Goodbye, Lionel Hollins. And Tom Thibodeau. And Steve Kerr. And everyone else.
Hello, Stan Van Gundy.
In the one week since the Golden State Warriors fired head coach Mark Jackson, their search for a replacement has taken a variety of twists, turns and loop de loops. Now, said coaching junket is throwing another curveball, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix:
Talks intensifying between Warriors and Stan Van Gundy, per sources. Van Gundy now Golden State's clear top choice. Moving towards a deal.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 13, 2014
The Warriors had shown interest in Van Gundy previously, but they were also said to be considering a number of other options, per Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears:
The Warriors have contacted former NBA head coach Stan Van Gundy about their head coach opening, a source told Yahoo. No interview set yet.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 8, 2014
NBA source says Warriors are expected to consider as many as eight candidates. Lionel Hollins, Mike D'Antoni, George Karl & Steve Kerr among— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) May 8, 2014
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News went as far as saying the Warriors job was Kerr's if he wanted it. Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle had them asking the Chicago Bulls for permission to speak with Thibodeau. Everyone under the sun seemed to be in play.
But now the dust is starting to settle. Golden State has a new favorite, a likely successor who Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley believes makes too much sense:
They can't overthink this, though. Not with someone of Van Gundy's ilk potentially waiting on their call.
Kerr could help guide the Warriors far away from this Jackson fiasco. Van Gundy could lead them down the path that really matters.
If the Warriors want the recognition of a true title contender, they have to make the hire that gives them the best chance to reach that status. They have to choose the right kind of different.
Although he hasn't coached in the last two years, Van Gundy remains one of the most respected, outside-the-box sideline honchos associated with the NBA.
In the seven full seasons he's spent as a head coach—split between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat—not one of his teams has finished with a sub-.500 record. Miami even hovered above .500 (11-10) during his one partial season (2005-06) at the helm.
The always colorful Van Gundy is also known for coaching defense and having his teams prepared. He's not afraid of standing up to superstar egos (see Howard), and his offensive systems are more inventive than, say, Jackson's uninspired sets.
Unlike some of the other candidates, he's readily available, too.
Which coach is the best fit for Golden State?
Kerr has been tethered to the New York Knicks' future long before former head coach Mike Woodson was even fired. Despite widespread interest in Thibodeau, he's still employed. People seem to be forgetting that. Chasing a guy like Hollins—an oft-stubborn disciplinarian not known for his offensive savvy—would basically be a lateral move.
Van Gundy is a step forward.
More importantly, as someone who has coached into the postseason seven times, the Eastern Conference Finals three times and the NBA Finals once, Van Gundy can help advance Golden State's newfangled winning culture.
"I miss the challenge," Van Gundy said of coaching on 740 AM’s Open Mike show (via the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins). "I miss the camaraderie of it. But I also like the time that I’ve had, so we’ll just have to see what happens."
Looks like Van Gundy is gearing up for a highly anticipated, long-overdue return to the sidelines. That is what's happening.