The Wizards are not firing Scott Brooks this summer. I think it’s much more likely he gets an extension. But if they did decide to send him packing, what should they look for in a replacement?
For a team in win now mode, which is what the Wizards will be over the next couple seasons, the likely move would be to hire a retread. Ted Leonsis and Tommy Sheppard would couch it in terms of experience and leadership, and fans would get excited by the brand name coach who’d led his team to the conference Finals a couple times.
And it might even work, in the sense that the Wizards would win 45-plus regular season games and play an entertaining series or two.
But I think it would be a missed opportunity.
Barring a bunch of trades, the Wizards will be heavily reliant on youngsters. That means they’ll need someone skilled with player development. And they’re likely to be at a talent disadvantage many nights so they’ll need a coach capable of tactical innovation.
Instead of looking for a
retread — pardon, experience as an NBA head coach — the Wizards would be wise to look at G-League coaches with a history of winning. The nature of the G-League is that rosters are in constant flux. Coaches are forced to constantly adapt to shifting personnel. They have to quickly assess what players can do well, fit that into a team framework, and then teach it to newcomers in real time.
The most prominent example at the moment is Nick Nurse, of course, who led the Toronto Raptors to an NBA championship last season. But others who fit the profile of winning minor league coaches who earned success in the NBA include Phil Jackson, Flip Saunders, George Karl, Quin Snyder and Dave Joerger.
Let Joerger be a bit of a cautionary tale — he’s a superb tactical coach who was undone by a grating personality.
This year’s playoffs underscore the value of coaches who develop players and experiment with different tactical approaches around a core set of fundamental principles.
The Wizards are likely committed to Brooks for at least next season, if not beyond. But when they search for his replacement, they should take a hard look at coaches with a winning history in the minor leagues.