Best Potential Options to Replace Mark Jackson as Golden State Warriors Coach
The writing moved from off the wall onto the NBA's official transaction log. After three seasons at the helm, Mark Jackson was fired by the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, sources told Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
The team confirmed the move and issued a release on the decision.
"Mark Jackson has had a big impact on the improvement of our team and the success that we’ve had over the last couple of years," owner and CEO Joe Lacob said, per the release. "Nonetheless, we must make some difficult decisions in our day-to-day operations of the club and this would certainly qualify as one of those examples."
Clashes with the front office and turmoil among his staff (assistant Brian Scalabrine was reassigned to Golden State's D-League affiliate in March, assistant Darren Erman was fired less than two weeks later) reportedly factored into the decision. "Jackson's disinterest in game preparation and reluctance to practice...played a part in management's reluctance to commit long term to him," sources told Wojnarowski.
Jackson brought the Warriors success they hadn't seen in a long time (back-to-back playoff trips for the first time since the early 1990s), but it wasn't the type of success this front office has envisioned. Armed with sharpshooters (Curry, Klay Thompson), defensive stoppers (Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala) and talent young and old (Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and David Lee), the franchise has been having some optimistic championship dreams.
So, which coach would give the Dubs their best chance to clear that next hurdle?
Stan Van Gundy appeared to be the Warriors top target, but Van Gundy reportedly wanted full control over basketball decisions, and the Warriors balked, according to the San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami. What's left are unproven commodities (Steve Kerr, Fred Hoiberg) and proven ones (Lionel Hollins) on the market, and even a notable name that's not officially available (Tom Thibodeau).
Having an offensive slant helps, as the firepower is in place to show far better at that end than it did this season. NBA experience would be a plus, but it's not a necessity.
Golden State can (and should) aim high, as it took quite a risk in moving on from Jackson. A top-shelf hire might help pacify an anxious fanbase, and each name on this list has a certain buzz to it.
After moving swiftly on Jackson's departure, the Warriors might be inclined to identify a replacement quickly. They have to show Jackson's loyal troops that another general exists who's better suited for the job.
It's hard to say just how short (or long) Golden State's short list is, but these names must be considered to fill the now-vacated coaching seat.
Mike D'Antoni, Former Los Angeles Lakers Coach
When is one team's trash another team's treasure? Well, it usually isn't a bad idea to sift through the Los Angeles Lakers' garbage bins.
More than that, though, it's important to realize just what exactly led to that person being deposed. In D'Antoni's case, he never had the talent in L.A. needed to fully implement his proven methods.
He wouldn't have that right away with the Warriors, but there's a potential outlet to put those pieces in place. If D'Antoni comes in, then David Lee goes out. If Lee goes out in favor of a perimeter-savvy stretch 4 (Kevin Love perhaps?), then the Warriors could go a long way toward giving D'Antoni the tools needed for success.
In Stephen Curry, the coach would have the closest clone to the peak-level Steve Nash in today's NBA. The Warriors have hordes of willing passers, floor-spacers on the perimeter and enough defensive-stoppers to close the coach's sieves.
It takes a load of scoring talent to survive with D'Antoni's system, but the Warriors just might have it. He seems to think so, at least. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, D'Antoni has interest in the job.
It's hard to say if that interest is mutual, but not tough to see how D'Antoni could blend his skill with the talent on hand.
Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State Cyclones Coach
There may not be a more buzz-worthy name in the college ranks than Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg. (Although, someone else on this list might disagree).
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News had reported the Warriors might have interest in Hoiberg long before there was a job available to give him. The 41-year-old recently received a raise from his alma mater and has long referred to his current gig as a dream job.
Still, his loyalty to his school will be tested by Warriors officials. His Cyclones averaged the sixth-most points in Division I this season (82.9), flashing a high-powered attack built around dribble penetration, perimeter shots and versatile bigs.
The Warriors have the middle part covered, and their post players have the passing skills to remain impactful away from the basket. Solving that first part of the equation may be a bit tricky, though, unless Hoiberg can get Andre Iguodala to keep his foot on the gas pedal and Klay Thompson to keep himself engaged on rough shooting nights.
Hoiberg looks like a long shot, but that's a chance the Warriors have to take. With NBA experience both as a player and a front-office executive, perhaps a leap to the big leagues would be a challenge the former sharpshooter would embrace.
Lionel Hollins, Former Memphis Grizzlies Coach
Lionel Hollins' NBA coaching story reads a lot like Mark Jackson's.
Hollins brought a level of success to the Memphis Grizzlies the franchise had never seen before.
During his last season at the helm, 2012-13, the Grizzlies won a franchise-record 56 games and made their first-ever appearance in the conference finals. Memphis' first playoff series win also came under Hollins' watch during the 2010-11 campaign.
