Editor's Note: In January, Albert Lee compiled a list of candidates the Wizards could consider if they parted ways with Randy Wittman. Now that the time has come, here's an updated version of the list.
More on early candidates
More on early candidates
Scott Brooks, former Thunder HC - Brooks coached the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-2015 where he led them to four consecutive Northwest Division titles from 2011 to 2014, an appearance in the 2012 NBA Finals, and three Western Conference Finals appearances in the last five seasons.
He took a break to recharge his batteries during the 2015-16 season and is now reportedly at the top of the Wizards' list to replace Wittman. Brooks is also under consideration for the Rockets job and Kings job, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
On the one hand, it looks like a very transparent ploy to add to the Wizards' recruiting pitch for Kevin Durant this summer, but to be fair, Brooks has a good record of player development. Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, and Steven Adams all grew under Brooks' coaching. Player development has been an issue for quite some time in Washington, and he could help fix that.
At the same time, Brooks had a track record of making some confusing rotation decisions (look at how long he stuck with Kendrick Perkins as his starting center in Oklahoma City) and he was often criticized for running a very simplistic offense centered around Durant and Westbrook. In other words, if the Wizards hire him, lots of the same issues that plagued the Wittman era could pop back up.
The other reported contenders (so far)
Suns perspective on Hornacek
Suns perspective on Hornacek
Jeff Hornacek, former Suns HC - Adrian Wojnarowski and Jorge Castillo both reported Hornacek is in the running for the job. He compiled a 101-112 record as the Suns head coach, headlined by a 48-34 record in his first season. The team dropped to 39-43 the following season and completely fell apart this season, going 14-35 before the Suns fired him in February.
To be fair, the Suns made some baffling player decisions after Hornacek's first season that contributed to his downfall, but his inability to keep Markieff Morris in line would have to be a concern considering they would be reunited in Washington.
Sam Cassell, Clippers Assistant - Cassell, a former Wizards assistant, has been credited for playing a major role in John Wall and Bradley Beal's development. He also influenced Paul Pierce to sign with Washington as a free agent. I'm tempted to consider him more than most of the other coaches on the list.
Mike D'Antoni, 76ers Associate HC - D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns teams of the mid-2000's were high-powered offensive units. Things fizzled in his later trips to the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, so that has hurt his stock some as a head coach. I wouldn't mind giving him a shot in D.C. given how well his offense has worked over the years.
Monty Williams, Thunder assistant coach - Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweeted Williams could be another interesting name in the team's coaching search. Like Brooks, he has experience with Kevin Durant through his time in Oklahoma City. You could also argue based on the Pelicans' struggles that perhaps he didn't get a fair shake in New Orleans.
Former NBA head coaches worth considering
As a team that values stability, the safe bet is the Wizards go with a coach who has previous NBA experience. Here are some of the candidates who fit the criteria:
Tom Thibodeau, former Bulls HC - Like Wittman, Thibodeau is a defense-first coach, and he gets the most out of his players. However, his starting players have played a high number of minutes. Considering that players like Bradley Beal may have to be on a minutes restriction for long stretches of time, I'm hesitant to see him in Washington.
However, it's worth noting Thibodeau has past experience with Ernie Grunfeld, who initially hired him to be an assistant under Eddie Jordan, before backing out of the hiring and signing with Boston. That said, the fact that he's not being reported as an early candidate suggests they probably won't be reuniting this spring.
David Blatt, former Cavaliers HC - To his credit, Blatt has played a major part leading the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2007. He is one of the top professional basketball coaches in any market.
In my opinion, he deserves another NBA head coaching job. However, since Wall is hiring James' agent, that alone is a reason NOT to hire him. After all, Rich Paul is part of the reason why Blatt is gone.
The Wizards are also a veteran team and will need a stronger-minded coach to lead them than what Blatt has shown, even if his circumstances were a bit unfair. I just feel more secure with a head coach with considerable NBA coaching experience. Blatt never had that until he came to Cleveland.
Lionel Hollins, former Nets HC - Hollins may have recently been let go, but he has played a major part maximizing the abilities of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2009-2013 which culminated in a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2013. He is perceived as an analytics skeptic, however, which doesn't go in line with ownership's philosophy.
Mark Jackson, former Warriors HC - Jackson led Golden State from 2011-14 where he oversaw the turnaround of the team from a perennial lottery doormat to a team on the cusp of being a legitimate contender. I certainly would be open to the former NBA point guard coaching the Wizards, but his past clashes with the Warriors' ownership also give cause to pause.
That said, LeBron's management team -- who now represents John Wall -- reportedly wanted Jackson to be Cleveland's head coach back in 2014. So if Wall wants Jackson, it may happen more easily than you think.
Vinny Del Negro, former Bulls and Clippers HC - Del Negro has started to pop back up in coaching rumors recently. Marc Stein of ESPN reported he's under consideration for the Kings job. Certainly, he has a respectable record and experience coaching top-flight point guards like Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, but critics are quick to point out both teams improved after he was let go.
Kevin McHale, former Rockets and T-Wolves HC - If you're looking for someone who knows how to implement a pick-and-roll heavy scheme that encourages a lot of outside shooting, McHale's your guy. He made it work very well in Houston, up until this season when infighting and drama undercut the momentum the Rockets' established last season when they reached the Western Conference Finals.
