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Golden State Warriors: 10 Possible Coaching Candidates to Replace Keith Smart

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 29, 2011

Golden State Warriors: 10 Possible Coaching Candidates to Replace Keith Smart

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Keith Smart's tenure in Oakland has run its course.

    For better or for worse, the Golden State Warriors opted to forgo bringing back Smart, who both frustrated (with inconsistent rotations) and impressed (improved the club's record by 10 wins) in his one year at the helm.

    Whether or not Smart ever had a fair shot in Oakland is entirely debatable. He did not do anything so egregious that the Warriors had to let him go, but he also did not do anything to force the Warriors to keep him on board.

    He was, just like his players, decent.

    But decent (combined with ties to the previous regime) will not cut it under new owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

    Much in line with the hiring of Bob Myers (the Assistant General Manager), this gives Lacob another chance to move the franchise further from the Chris Cohan era and put his fingerprints all over his franchise.

    There are coaches on this list who can win now or who can build teams for the future. Naturally, Lacob should be looking for a coach capable of making a postseason run while keeping an eye on the future.

    Sounds easy enough, right?

    Luckily for Lacob, this year's coaching class gives him plenty of options to get his first major decision in Oakland right.

10. Jerry Sloan

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Hold on, Warriors fans.

    Before you're asking why a Hall of Fame coach brings up the rear of the list, allow me to explain.

    Sloan is a great coach, there's no denying that.

    But, first of all, they might have a better chance of snagging Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in next season's free agent haul than bringing Sloan aboard to coach the Warriors.

    His frustrations with Deron Williams and the player of today's NBA in general forced him to step aside from his perch as the longest tenured coach in American major league sports.

    Imagine Sloan's reaction to breakaway three-pointers, uncontested jumpers and getting killed on the glass every night. He'd be minutes away from an aneurysm or a heart attack in the opening minutes of game one.

    Sloan was reportedly fed up with Al Jefferson's effort, how do you think he'd enjoy Andris Biedrins?

    A terrible fit (in my opinion), not a long-term solution and a considerable investment required all point to Sloan not being the right guy.

    Why put him on the list, then? Well, because there's already a big enough clamoring for his services for Warriors faithful that his name has to appear somewhere.

9. Mario Elie

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    Image reproduced courtesy of sacbee.com.
    Image reproduced courtesy of sacbee.com.

    Somewhere, someone is envisioning the glorious return of Elie riding back into the Bay Area sunset following a one-year stint as a player (1991-92) and a two-year stint as an assistant coach (2004-06) with the Warriors.

    A productive NBA career (just under nine points a game for his career, three NBA championships) and, most recently, a two-year stint under no-nonsense coach Paul Westphal in Sacramento, Elie nears the top of the list of assistant coaches ready to grab the reins this summer.

    Elie's five-year journey to the NBA as a player (which included stops in Portugal, Argentina and Ireland, among other places) showcases the tremendous passion that he has for the game of basketball.

    And the Warriors seem open to the idea of trying out an assistant with no head coaching experience if they feel that he could be the long-term answer on their sideline.

    Still, with a home in Houston and two NBA championships won there, the Rockets seem like a more logical fit for the up-and-comer.

8. Tim Grgurich

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    Image reproduced courtesy of newshopper.com.
    Image reproduced courtesy of newshopper.com.

    The individual workout whiz currently on George Karl's staff in Denver, Grgurich could be the guy in Oakland for his incredible ability to develop talent.

    His coaching experience dates back over 30 years and has included time spent under coaching icons Karl and Jerry Tarkanian.

    But it's his summer camps that have really honed his reputation across the NBA as he's credited in aiding the development of yesterday's stars like Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.

    More recently, he's helped Nene emerge as one of the NBA's premiere big men and Kenyon Martin bounce back to being a productive starter.

    His player development skills could work wonders with the Warriors talented, but for the most part inexperienced, roster.

    Still, his longtime career as assistant makes you wonder how he'd perform if given the chance to be the head coach.

7. Mike Fratello

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 16:  Head coach Mike Fratello of the Memphis Grizzlies calls out plays to his team in the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 16, 2006 in Miami, Florida. The Heat defeated the Grizzlies 98-90. NOTE TO
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    The head coach of the Ukrainian national team, Fratello has enjoyed his share of success in the NBA.

    Between stops in Atlanta, Memphis and Cleveland, Fratello amassed a coaching record of 667-552 with 11 postseason trips in 16 seasons at the helm.

    With time as an assistant under basketball icons Rollie Massimino and Hubie Brown, Fratello has enjoyed success wherever he's been.

    "The Czar," as Marv Albert dubbed him, shows a great knowledge of the game with his work as a color commentator.

    He has an uncanny ability to diagram plays and could bring a more structured environment than the Warriors have seen in some time.

    He's not the sexiest name available, but he has the ability to turn the franchise around.

6. Rick Adelman

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Rick Adelman of the Houston Rockets signals a play in the first half against the Boston Celtics on January 10, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Rick Adelman discussion, if it takes place as it should, could be the most interesting one of the bunch for Lacob, Larry Riley and Co.

    It's hard to think of a coach in recent years who gets more out of what he's given. He's displayed the ability to adapt to his roster, not seek system players as most coaches have the tendency to do.

    His longtime coaching career spans across four decades and four NBA teams, including a two-year stop as Warriors head coach.

    His numbers were underwhelming in the Bay (86-98), but he's found success everywhere else (Portland, Sacramento and, most recently, Houston).

    Despite missing the playoffs the last two seasons, he guided those teams to back-to-back plus-.500 seasons, despite not having his franchise player, Yao Ming, for nearly two seasons.

