sloan's playbook remained in Utah after he left, so the learning curve for Utah's young players might not be too large.
Although this would be a hire for sentimental reasons more than anything else, bringing Sloan back to Utah would be a welcome move, at least in the eyes of many fans. Utah can probably use some of that good favor right now.
6) P.J. Carlesimo
Career Coaching Record: 9 years, 239-315
Possible Landing Spots: Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets.
P.J. Carlesimo was very impressive in his interim stint with the Brooklyn Nets, guiding the team to a 35-19 record after an early-season coaching change.
Carlesimo is incredibly well-respected around the league, and while he lacks the flash or big name of a few other candidates, he's shown very recently that he's able to take the helm and right the ship in a quick amount of time.
It doesn't hurt that Carlesimo feels like one of the more realistic candidates out there, as he doesn't require control in the front office or a big salary like other available coaches will.
If some of the top coaches stay away from the game, Carlesimo should be next in line. He has the experience required for a team in need of a quick fix.
5) Lionel Hollins
Career Coaching Record: 7 years, 214-201
Possible Landing Spots: Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets.
Lionel Hollins did a great job in Memphis of getting his players to buy into his system, but Hollins' aversion to advanced stats probably didn't win him much favor in front offices across the league.
While Hollins probably won't be getting any jobs for an up-and-coming or rebuilding team, he could take a team that's supposed to contend and get them on the right path.
There isn't a coach with more recent success than Hollins available on the market. Give him a team with proven talent and a front office who takes more of a hands-off approach, and Hollins could be a very good hire.
If he wants back into the NBA, Hollins shouldn't be hard up for opportunities. Keep an eye on some of the projected playoff teams in the Eastern Conference as landing spots.
4) Jeff Van Gundy
Career Coaching Record: 11 years, 430-318.
Possible Landing Spots: Brooklyn Nets.
Would Jeff Van Gundy dare go back to New York? It seems unlikely, as Van Gundy looks plenty comfortable with his television analyst role.
We can safely assume that it would take an awful lot of money to get JVG back into coaching, and even then, the lure of a big salary might not be enough.
That said, the Brooklyn Nets are a veteran-heavy team that could play Van Gundy's slow offensive style, and we all know that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov isn't afraid to spend the big bucks when he sees something he wants.
Van Gundy's return to coaching seems more and more unlikely as the years go by, but the chance to take over a team with championship caliber talent just might be enough to bring him back.
3) George Karl
Career Coaching Record: 25 years, 1131-756
Possible Landing Spots: Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks.
It's not very often you see the Coach of the Year handed a pink slip along with his award, but that's what happened to George Karl this offseason.
The Denver Nuggets moved on from Karl, but it doesn't seem like Karl is ready to move on from coaching. If an opportunity to reunite with Masai Ujiri in Toronto came about, maybe he'd help carry out Ujiri's vision for the roster going forward.
Really, this might be a race between struggling teams to see who can hire Karl first. The Washington Wizards moved all-in on this season by trading for Marcin Gortat, so perhaps patience is running thin for Randy Wittman in Washington after a lackluster start.
We know Karl likes his teams to play fast, and there aren't many guys faster than John Wall. This seems like a natural fit.
2) Stan Van Gundy
Career Coaching Record: 8 years, 371-208
Possible Landing Spots: New Orleans Pelicans.
Like his brother Jeff, Stan Van Gundy will likely require a huge salary to come back to coaching. He's worth it, though.
Stan Van Gundy is probably the league's best tactician, and his ability to mold a system to the talent on hand is unparalleled around the league. There are very few job situations where he doesn't make sense, but New Orleans has some very enticing personnel to play with.
Of course, that list starts with Anthony Davis. This could be Stan Van Gundy's best chance to coach another defensive anchor and build an entire team around a superstar. Ryan Anderson is familiar with Van Gundy from their Orlando days, and Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon could be maximized by the right coach.
Van Gundy has said he'd prefer to coach in a warm-weather city, and New Orleans qualifies. Whether the Pelicans will be bad enough to part with Monty Williams, who is a good defensive coach but limited offensively, might be the biggest impediment.
Whether it's New Orleans or elsewhere, Stan Van Gundy is right at the top of every available coaches list. He's tough on players and he's brutally honest in the media, but you'll be hard pressed to find a better in-game coach.
1) Phil Jackson
Career Coaching Record: 20 years, 1155-485
Possible Landing Spots: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets.
Is it a pipe dream? Of course. Phil Jackson has been chased by teams ever since he stepped away from the game following the 2010-11 season, and no one has been able to convince him to come back.
Would any openings this year change that?
It's incredibly doubtful, but perhaps the Knicks could convince Jackson to finish his career where his playing days started. Or maybe the Nets, backed with boatloads of cash, could make Jackson an offer he couldn't refuse.
Any team with a job opening has to do their due diligence and call Jackson, no matter how unlikely his return may seem. He's the top coach available, even if he's probably not actually available. If he's healthy enough to make a full commitment, Jackson could certainly save a team lucky enough to land him.
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