With the offseason in full swing for 26 of the NBA’s teams, the search to fill coaching vacancies is heating up.
Every year, a few interesting—and on the flip side—disappointing names are mentioned every coaching cycle. Hiring practices that people experience in daily life mirror themselves every offseason in the NBA.
Today, I’m analyzing a few of the candidates across the league and why teams may be hesitant to bring in new, unproven talent at the NBA head coaching level, along with several reasons they should take a flyer on a new name.
The Devil You Know
A factor of NBA hiring, also a factor in any recruitment hunt, is how experience in the current role can sometimes trump a qualified applicant looking to prove themselves.
As a fan who loves change, the movement by mediocre coaches to head coaching spots across the league can be disheartening. However, from the ownership perspective bringing in a name with NBA experience in the head coaching spot allows the brass to give an underperforming roster a new look before risking a rebuild.
For example, all four of the remaining coaches in the playoffs (Ty Lue, Mike Budenholzer, Nate McMillan (interim HC), and Monty Williams) have proven track records leading a team and have their new squads on the cusp of glory in this current postseason.
However, picking a coach for the pedigree can backfire.
Boston Celtics NBA Finals winning coach Doc Rivers in 2013 was traded from Boston to the LA Clippers for a first-round pick. After his time in LA came to a close, Doc advanced his way to becoming the Sixers coach.
Even though injuries hampered his success in a few playoff series, we’ve seen a few of his playoff losses include a lack of adjustments expected from a title-winning coach.
I’m not giving league management excuses for recycling talent, but I can understand how the threat of a full-rebuild is bad for business. Hiring a familiar name signals to fans their team is moving in the right direction.
Some of the big names that fit this description in the coaching pool and are either rumored to have interviews with teams or are actively interviewing are:
Mike D’Antoni, Terry Stotts, Steve Clifford
The Devil You Don’t
The other side of the coaching hire coin is to pick a talented individual without NBA head coaching experience.
There are plenty of great coaches waiting in the wings for their chance to run a team, and picking a new name and face is a great for teams attempting to invigorate their fanbase and take the team in a fresh direction.
An advantage to selecting a coach with an unproven track record is that a team has a chance to uncover a guru. Every great coach had someone believe in them for the first time, and comparable to the emergence of new player talent in the NBA, we are overdue for someone to emerge as the next Phil Jackson, Erik Spoelstra, or Gregg Popovich.
A personal reason I have for favoring this method is I would love to see an increase in the diversity of coaches in the league. For as long as the league has allowed POC and women on the bench, we’ve seen talented names passed over for the big jobs.
Hiring a coach is a tough process, but expanding the hiring pool instead of picking up the same few names allows the game to progress and influences a potential spread of new ideas that can take basketball to heights never seen before.
Some names I’m watching in this current coaching cycle:
Becky Hammon patiently waited in the wings for the San Antonio Spurs since she joined the team in 2014 as an assistant after her lengthy professional playing career. Hammon has gained plenty of notoriety as of late, as the Portland Trail Blazers fittingly selected her as the first female finalist for an NBA head coaching job.
Hammon holds a fair share of firsts during her tenure as an assistant in San Antonio. She is the first woman to assume the role of head coach for an NBA Summer League team, a Spurs team she led to the summer league title in 2015.
Hammon also became the first woman to coach a regular-season NBA game when she stepped in for Gregg Popovich after an ejection in the 2020-2021 season.
To couple with her accolades, we’ve seen players give Hammon the utmost respect when commanding a team.
One day, hopefully soon, Becky Hammon will get her chance to be a head coach, and the world will see her basketball mind on a nightly basis in the league.
Chauncey ‘Mr. Big Shot’ Billups is a name circling coaching interview talk. Billups would be a great candidate for a team to hand the reigns to in the future.
Billups has one of the most extensive and impressive NBA careers a point guard could have. In 1,043 games, he averaged 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He also quarterbacked the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA Championship, upsetting the heavily favored Lakers in a gentleman’s sweep 4-1.
Billups’ expertise during his playing days transfers over to his young NBA coaching career. Currently, he is a lead assistant on a Clippers team that has shown in the playoffs they can adjust to almost anything an opposing team throws at them, something I would love to see him elicit from his own squad.
Hopefully, you learned a bit about the current head coaching carousel in the NBA and now are thinking about the motivations that teams could have going into one of the most important processes for team success in the NBA.
District of Buckets plans to revisit this topic and also add a few coaching prospect names to your radar:
Ime Udoka, Dawn Staley, Rick Carlisle and more to come in the future.