    His high-octane offense would work well with the Warriors roster and he does preach playing on both ends of the floor, but his desire to get right back in to coaching remains a question.

    Also, at 64 years old, he's not exactly the long-term solution that Lacob is reportedly looking for.

    But if the Warriors want to win now, he's certainly qualified to help them do just that.

5. Mike Brown

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Reportedly a member of the Warriors short list, Brown certainly has the name appeal that would cause the splash that we all know Lacob wants to make.

    And on the surface, he seems like a great fit.

    He preaches defense, but does not mind opening up the offense with the right roster.

    He's got the same video coordinator to coach story as Miami's Erik Spoelstra (although he did not make the climb with the same franchise) and served as assistant under Gregg Popovich and Rick Carlisle.

    With Cleveland, Brown had the blessing and the curse of coaching LeBron James. His teams certainly had talent, but it was championship or bust for his squad and after five seasons with no championship, his time in Cleveland was up.

    Brown will presumably be highly sought after (the Rockets are also interested) and will command plenty of monetary respect.

    But should the Warriors choose to address their defensive deficiencies in the draft and free agent market, Brown could quickly help change the organization's culture.

4. Lawrence Frank

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    ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 01:  Head coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank of the Boston Celtics against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on April 1, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloa
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    After Tom Thibodeau left his assistant position to take over the Chicago Bulls last season, the Celtics brought in Frank to serve as Doc Rivers' first assistant.

    Frank served at the helm of the Nets for five full seasons (and parts of two others) and led the team to four consecutive playoff appearances.

    He has experience running high-powered offenses and this could be a chance for Lacob to bring in a Boston guy (in case he hasn't mentioned it in the last 30 minutes, Lacob used to be a minority owner).

    He should have the respect from his name to command the respect of this young locker room.

    At the end of the day, how the locker room responds to this new coach is going to have a much bigger impact than who exactly the coach is.

    If the Warriors players give Frank half the respect that he gets around the league, he should at least have the opportunity for success.

3. Jeff Van Gundy

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    CHICAGO - MARCH 1:  Head coach Jeff Van Gundy of the Houston Rockets yells during a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 1, 2005 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Rockets defeated the Bulls 119-89. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Jeff Van Gundy has accomplished plenty during his coaching career.

    With the assistance of Alonzo Mourning's leg, he mopped the floor of the (now) American Airlines Arena during the 1998 playoffs.

    In 2001, he received the brunt of a retaliation punch from one of his own players (Marcus Camby).

    Oh, and he also won nearly 450 games (430-318) over 11 seasons split between New York (1995-2002) and Houston (2003-2007).

    His teams reached the postseason in nine of his 11 seasons and, in 1998-99, he led the Knicks to the NBA Finals where they fell to the Spurs in five games.

    His coaching style developed under such coaching legends as Rick Pitino, Pat Riley and Don Nelson.

    While Van Gundy has enjoyed a successful career as a broadcaster, he has expressed a desire to return to the coaching ranks at some point.

    His name and coaching record will command top dollar, and he has ties in other places who are either in need of a coach (Houston) or could be sooner than later (New York).

    Still, money is not likely to be an issue for Lacob (provided that $450 million price tag for the Warriors did not leave the cupboards bare) and a hiring of this caliber could be the splash that Lacob desires.

2. Mike Budenholzer

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    10 Nov 2000:  Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Asst. Coach Mike Budenholzer on the sidelines during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, TX. The Mavericks defeated the Spurs 79-77.  NOTE TO USE
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    With a tenure in San Antonio that can only be measured in Popovich years, Budenholzer might be the most sought after assistant coach in the NBA.

    Assistants turned head coach can be quite a guessing game since most lack any sort of proven track record. But with the resume he possesses, Budenholzer is far from your average assistant.

    Another video coordinator turned assistant, Budenholzer has served under Popovich since 1994-95 and has spent the last four years as his first assistant.

    He has a firsthand knowledge of what it takes to build a dynasty. During his tenure, the Spurs have had fewer seasons with a winning percentage under .650 (three) than NBA championships (four).

    While it's hard to find two organizations farther apart on the NBA spectrum, the Warriors have shown a tendency to mirror one Spurs' staple: finding players who fit their system.

    The Warriors saw marginal success finding the right complements to carry out Don Nelson's high-octane offensive schemes.

    Now imagine them seeking out players to thrive in a system that actually emphasizes both ends of the floor.

1. Mark Jackson

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    Jordan Strauss/Getty Images

    "Mama, there goes that man." And if I'm Lacob, I'm hoping that man goes all the way to Oakland.

    With Hall of Fame coaches and thousands of coaching victories represented on this list, how exactly does the inexperienced Jackson top this list?

    There are a few reasons, actually.

    For starters, the 46-year-old could become that long-term fixture on the Warriors sideline that Lacob is seeking. And for a franchise that has seen seven coaches since 2000, a little stability would be a welcome change.

    A 17-year NBA veteran, Jackson brought a cerebral approach with some swagger to the point guard position.

    With a successful broadcasting career following his playing days, Jackson's intricate knowledge of the sport should excite any fan base should a team reel him in.

    An in-your-face leader who understands today's NBA player (he was, after all, playing with these guys less than a decade ago), Jackson could work wonders with this young, talented roster that the Warriors have accumulated.

    The hiring of player agent Myers as a general manager in waiting shows that Lacob is willing to take a chance on unproven talent if he feels the talent level warrants it.

    It's a go-big-or-go-home move for Lacob that would certainly make a splash.

    Go ahead, try to convince yourself you would not be excited with the Warriors breaking their huddles with "hand down, man down!"

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