Although the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs has yet to conclude, that hasn't stopped teams on the outside looking in from pursuing how they'll fill their head coaching vacancies. Rumors are even swirling as to the future of one coach who's still in the postseason.
Replacing a coach is a lot easier than replacing the players, so hiring a new head coach is often looked as the way to spark what has been a stagnant and/or underperforming franchise.
Over the coming days and weeks, the respective futures of these three men will be hotly discussed.
What has seemed a certainty may become a reality very soon.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that the New York Knicks hope to have Steve Kerr hired as head coach by the time the first round of the NBA playoffs are over:
Sources told ESPN.com on Tuesday that the intention of new Knicks president Phil Jackson is to secure Kerr as his first coaching hire by early May, which would theoretically soften the blow for the announcer's current employer to withstand losing its No. 1 analyst in the midst of the playoffs.
It remains to be seen whether Kerr is willing to make the jump so quickly.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger, however, reported that Kerr may want to take a little more time:
Steve Kerr is talking with the Knicks about becoming their coach, but league source says their timetable and his differ.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) April 29, 2014
Kerr's timing is complicated by TNT duties, and source says he and Phil Jackson still have "lots to explore organizationally" about the job.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) April 29, 2014
You can understand why the Knicks would want to move fast. With the rest of the league aware that the five-time champion is willing to take a head coaching role, Kerr will likely have no shortage of possible offers. Plus, the rebuilding of the Knicks is a massive undertaking, so getting a head coach in now would help get that rebuild off soon as possible.
Kerr to New York seems to be a done deal. The devil will be in the details.
No matter what the Houston Rockets do this postseason, Kevin McHale's job appears to be safe, per Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:
The Houston Rockets have yet to pick up their option on the fourth year of Kevin McHale's contract, but sources close to the situation said this week that support for the coach remains strong within the organization and among key players despite the team's struggles thus far in the playoffs.
Although there is no guarantee he would survive a first-round exit -- particularly a sweep -- sources told ESPN.com that the prevailing feeling in team circles is that McHale "deserves more than one season with this group." McHale has strong support from high-profile Rockets such as (Dwight) Howard and forward Chandler Parsons, sources said, and it's believed general manager Daryl Morey and his front office also prefer to see this group -- which is the youngest team in the postseason with an average age of 25.7 -- grow together.
Sources say McHale likewise is regarded as a favorite of Rockets owner Les Alexander.
Keeping McHale would seem like the smarter decision. As much as signing Dwight Howard raised expectations in Houston, the Rockets' success this year was far from guaranteed. The third-year coach had to figure a way to integrate Howard into the offense while simultaneously keeping James Harden and Omer Asik happy.
A 54-28 regular season in the stacked Western Conference is a pretty good return for this year. And getting bounced by the Portland Trail Blazers wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, even if it came in five games.
All in all, McHale's arguably earned at least another season in Houston.
The Utah Jazz are in a good position when it comes to picking a head coach. They're clearly in the midst of a massive rebuild, so they can afford to take a chance on a more unknown name among the coaching ranks.
That unknown name may be Ettore Messina. Stein reported that the Jazz are considering the 54-year-old Italian:
That's because the Utah Jazz, I'm told, are on that very short list of teams that will give bona fide consideration to breaking basketball's Euro barrier on the X's and O's side by hiring a new head coach who wasn't reared in North America.
NBA coaching sources say that the Jazz will take a legit look at Italian legend Ettore Messina now that they're on the hunt for a replacement for Ty Corbin, who was informed Monday after three-plus seasons as Jerry Sloan's successor that he would not be offered a new contract.
Messina has had a lot of success in Italy, Spain and Russia in the past. He's become one of the most revered coaches in Europe and a favorite to become the first European to take over a head coaching job in the NBA.
Travis Hansen, who played under Messina at Real Madrid, gave Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune an idea of what the coach brings to the table:
You hated to play against him. You absolutely hated it because most likely you’d lose. He’s demanding like a [Mike Krzyzewski] or Jerry Sloan style. The guy wins a lot of games. The way his teams play, they play inside-out. They’re extremely physical. They play very, very hard. He’s well known for motivating players, getting them to play beyond their potential.
It's interesting that Hansen made the comparison to Sloan, because he's the most successful head coach in franchise history, and the Jazz made a mistake by essentially forcing him out the door.
Messina may be the exact kind of guy who can shake Utah out of its funk and get the best out of what is still a young, emerging roster.