12 August 2013

2013 NBA Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

We have seen a busier coaching carousel in the NBA this offseason than usual. After only three clubs made coaching changes last offseason, 13 teams have elected to move in a different direction for this upcoming season, an NBA record. Here is how I think that each team did with their vacancies.

Atlanta Hawks - Mike Budenholzer (assistant coach, San Antonio)
We will talk a lot about guys working for Gregg Popovich, but this is a guy that was an assistant for him for 18 years. That means he was a part of taking the club from a bottom-feeder through every championship. And he deserved to get this opportunity, even at the expense of Larry Drew who I do like, and now he gets a roster with a lot of flexibility and thus he can craft this team into the Spur way.
Grade: A-

Boston Celtics - Brad Stevens (head coach, Butler)
I did write a fine post on this hire already but for the sake of everybody involved here, I will simplify it and provide the Spark Notes edition. For a club on the verge of a rebuilding process, taking a chance on a very talented coach that embraces advanced statistics and has an overall unorthodox coaching strategy that has been tremendous success at Butler has the potential to work out wonders. He should mesh well with Danny Ainge and could be the guy to get through to the mercurial Rajon Rondo.
Grade: A

Brooklyn Nets - Jason Kidd (active player, New York)
With the exception of the hiring above, this one was arguably the biggest splash and also the biggest risk, considering that Kidd was all but hired right out of the league as he was with the Knicks this past year. He has never coached before at all and was just a player, so it will be interesting to see how such a green coach leads a veteran-laden club. This could either be a complete fiasco, or a brilliant hire that leads us all to rave down the road. I do think part of the reasoning of this hire was to generate headlines and to generate some goodwill among the long time fans, so there is that.
Grade: B-

Charlotte Bobcats - Steve Clifford (assistant, Lakers)
If I had a nickel how many times I heard that Clifford was a good big man coach, that would be awesome. And that does help considering that the club overpaid for Al Jefferson and overdrafted Cody Zeller. Clifford has been an assistant for a long time and hopefully he will be given a chance to help rescue this fiasco of a franchise, but I feel like the club could have taken a bigger risk (of course, we saw how Mike Dunlap went).
Grade: B

Cleveland Cavaliers - Mike Brown (head coach, Lakers)
Now this is not one of those hires that will get the juices on the fanbase going, considering that Brown was the coach of the club not too long ago before being ousted in the attempt to keep LeBron James in town. It also does not help that much that Brown's tenure with the Lakers was a disaster, even as I lambasted the club for giving up on him so early this year. That said, Brown is a rock solid coach that wins games, and I think that Kyrie Irving is a good fit for his style of offense.
Grade: B

Denver Nuggets - Brian Shaw (assistant, Indiana)
Considering that Shaw has been one of the top targets in the assistant coaching ranks, one has to wonder why it did take so long and why many clubs passed on hiring him. Also, I was not a fan of the team dumping George Karl considering he won Coach of the Year this year and is one of the better coaches in the league, even as the club disappointed in the playoffs. But Shaw, considering who he has coached for as well as his playing experience, should be a very fine coach.
Grade: A-

Detroit Pistons - Maurice Cheeks (assistant, Oklahoma City)
Cheeks is yet another coaching retread and that fact alone, as well as his sub-.500 overall record with the Blazers and Trail Blazers, is not going to excite a disappointed fanbase that has gone through many bad coaching hirings. But there are some positives to be made of this hire, mostly due to the fact that Cheeks did great work with Russell Westbrook in OKC and the hope is that he can be the guy to get the most out of Brandon Jennings.
Grade: C

Los Angeles Clippers - Doc Rivers (head coach, Boston)
The Clippers are paying a rather steep price to bring Rivers to town to coach but I think it will end up being worth it. I think there is some creedence to thoughts that Rivers is a little overrated, but I personally think he is a very good coach. He and Chris Paul may be a match made in heaven, and Rivers did help keep Paul in town, and he should also be able to make Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan take the game seriously to make the club a serious contender.
Grade: A

Memphis Grizzlies - David Joerger (assistant, Memphis)
As I said before, I was not a fan at all of the Grizzlies dumping Lionel Hollins because I'm not of the camp that dumps the best coach in franchise history, but I'm not a personnel guy. That hurts the grade of the Joerger hire, who I think could be a good coach but probably not as good as Hollins. I do like Joerger's background coaching throughout the lesser basketball leagues and thus his rise through the ranks.
Grade: C+

Milwaukee Bucks - Larry Drew (head coach, Atlanta Hawks)
I know nobody loves coaching retreads more than Bucks fans, who have endured their fair share of them, but Drew is a coach that I like very much and I think could be one the Hawks could miss, even as they found themselves a good one in Mike Budenholzer. Drew is a fine guard coach and he has himself some projects to work with. Drew should help keep the Bucks as a playoff contender for the near future at least.
Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers - Brett Brown (assistant, San Antonio)
I will have to bump down this grade a little bit because of how comically long it took for the Sixers to find themselves a new coach, over a month past the last coach hiring. What may make it worse is that it was thought that Brown was the top candidate long ago, and yet the summer league came with the club not having a coach. Brown has had the experience of working under Gregg Popovich but he also has some experience coaching in the international game, which should help with a rebuilding team.
Grade: B

Phoenix Suns - Jeff Hornacek (assistant, Utah)
Hiring a quality ex-player that has history with the team is never a bad idea and thus, the Suns made a solid hire with Hornacek, who played in the Valley from 1986-1992. Hornacek only has a couple years of assisting experience from the past two years with the Jazz. But he should bring a wide open style of play that the Suns are used to, while also working with a club that is building itself from the bottom.
Grade: B

Sacramento Kings - Michael Malone (assistant, Golden State)
The Kings are making the right steps in getting back towards being a competant and legitimate basketball team, and Malone was an excellent hire. Malone became one of the top assistants in basketball with his sound work with the Warriors the past couple of years as that club developed into one of the more exciting in basketball. And why not take a slice out of the top club in the division for a bottom-feeder?
Grade: A

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