Random side note: If the Wizards did hire him, it wouldn't be the first time McHale has replaced Wittman in a coaching role. McHale moved down from the front office to coach the Timberwolves after he fired Wittman in 2008.
Jeff Van Gundy, former Knicks and Rockets HC - Don't bet on this one happening. Van Gundy and Grunfeld were together in New York in the late nineties and that didn't end well.
NBA assistants worth considering
This is a list of some assistant coaches who have never been an NBA head coach. However, they are coaches who could be leading NBA teams sooner rather than later.
Luke Walton, Warriors Assistant - Walton will be one of the hottest candidates to interview for NBA head coaching positions because he led Golden State to a franchise-best start this season when head coach Steve Kerr was out due to back surgery.
Walton is a long-time NBA player himself who is still the age of an older NBA veteran, so he can relate with players right now. Hell, he's younger than some active NBA players. Either way, he will have the players' respect the moment he's hired, whether in D.C. or elsewhere.
Ettore Messina, Spurs Assistant - Of the assistants on the Spurs' lineup, Messina is the most accomplished. He is a long-time head coach in the EuroLeague, where he won four titles with Kinder Bologna (1998, 2001), and CSKA Moscow (2006, 2008).
Blatt's background as a EuroLeague head coach certainly makes Messina a less desirable candidate on the surface. However, it's also clear that Blatt was never given actual job security because James' management never wanted him there in the first place.
More on Becky Hammon
More on Becky Hammon
Becky Hammon, Spurs Assistant - Looking for an assistant with a proven pedigree and connections to the Popovich coaching tree? Why not Becky Hammon? She led the Spurs to the Vegas Summer League Championship and will most certainly get her shot sooner or later. In addition, she is a long-time point guard during her playing days, so Wall can now pick a future Hall of Famer's brain.
College Coaches and outside the box hires worth a look
The best college basketball coaches and coaches from non-NBA leagues are often mentioned as possible replacements for NBA vacancies. The chance of one of these coaches being offered the Wizards' job is not high, but some of them would bring a fresh face to the NBA coaching community.
In light of that, we have a quick list:
John Calipari, Kentucky HC - Calipari seems to be in these NBA rumors every year. In Washington, he would be reunited with the point guard who started the current era of Wildcat basketball, and there's something to be said for that.
Ultimately, I'm not banking on Calipari coming to D.C. because he is rumored to want a 10-year, $120 million deal to coach the Brooklyn Nets. In addition, coaching grown men is not the same as coaching and recruiting teenagers.
Kevin Ollie, UConn Men's Basketball HC - Ollie is a former long-time NBA player who spent over a decade on many teams, including the Oklahoma City Thunder. During his stint there, he served as a mentor to a young Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Harden.
At UConn, he led the Huskies to the National Championship in 2014, just one year after they were banned from the tourney due to academic sanctions. For more reading, I'll defer to jeffco01's FanPost last season. I like Ollie, but I think he's very happy with his dream job. It will be tough to pry him away from Storrs.
Geno Auriemma, UConn Women's Basketball & USA Basketball women's national team HC - The Hall of Fame coach has led the Huskies to 11 NCAA titles, including each of the last four. As Team USA's head coach, Auriemma has led the Americans to the Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 FIBA World Championship.
According to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, Auriemma has not ruled out moving on from UConn into ... you guessed it. The NBA. Let's just put the money quote here.
Auriemma has unquestionably asserted his team’s dominance over the sport. NBA executives have taken notice, and sources tell Sporting News that the feeling is mutual. "Geno’s a great coach, he knows players and he knows Xs and Os," one source with knowledge of Auriemma’s thinking said. "I think he’d like to try the NBA eventually, either head coaching or part of a staff at first. Not tomorrow, but I think it is a matter of when and not if. Coaching is coaching, and the guy can coach."
We don't know how much more Auriemma has to prove as a basketball coach given his accolades. But if coaching men at the highest level is one of them, the Wizards present a good opportunity for him.
Mike Thibault, Mystics GM/HC - If you ask me who has the best basketball mind at Monumental Sports, I will say that person is Thibault. He is the best head coach in the WNBA, considering that he gets teams to overachieve their perceived talent level for well over a decade. He is also an analytics-friendly coach, which goes in line with ownership's ambitions.
Thibault is also a long-time NBA assistant coach and scout, where he was with the Lakers and Bulls during Magic Johnson's and Michael Jordan's early years, respectively. He also was on George Karl's staff with the Sonics and Bucks in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
He may have ties with Ernie Grunfeld, the much-maligned Wizards President of Basketball Operations, who was the Bucks' GM in the early 2000's. But Thibault is not a complacent basketball executive and he is more than capable of being an NBA head coach.
Jay Wright, Villanova HC - Wright led the Wildcats to the 2016 national title and three consecutive Big East Conference titles. Wright has stressed that he wants to stay at Villanova, but he has entertained the NBA in the past. He spoke with the 76ers about their head coaching position in 2009, so perhaps he could be open to listening if nothing else.