08 May 2016

2016 NBA Coaching Carousel: Grading the Hires

(Washington Post)
The offseason for many franchises is still young and yet we have seen a good amount of action on the NBA coaching carousel thus far. Which teams nailed their coaching searches and which ones have made what we like to call mistakes? Here's my take on each and every NBA coaching hire to this point.

Brooklyn Nets - Kenny Atkinson (Hawks assistant)
Brooklyn Nets (2013 - Pres)It seems like it has been a while since the last time the Nets have not chased a big name for their coaching vacancies but considering that Avery Johnson, Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins all did not work out, it makes sense that they would try something new. Atkinson is far from a big name but what endeared him to GM Sean Marks is his strong record of player development from his time with the Hawks. Considering the long rebuilding path that the Nets are force to follow, a coach with his background makes sense.
Grade: B+

Houston Rockets - Mike D'Antoni (Former Lakers coach)
Houston Rockets (2015 - Pres)Nobody can deny the success that D'Antoni had with the Suns or that he is still a reputable offensive coach. But since his parting from Phoenix in 2008, D'Antoni is 188-254 and he did not exactly leave both the Knicks and the Lakers on the best of terms as his teams came under fire for not playing defense and for perhaps pushing his guys too hard, leading them to injury. His time in Los Angeles was notable considering that Dwight Howard is a free agent this offseason and now, unlikely to stick around (which may not be the worst thing). After previously linked to guys like Jeff Van Gundy and Kenny Smith, going with just another retread isn't exactly inspiring.
Grade: D

Indiana Pacers Nate McMillan (Pacers assistant)
Indiana Pacers (2006 - Pres)As I said when the news broke, I didn't get the Frank Vogel firing non-renewal even as Larry Bird has a history of not keeping coaches around a long time and even as the Pacers struggled offensively. After all beyond Paul George, the roster just isn't that good. Promoting McMillan, a solid coach in his own right and one familiar with the roster, does make sense as it provides some familiarity (as they previously did with Vogel) and he is a better offensive coach than he's given credit for. That said, is he really an improvement on Vogel?
Grade: B-

Los Angeles Lakers - Luke Walton (Warriors assistant)
Los Angeles Lakers (2002 - Pres)The Byron Scott era was an abject failure for the Lakers as his 38-126 marked the worst two-year stretch in the history of the franchise. It did surprise many that they were able to land one of the most pursued coaches on the market even with Walton's ties to the franchise but perhaps Walton can bring some of Golden State's winning formula down the PCH. Even as the Warriors started 19-0 and went 39-4 during his interim stint, considering what was already in place we still don't know how good of a coach he will be. However, I don't think the Lakers could have done much better than this by the time they finally canned Scott over whom it shouldn't be hard to upgrade from for Walton's sake.
Grade: A-

Memphis Grizzlies - David Fizdale (Heat assistant)
Memphis Grizzlies (2002 - 2004)The instability of the Memphis front office was enough to lead Dave Joerger to look at other jobs, ultimately resulting in his dismissal. Therefore you can see why some coaches were a little more skittish about this job, as well as the team's aging roster. That said, I think they landed a good coach here in veteran assistant Fizdale. An assistant for three teams going back to 2003 and somebody who has been a contender for multiple jobs, he is well-regarded for being a good players' coach as well as a solid tactical one as well.
Grade: B

Minnesota Timberwolves - Tom Thibodeau (Former Bulls head coach)
Minnesota Timberwolves (2009 - Pres)You can read about what I thought about this hire when it first broke here but in short, Thibodeau may just be the best coach to take the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time since the Big Ticket was still in town. Of course, Thibodeau still has his flaws but nobody could deny that his teams play terrific defense and that he gets every win out of his guys. If he can harness the talent of both Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, among others, he'll be in great shape.
Grade: A

New York Knicks - Jeff Hornacek (Former Suns head coach)
New York Knicks (1996 - Pres)At least Knicks fans can be relieved that Phil Jackson did not hire his boy Kurt Rambis to the full time job but this is still an odd hire. It's odd not because I don't think Hornacek is a bad coach because I think his coaching abilities are undersold by the relatively poor overall record (dampened by the Suns' awful start to 2015-16). But it's unusual because Hornacek's coaching style, a wide open offense powered by a lot of threes, is a complete contrast with Jackson's style. Considering how impatient Jackson was with Derek Fisher, it's hard to envision the future if he and his new coach contrast.
Grade: C+

Orlando Magic - Frank Vogel (Former Pacers head coach)
Orlando Magic (2001 - Pres)It really didn't make a whole lot of sense why the Pacers chose to part ways with Vogel considering he's a pretty good coach in his own right but after the stunning resignation of Scott Skiles after a single season, it's hard to see how Orlando could have done much better than Vogel. Vogel is a good player development coach and thus he should fit in well with a young Magic core and he is one of the better defensive coaches in the league, which will certainly come in handy as well. It has been a while since this team was relevant but Vogel should be able to change that.
Grade: A

Sacramento Kings - Dave Joerger (Former Grizzlies head coach)
Sacramento Kings (2017 - Pres)Nobody should have much confidence in the Kings these days as they continue to be defined by dysfunction but they did well to land themselves a good coach in Joerger. Joerger deserved a good amount of credit for getting all that he could from his Memphis teams the past few years as they were always a tough team to play as they were one of the few teams that grinded teams down in what has become such an offensive era. He's a very good defensive coach, something Sacramento desperately needs, and he's good with the X's-and-O's. I also think he can be a good match for DeMarcus Cousins.
Grade: A-

Washington Wizards - Scott Brooks (Former Thunder head coach)
Washington Wizards (2012 - Pres)For what it's worth, I'm not buying that Brooks got hired to lure Kevin Durant because if Durant really loved him, as Zach Lowe says, he probably would still be coaching in Oklahoma City. I'm not the biggest fan of a coach of Brooks considering his offenses were never imaginative even with two of the elite players in the game and his defenses were all over the place. That said, he's not a terrible hire for the Wizards considering he is a very good developmental coach. They are still a young team and they could use some of that.
Grade: B-

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