General Manager Tommy Sheppard is in the middle of conducting a review of the Washington Wizards’ 2020-21 NBA season. His biggest decision? Should he offer a contract extension to Scott Brooks or tell him that the team is moving on? As of today, the answer to that question remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers just fired head coach Nate Bjorkgren earlier today. He was on their sidelines for just ONE YEAR. The biggest reason why probably had more to do with internal turmoil within the locker room than the fact that they missed the playoffs, coincidentally at the Wizards’ expense.
The Pacers are now the fourth team that is officially looking for a head coach, joining the Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic, all for different reasons. One other thing these teams, minus the Pacers have in common is that they made the decision to fire or part ways with their previous head coaches very quickly, within days after their seasons were over. The Pacers’ decision came after about three weeks.
There are a number of people who seem to be hot targets for NBA head coach interviews. Matt Modderno recently wrote why Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham may be attractive options for Washington should Brooks be let go.
But there are many more hot or at least plausible candidates, some of whom may be looking at teams like Boston or Portland, because they have multiple star players. Here are some of them, and this list is not exhaustive.
Former NBA Head Coaches or assistants with HC experience
- Terry Stotts, former Trail Blazers HC — He spent nine years in Portland, making the NBA Playoffs in all but his first year there. His peak there was in 2018-19 where the Blazers made the Western Conference Finals.
- Lloyd Pierce, former Hawks HC — He spent over 10 years as an assistant before coming to a rebuilding Atlanta team. Unfortunately, he never got to see them through to this season, where they are in the second round of the playoffs.
- Steve Clifford, former Magic HC — Clifford’s teams have often punched above their weight defensively, which could be very helpful for the Wizards.
- Brett Brown, former 76ers HC — He saw most things through with “The Process” as Philly turned from a doormat-by-design into a championship contender. Hopefully, he gets another shot with another team very soon, perhaps even here.
- Jason Kidd, Lakers assistant — His tenure with the Nets and Bucks as a head coach have ended with a power struggle and a firing, respectively. While he probably will be a candidate for some teams, I don’t think he’d be a good fit here.
- Mike D’Antoni, Nets assistant — His best head coaching stints have been with the Suns (2003-08) and the Rockets (2016-20). The offenses he has coached have often been stellar, and this Wizards team has the potential to be another one of those kinds of teams in my opinion.
Assistants with no NBA head coaching experience
- Becky Hammon, Spurs — She has spent seven years with San Antonio moving up the bench ranks to become Gregg Popovich’s top assistant. That said, she may be angling to succeed Popovich who isn’t a spring chicken and San Antonio has also missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.
- Johnnie Bryant, Knicks — He has spent most of his time with Utah as a player development coach where the team has become a perennial force in the Western Conference.
- Jarron Collins, former Warriors assistant — He was on Steve Kerr’s staff during their glory years when they won three NBA championships. Collins is openly looking for a head coaching opportunity as well and left Golden State for that reason.
- Chauncey Billups, Clippers — He has only been an assistant one year in LA under Tyronn Lue’s staff, but his reputation as a long-time player and 2004 NBA Finals MVP will help him get a leg up somewhere.
- Juwan Howard, Michigan MBB — Howard was a long-time Bullets/Wizards player in the 1990s and was with the Miami Heat for several seasons as an assistant before heading to his alma mater where they are coming off of an Elite Eight appearance. I would think that Howard wants to win a championship there before going to the NBA again, this time as a head coach. Finally, he is only entering his third season there.
- Kara Lawson, Duke WBB — Lawson was named as a possible candidate for the Boston Celtics head coaching position because she was held in high regard by now-President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens. Here in D.C., Lawson was the Wizards’ TV color analyst for two seasons (2017-19) and also played two years for the Mystics (2014-15) toward the end of her WNBA career. Still, I find it hard to see Lawson leave Duke for the NBA because she only spent one year in Durham so far and Duke wants some stability with their women’s basketball program, given their reputation. And Duke may be hesitant to let her interview because they have just made two major coaching hires in the last 12 months: Lawson’s and Jon Scheyer’s as head coach of the men’s team, effective in the 2022-23 season.
- Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt MBB — Stackhouse is entering his third year in Nashville and has been a long-time NBA player where he even spent two years with the Wizards (2002-04). However, the Commodores haven’t been .500 in either of his two seasons though he took this job as a rebuilding project. If they get back to the NCAA tournament pretty soon, he could be a hotter name at that time.
These are far from the only names the Wizards or any other team should consider for a head coach. But the pool is bigger and better right now than it probably will be in a week or a month if Washington takes too much time on whether to officially move on from Brooks.