Philadelphia, PA – There are only six NBA head coaching vacancies currently. Stay tuned, there will probably be more to come.
Let's take a look at where we're at with this whole mess, starting first, with what type of coaches are out on the market.
At the top of the list, the Holy Grail/white whale is Phil Jackson. Reports say he told the Brooklyn Nets "no thanks" and other reports state Jackson wants to run an NBA team, not coach one.
He's been most-often linked to the Toronto Raptors on that last front, but all we know about the Zen Master with 11 rings is that he's going to assist Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars with his team's search for a coach.
Jackson doesn't seem interested in returning to coaching. Gut feeling is that he probably would've taken the Los Angeles Lakers job if Jim Buss didn't have his heart set on a much-worse coach in Mike D'Antoni. Buss was probably just trying to tweak his sister Jeanie, who is engaged to Jackson. Maybe it was lots of animosity over a swing set years ago.
If Jackson is out (I believe he is), then the next big name available is one of the Van Gundy brothers.
Jeff is the lead analyst for ABC and ESPN and seems very happy doing it, almost too happy. He was a fantastic skipper for the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. His brother Stan recently coached the Orlando Magic. That wasn't the easiest job in the land with Dwight Howard trying to derail the whole franchise.
Stan is more likely to take a job now than Jeff. Stan is in high demand.
The next tier of candidates is the former, veteran coaches who aren't amazing. Think Byron Scott, Avery Johnson, Alvin Gentry, Scott Skiles, Lawrence Frank, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy. They're all capable men. Almost all have made the NBA Finals, but none is the missing piece for a team to become an instant title contender.
The third line belongs to the group of assistants who have been making names for themselves. This list is really long, led by Mike Malone of the Golden State Warriors, Brian Shaw of the Indiana Pacers and Mike Budenholzer of the San Antonio Spurs. These are the three best among a crop that also includes, without team names because I don't want carpal-tunnel: Aaron McKie, Michael Curry, David Fizdale, Sam Cassel, Robert Pack, Elston Turner, Chuck Person, Jeff Hornacek, Dave Joerger and Kelvin Sampson. All of those names come with varying levels of experience. Curry was a head coach in the league and Sampson was a terrific college head coach.
The final group are the wildest of wild-cards. These are Courtney Love kind of wild. Bill Laimbeer has coached in the WNBA. Fred Hoiberg is the man at Iowa State and has been mentioned as a candidate in waiting. Larry Brown's name has popped up in some circles. He's currently the leader at SMU, but he wouldn't turn down coaching Dairy Queen's rec team if they asked him.
And perhaps the best candidate out there that combines assistant coaching experience, with a big name and some serious wild-card chops is Patrick Ewing.
To further muddy the waters, both Larry Drew of the Atlanta Hawks and Vinny Del Negro of the Los Angeles Clippers are not under contract next season. Smart money says both are out.
If you can believe this, Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies isn't signed for next season. He has to be brought back, right? If not, he jumps to the top of almost every team's wish list.
So, if those are our guys, where do they fit?
First, let's deal with the splashiest of the openings - the Los Angeles Clippers and Nets. The Clippers are in the best position of all teams looking for a coach. If Chris Paul comes back, alongside Blake Griffin, they have two superstars and a nice climate. Stan Van Gundy would make a lot of sense there, although isn't there something oddly poetic if Jackson went there? It semi fits his profile of taking over star-laden teams. It would make Thanksgiving more awkward than it already is for Phil.
The Nets swung for the fences with Jackson and didn't land him. Their owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, has cash to burn, and wants to compete with the New York Knicks. He could do almost anything on this front. Van Gundy, any Van Gundy, would be in play here, but remember, general manager Billy King had his most successful run with the Philadelphia 76ers and his coach was Brown. The Nets could go crazy and throw big money at a big college name like John Calipari, Rick Pitino or Tom Izzo.
The Atlanta Hawks are in a weird spot. GM Danny Ferry cleared house cap-wise and they will have loot to spend on possibly Howard, or re-signing Josh Smith. Drew was hired before Ferry came to Atlanta. Budenholzer has been Gregg Popovich's assistant since the beginning of time, and Ferry is part of the San Antonio Spurs' tree, so he might be a good fit.
The Milwaukee Bucks made the playoffs last season, but they will look drastically different before this season. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are both probably jumping ship. That's a pretty talented backcourt to replace here. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the team interviewed McMillan and Sampson already.
The Pistons, and I guess Jackson, have a decent roster. Greg Monroe is a budding star and Andre Drummond turned out to be the steal of the draft. Brandon Knight can play. Do they bring back Jose Calderon? Laimbeer is a Pistons legend who got turned down before. If Jackson really has a voice in this, then Shaw or Person make sense. Both have been part of Jackson's world for years, either as players or assistants. Lindsey Hunter, who took over on an interim basis in Phoenix this season, was a long-time Detroit player.
No team has a more interesting offseason ahead of them than the Sixers. What do they do with Andrew Bynum? Luckily, that not our problem. Without a healthy Bynum, this team is thin. Brown's name is back in Philly papers. They want to talk to Malone, Shaw and Hornacek, but have Curry and McKie in their clutches now. This is not a terribly desired job. If former coach Doug Collins is really advising the team instead of just holding that title, Curry makes the most sense.
The Phoenix Suns just hired a new GM in Ryan McDonough. He worked with the Boston Celtics for years. He has a tall task ahead of him because this roster is poorly built with bad draft picks, bad trades and bad free-agent signings. Hunter will be interviewed. They had some decent in-house candidates in Dan Majerle and Turner, but they both resigned when Hunter got the job. Hornacek was a popular former Suns player.
And that leaves us with the Charlotte Bobcats. No one, not even chairman Michael Jordan, knows what they'll do here. Jordan picked Mike Dunlap last time around, an assistant at St. John's. Jordan could hire Sampson, Charles Oakley, the barista at his local Starbucks, McMillan, a cartoon stick figure or his dog, and no one should be surprised.
- Derrick Rose isn't playing in the playoffs. Let's stop talking about it, thinking about it, or wondering. Think what you will about him, but it's over.
- Know when you get tired, you get a little cranky? That's my hunch about what happened to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday. They're exhausted, Miami actually took the physicality to them and they didn't handle it. Taj Gibson's mouth had to be distorted on replays because it was pretty clear what he said when he got tossed. The Bulls will win a game in Chicago, though.
- The Spurs are in trouble. It's not that they aren't rested enough, it's that their roster can't keep up with faster, younger teams.
- Yes, sure, Steph Curry is a star emerging before our eyes.
- I like the fact that Amare Stoudemire is playing for the Knicks, starting Saturday in Game 3 against the Indiana Pacers. He can spell Tyson Chandler, play 15 minutes, score seven points. Plus, he knows his role now.
- Movie moment - I originally made a joke back in high school that if I was ever going to watch a movie about an opus, I might as well make it "Mr. Holland's Opus." Now, I added if I'm ever going to watch a movie about exotic marigold hotels, I'll make it the one about the best one. My second "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" joke this season. Dame Judi Dench!
- TV moment - I'm not generally up watching too much late-night TV. When I do, it's usually the Comedy Central pair with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. However, the funniest thing on television right now is on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" He runs a segment called "Celebrities Read Mean Tweets." It's exactly what it sounds like.