27 July 2014

2014 NBA Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

The NBA coaching carousel was circling once again this offseason as seven clubs found themselves a new head coach, including some high-profile hires. Which teams nailed their coaching searches and which ones did not? Here is my take.

Brooklyn Nets - Lionel Hollins (formerly Grizzlies head coach)
So the Nets gave Jason Kidd a shot as their head coach right out of retirement, stuck with him despite a miserable start and the Lawrence Frank fiasco, and how does he return the favor? He tries to scheme his way into more power and when he doesn't get it, worms his way to Milwaukee. I don't think the Nets will be missing his melodrama anytime soon, especially because they came out of the situation with a better NBA coach. Now the reasoning as to why Memphis dumped Hollins despite being a strong playoff club is still uncertain and a little eye-raising, but Hollins is a solid coach that can coach defense well. He should help bring some stability to this aging roster that is trying to maintain a playoff spot.
Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers - David Blatt (Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach)
I do love when teams take chances and go a little outside the box with their coaching hires and Cleveland, after whiffing on retread after retread the last few years, did just that. Now Blatt has no North American basketball experience but he is highly regarded after he did impressive jobs in Italy, Russia, Turkey and most recently in dominating with Maccabi Tel Aviv the last several years. Blatt does have a big job on his plate, they did add a certain former hometown hero and thus have much higher expectations as a result, but Blatt's reputation to build his system to his players and get the most out of them will benefit him in the Association.
Grade: B+

Detroit Pistons - Stan Van Gundy (NBC, ESPN Radio analyst)
It's about time than Van Gundy is getting another job and it is a big one at that as he is not only the new head coach but also the president of basketball operations for the Pistons, a team that desperately needed a change from Joe Dumars. Van Gundy doesn't have any personnel experience and he will have a tough job there fixing a mess of a roster thanks to the aforementioned Dumars but giving him control makes sense given how good of a coach he is. He will turn around the Pistons sooner than perhaps others may think. A great hire.
Grade: A

Golden State Warriors - Steve Kerr (TNT analyst)
It was a little unusual to see the hottest coaching candidate be somebody who had no history of coaching experience but it seemed that everybody wanted a piece of Kerr this offseason. Despite it seeming like a look that he was headed to MSG, at the last second the Warriors got in the mix and pried him away (more on that later). For a team with such high expectations, expectations that sunk Mark Jackson, the team decided to go with a high-profile broadcaster once again. I think Kerr can be a very good coach in this league. He's intelligent, well-prepared and highly regarded across league circles. He has been waiting for his opportunity and he has the opportunity to win big right away.
Grade: A-

Los Angeles Lakers - Byron Scott (Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst)
The Lakers really took a while to hire their new head guy, even after it was widely presumed that Scott would be the next coach. Scott is a SoCal guy and a beloved Showtime guy but this will not be Showtime, quite frankly. In fact, the Lakers look to be in for a long couple of years and it probably didn't matter who coached them. Now I do like Scott and I think he's a solid coach, plus he is the guy that Kobe Bryant wanted, and we all remember the crap Jason Kidd pulled to run him out of East Rutherford a decade ago. However, the wheels really fell off in New Orleans and he was a mess in Cleveland. I understand his connections to the organization but this isn't a particularly inspiring hire in my eyes.
Grade: C

Milwaukee Bucks - Jason Kidd (Nets head coach)
This certainly was an unusual coaching search to say the least where the Bucks pushed aside Larry Drew to hire Red Auerbach Jason Kidd amid the whole Kidd-Brooklyn brouhaha mentioned earlier. Now while Kidd did a nice job down the stretch, it was not like he was tearing up the league with his coaching ability so I don't see why the Bucks, even with ownership connections to Kidd, went out of their way to lure a guy that had done a passable job at best in his inaugural coaching campaign.
Grade: C-

Minnesota Timberwolves - Flip Saunders (Timberwolves president)
After a wide-ranging coaching search, Saunders decide that apparently he was the best guy for the job. Maybe nobody really wanted this job and Saunders decided he had to take the job? Even if that were the case, I don't love this hire all that much. Sure, he had a pretty successful first go at it in Minneapolis and was relatively successful with the Pistons, but he also was an abject failure during his two-plus season stretch in Washington. Kevin Love is going to be the prevailing storyline for the Timberwolves going forward but that shouldn't distract from a mediocre self-hire.
Grade: C-

New York Knicks - Derek Fisher (Thunder point guard)
The Knicks were all poised to land the aforementioned Kerr but James Dolan did what James Dolan does, dragged his feet in giving Kerr what he wanted and then poof: Kerr is now the coach of the Warriors. So in order to have any credibility with team president Phil Jackson, the Knicks were going to have to give him his next choice, no matter the price. That's how Fisher ends up with the contract Kerr wanted. Now obviously, Fisher has no coaching experience whatsoever given that he just retired but I think he's got the ability to be a fine NBA coach. He has experience being a leader, is widely respected around the league, and he's Jackson's guy. And given that the team won't win right away, there is relatively lesser pressure than the coach of the Knicks would normally have. I like it.
Grade: A-

Utah Jazz - Quin Snyder (Hawks assistant coach)
Remember when Snyder coached at the University of Missouri? There are some that won't ever forget, but it has also been over eight years since Snyder left Columbia and given that fact, it does seem a little crazy that he is only 47. Snyder has bounced around the NBDL where he led the Austin Toros, assisting at a handful of NBA clubs and even assisting in Russia for powerhouse CSKA Moscow and he has helped to rehab his image. Rehab his image so much that I think he deserves a crack at an NBA club and he seems to be a good fit for a Jazz squad that are in the midst of a rebuilding job.
Grade: B

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