Irish Coffee: Top 18 coaches to replace Doc Rivers in Celtics search for Banner 18
|06.24.13 at 8:00 am ET|
The Celtics and Clippers have reportedly reached a deal that will allow Doc Rivers to coach in L.A. next season in exchange for a unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft, pending league approval. So, the search begins to replace a coach that finished only 11 victories shy of tying Tommy Heinsohn for second behind Red Auerbach on the franchise’s wins list. Here are 18 candidates to lead the C’s to an 18th banner.
18. Kevin Garnett: Whether tongue-in-cheek or not, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette’s Bill Doyle threw this one out there, suggesting Garnett could follow Rivers as a player-coach the way Bill Russell did Auerbach, but the advanced statistics, strategy and amount of game planning in today’s NBA make it a pipe dream.
17. Larry Bird: If the Celtics legend showed interest in the GM position for the Kings, what’s to say he wouldn’t consider a coaching position in the organization he resurrected as a player? Well, for one, he’d have to accept a scenario in which he answered to C’s president Danny Ainge, and secondly, he would command big money.
16. Byron Scott: Considering Scott appeared to be the Clippers’ fall-back option if they couldn’t get a deal done for Rivers, he’s a leading candidate among the NBA coaching retreads. However, the former Lakers standout has maintained a disdain for Boston in his coaching career, and the feeling is probably mutual.
15. Jerry Sloan: The best coach on the market, Sloan recently rejoined the Jazz as a senior basketball adviser just two years after parting ways with an organization he guided to 1,221 victories — third among coaches on the NBA’s all-time wins list. Regardless, the 71-year-old does not appear interested in sitting on any bench.
14. George Karl: Likewise, Karl is one of just eight NBA coaches with 1,000 victories on his resume, and he won 57 of them in Denver this past year, capturing Coach of the Year honors before the Nuggets canned him. He led the Sonics to the NBA Finals and nearly did the same for both the Bucks and Nuggets, but he too would require a big dollar commitment from a Celtics ownership group that doesn’t appear interested in going down that road.
13. Avery Johnson: Meanwhile, Johnson earned his walking papers soon after earning the NBA’s Coach of the Month honor on the Nets bench in November. The Celtics might be wise to avoid pairing the fiery former Spurs point guard and Rajon Rondo on the same bench, especially in light of this report.
12. Vinny Del Negro: Despite failing to get his 56-win Clippers out of the first round this past season, which led to the entire Rivers debacle, Del Negro is garnering reported interest from both the Nuggets and Celtics. While Ainge respects the Springfield, Mass., native, this hire would be a public relations disaster.
11. Robert Pack: Similarly, the 44-year-old Pack sat on Del Negro’s bench each of the past three seasons, and their L.A. tenure together has been deemed an underachievement. While Pack is rising among the ranks, the microscope of the Boston Celtics probably isn’t the best place for him to begin his head coaching career.
10. Tyronn Lue: A year younger than Garnett, the 36-year-old Lue has served as an assistant on the Celtics bench since 2009. He’s respected within the organization, but Rivers will likely take Lue with him to the Clippers. The C’s never made him a lead assistant, so the head coaching spot would be quite a leap.
9. Jeff Van Gundy: The former Knicks and Rockets coach would be a great fit, but it’s hard to imagine him accepting the C’s position after his sarcastic remarks to Dennis & Callahan about Doc’s situation: “That’d be a heckuva team to coach next year with no KG, no [Paul] Pierce and a hurt Rondo. That’d be a lot of fun.”
8. Stan Van Gundy: Still, Jeff Van Gundy highly recommended his brother for the C’s post during that same interview, and why wouldn’t they be interested? Stan led the Magic to back-to-back 59-win seasons and an NBA Finals appearance before things boiled over between him and Dwight Howard. However, Ron Jeremy‘s doppelganger told an Orlando radio station back in May that he would not coach next season.
7. Nate McMillan: After leading both the Sonics and Blazers to 50-win seasons last decade, McMillan has rightfully earned an interview for just about every open coaching position — Celtics included. While a defensive standout as a player, he hasn’t exactly designed a great NBA defense despite his reputation.
6. Lawrence Frank: Sandwiching relatively unsuccessful stints as head coach of the Nets and Pistons around an assistant coaching position on the Celtics bench in 2010-11, Frank was highly regarded during his brief tenure in Boston. Still, it’ll be hard to sell a guy with a career winning percentage of .454.
5. Danny Ainge: Shortly after breaking the Rivers news, ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan suggested Ainge as a possibility to replace his friend on the Celtics bench. It makes sense from a financial standpoint, and Ainge did win 60 percent of his games as Suns coach from 1996-2000, but the rebuilding phase should require all his focus.
4. Lionel Hollins: In terms of guys with NBA coaching experience, it doesn’t get much better than Hollins. He nearly led the upstart Grizzlies to the conference finals in 2010-11, and then made them a serious contender this past season before getting swept in the Western Conference finals by the Spurs.
3. J.B. Bickerstaff: The son of longtime NBA coach Bernie Bickerstaff, J.B. is just 34 years old, but considered one of the brightest minds among the league’s assistant coaches. He has served as an assistant since 2004, including stints under Kevin McHale on the Timberwolves and Rockets. His influence on Houston’s high-powered offense and understanding of their advanced statistical analysis make him intriguing.
2. Brian Shaw: A member of the coaching crew on two title-winning Lakers teams and Indiana’s highly successful run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals this past season, Shaw has long been considered the next assistant to warrant a head coaching position. He also played half the 1988-89 season with Ainge in Boston.
1. David Fizdale: The right-hand man to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra the past five years, including back-to-back NBA title runs the last two seasons, Fizdale signed a two-year deal with Miami last year, but said he would “listen” to offers this summer. He’s illustrated an ability to connect to the game’s brightest stars in addition to assuming player development, scouting and game preparation roles for a team that won 27 straight games. Communication is considered his greatest strength, and that’s what made Rivers so successful in Boston.