Not a single NBA team made a head coaching change during the 2017 offseason, but the market has course-corrected so far in 2018. Already, five clubs – the Suns, Knicks, Hawks, Hornets, and Bucks – have reached agreements with new head coaches since the regular season ended, with a sixth club (the Grizzlies) elevating its interim head coach to the permanent role.
While those six teams have completed their coaching searches, there are more changes still to come, as three other clubs remain on the lookout for new head coaches. Here’s the latest on those searches:
We haven’t heard much yet about the Pistons’ search for a new head coach, but that makes sense, since the club is also in the market for a new head of basketball operations — Stan Van Gundy held both roles.
Initial reports indicated that the Pistons would likely focus on finding someone for that front office role first, to ensure that person would have some say in the coaching search. That remains the team’s preference, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press, who says the goal is to have a new head of basketball operations in place within the next couple weeks (Twitter links). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski passed along a partial list of candidates on Wednesday.
While the front office hire could dictate which direction the Pistons go for a head coach, former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and Raptors 905 coach Jerry Stackhouse have been cited as possible targets.
As promised, the Magic have certainly taken their time with their head coaching search. Orlando fired Frank Vogel on April 12, one day after the regular season ended, so the team has now been without a head coach for five weeks.
In addition to being patient, the Magic have also been quite secretive, declining to confirm whether or not they’re considering some rumored candidates. We know they’ve interviewed Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool and Spurs assistant Ime Udoka. David Fizdale also met with Orlando, but has since been hired by the Knicks.
Recently, reports have indicated that the Magic’s top candidate may be a surprise choice: University of Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson. Orlando president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond both worked in the Bucks’ front office back when Sampson served as an assistant coach in Milwaukee, so presumably they know him well.
While Sampson’s link to the Magic front office could pay off, it doesn’t appear that a link to Weltman – a former Raptors GM – will pay off for Toronto’s Nick Nurse or Jerry Stackhouse. They were initially believed to be candidates, but reportedly haven’t been interviewed for the job.
The Raptors may have lost their top choice on Wednesday, when Mike Budenholzer – who met with Toronto on Monday – reached an agreement to coach the Bucks. With the former Hawks coach off the market, it’s not clear which direction the Raptors will go.
As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes today, the other known candidates to replace Dwane Casey are all in-house coaches. Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse have interviewed for the position, according to Grange, who suggests that Nurse may be the favorite of those three based on his excellent work with Toronto’s offense.
Still, it’s not a lock that the Raptors will pick one of their internal candidates. In fact, Grange says he’d be “very surprised” if team president Masai Ujiri doesn’t cast a wider net in the coming days — or even weeks.
While it’s possible that another team could join the Pistons, Magic, and Raptors in a search for a new head coach, the odds of that happening seem less and less likely.
Teams that have been eliminated from the postseason – or didn’t make it to begin with – probably wouldn’t drag their feet this long before making a change.
As for the four teams still alive, Tyronn Lue is the only one of those four head coaches whose seat may be heating up, but I don’t think he’s in any immediate danger of being fired by the Cavaliers.
To keep tabs on the NBA’s head coaching updates for the rest of the spring, be sure to check out our tracker.