Philosophical disagreements with the front office ultimately led to his demise. He couldn't see eye to eye with the analytically inclined regime, and the relationship all but dissolved when the Grizzlies sent veteran swingman Rudy Gay out in a midseason trade.
Maybe that's a little too much bad blood for the Warriors to risk getting on their hands. Or maybe there's the potential for both parties to find the right fit in one another.
According to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, Hollins is "likely to get a call" from the Warriors.
He demands high effort on the defensive end, which shouldn't be an issue with this current group. The high-low post offense he employed with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol could translate well with David Lee and Andrew Bogut.
Hollins might have lost the backing of his front office, but he usually related well to his players. That will be an invaluable trait for Jackson's replacement.
Kevin Ollie, UConn Huskies Coach
Fred Hoiberg's name might be buzzing, but it doesn't have a national championship behind it like UConn head coach Kevin Ollie's does.
Ollie recently began talks on a contract extension with the school, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, but he hadn't "ruled out listening to NBA overtures."
"He'll listen, but he's real committed to his alma mater," a source told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
He won 20 games during his debut season at UConn, but he inherited a postseason ban. His first taste of the NCAA tournament proved worth the wait as he guided his seventh-seeded Huskies to a national title win over Kentucky.
He grew up in California, played high school ball at Crenshaw and, not surprisingly, has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers' coaching vacancy. He played 13 seasons in the NBA and reportedly left an indelible mark on Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.
Durant is slated to become a free agent in 2016, which coincidentally is the soonest the Warriors are likely to have any financial flexibility. Given what Ollie just accomplished with scoring guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, perhaps the coach would have a powerful recruiting tool after spending two seasons with Golden State's potent backcourt combo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Whether he's interested, the NBA is going to come hard after Ollie. With this type of talent already in place, Golden State may be able to come harder than you'd expect.
Steve Kerr, TNT Analyst
I know what you're thinking: Isn't player-turned-executive-turned-broadcaster Steve Kerr going to team up with Phil Jackson and coach the New York Knicks?
There's a very real possibility that's what will end up happening with the former gunslinger. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported the Warriors do have interest in Kerr, but the scribe added it's "tough to picture Kerr turning Phil Jackson down now, as far as Kerr's dalliance with the Knicks has gone."
Golden State can't give Kerr the Zen Master, but it may be able to scratch some other itches for the former Phoenix Suns general manager.
For one, the Warriors (51-31) can offer a more talented roster than Jackson's Knicks (37-45). Golden State can also give him some familiarity not unlike what he'd experience with Jackson.
"Kerr is said to have close ties to Golden State owner Joe Lacob and his son Kirk, the team's assistant general manager," Zach Braziller of the New York Post reported. "...Kerr also worked closely with Golden State president Rick Welts when they were both in Phoenix."
Kerr's family also lives in San Diego, so finding a West Coast employer could be an added benefit for the current analyst. If the Warriors express interest, Kerr "may listen" to their pitch, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported.
While Golden State would have some chemistry concerns inside its locker room with any new coach, Kerr could find a cohesion with the front office that always eluded Jackson. If the executive staff embraced him, perhaps his players would follow suit.
There is one hangup to the potential hire, though, outside of his ties to New York. A source "cautioned that the Warriors might not want to hire back-to-back coaches with no experience on the sidelines," Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported.
That gamble appeared to pay off with Mark Jackson, but then again he's now on the outside looking in.
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls Coach
There are hoops to jump through with any of these coaching candidates, but it's more like a maze when it comes to current Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibs still has three years left on his current contract with the Bulls. While the Los Angeles Lakers reportedly plan to seek permission to negotiate with him, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, L.A. also has a potential sweetener if needed to pry him out of the Windy City in the form of its upcoming lottery pick.
The Warriors have no such boosts to offer the Bulls. Golden State has already traded away two of its next four first-round picks and each of its next five second-round selections.
Still, Thibodeau's name is one of the few that San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami has heard on a "probable Warriors short-list."
Given his pedigree, it isn't hard to see why the Warriors would be interested.
Thibodeau does more with less than perhaps any other coach in the league. He hasn't had a healthy Derrick Rose since 2012 and still managed to guide the team to 93 regular-season wins and one playoff series victory over the past two seasons.
Conversely, many saw Mark Jackson as doing less with more. Despite the back-to-back playoff trips, many felt the talent was in place to make longer postseason runs.
Like Jackson, Thibodeau has his own rocky relationship with his front office. The execs are weary of his heavy-handed minutes allotments, via ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell, while the coach feels they're justified based on the success the undermanned team has enjoyed.
It's hard to say if this relationship has reached a breaking point, harder still to see if the Warriors would be the beneficiaries if it has. Still, it's awfully tempting to picture Thibodeau furthering the defensive gains made by Jackson, while calling for the type of ball movement Jackson seemed to kill with his isolation looks.