2018 NBA Head Coaching Carousel Recap

After a 2017 offseason in which no NBA team made a head coaching change, the coaching carousel started spinning again once the 2017/18 regular season got underway. The Suns fired Earl Watson just four games into the season, and the Bucks and Grizzlies followed suit with in-season changes of their own.

At the end of the 2017/18 campaign, six more teams made coaching changes, meaning nearly one-third of the league’s 30 clubs will enter next season with head coaches who have been on the job for less than a year.

Here’s a recap of which teams have made head coaching changes during the ’17/18 NBA league year:

Atlanta Hawks

  • Hired: Lloyd Pierce (story)
  • Replaced: Mike Budenholzer (story)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal; fourth-year team option (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Nate Tibbetts, Stephen Silas, Jay Larranaga, Jarron Collins, Darvin Ham, David Fizdale

Pierce has an extensive résumé as an NBA assistant, having worked for the Cavaliers (2007-10), Warriors (2010-11), Grizzlies (2011-13), and Sixers (2013-18). His time in Golden State overlapped with Travis Schlenk‘s tenure in the Warriors’ front office. This will be Pierce’s first NBA head coaching job.

Charlotte Hornets

  • Hired: James Borrego (story)
  • Replaced: Steve Clifford (story)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Jay Larranaga, Jerry Stackhouse, Ettore Messina, David Fizdale, Ime Udoka, David Vanterpool, Jim Boylen, Nick Nurse

Although he earned a little experience as an interim head coach in Orlando in 2015, Borrego has primarily served as an NBA assistant throughout his coaching career. He was previously an assistant for the Spurs (2003-10; 2015-18), Hornets (2010-12), and Magic (2012-15). This will be Borrego’s first permanent NBA head coaching job.

Detroit Pistons

  • Hired: Dwane Casey (story)
  • Replaced: Stan Van Gundy (story)
  • Contract details: Five-year deal, $35MM+ (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Kenny Smith, Juwan Howard, Ime Udoka, John Beilein, Jason Kidd, Nick Nurse
    • Note: The Pistons reportedly wanted to interview Mike Budenholzer before he was hired by the Bucks.

The 2018 recipient of the National Coaches Basketball Association’s Coach of the Year award, Casey is coming off a successful seven-year run as the Raptors’ head coach. A former assistant for the SuperSonics (1994-2005) and Mavericks (2008-11), Casey also had a head coaching stint with the Timberwolves (2005-07). This will be his third NBA head coaching job.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Hired: J.B. Bickerstaff (story)
  • Replaced: David Fizdale (in-season change)
  • Contract details: Three-year deal; third-year team option (link)

Of the nine teams who named new permanent head coaches this spring, Memphis was the only one not to conduct a full-fledged search. The Grizzlies opted to remove Bickerstaff’s interim tag, despite his 15-48 record last season. Bickerstaff was the Rockets’ interim head coach in 2015/16, but this will be his first role as a permanent head coach.

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Hired: Mike Budenholzer (story)
  • Replaced: Jason Kidd (in-season change); Joe Prunty (interim coach)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Joe Prunty, Ettore Messina, Steve Clifford, Monty Williams, David Blatt, Becky Hammon, Jay Larranaga, Jim Cleamons
    • Note: The Bucks reportedly wanted to interview James Borrego before he was hired by the Horents.

Budenholzer began interviewing for other head coaching positions while still under contract with the Hawks, but eventually he and Atlanta formally parted ways. The Milwaukee job will give Budenholzer the chance to avoid going through the rebuild in Atlanta. A longtime Spurs assistant (1996-2013), Budenholzer led the Hawks for five seasons. This will be his second NBA head coaching job.

New York Knicks

  • Hired: David Fizdale (story)
  • Replaced: Jeff Hornacek (story)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Jerry Stackhouse, Mark Jackson, Mike Woodson, Kenny Smith, Mike Budenholzer, David Blatt, James Borrego, Jay Larranaga, Juwan Howard (story), Mike Brown

Fizdale, a veteran assistant with the Warriors (2003-04), Hawks (2004-08), and Heat (2008-16), received his first shot as an NBA head coach in Memphis in 2016. He was fired just 19 games into his second season with the Grizzlies, but was a popular candidate for teams with coaching openings this spring. This will be Fizdale’s second NBA head coaching job.

Orlando Magic

  • Hired: Steve Clifford (story)
  • Replaced: Frank Vogel (story)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: David Vanterpool, Ime Udoka, Kelvin Sampson, David Fizdale

The Magic conducted the longest-lasting head coaching search of any team and ultimately landed on Clifford, who is coming off a five-year stint as the head coach in Charlotte. Prior to joining the Hornets, Clifford worked as an assistant for the Knicks (2001-03), Rockets (2003-07), Magic (2007-12), and Lakers (2012-13). This will be his second NBA head coaching job.

Phoenix Suns

  • Hired: Igor Kokoskov (story)
  • Replaced: Earl Watson (in-season change); Jay Triano (interim coach)
  • Contract details: Three-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: David Fizdale, Frank Vogel, Steve Clifford, Vinny Del Negro, James Borrego, Nick Nurse, Chris Finch, Jason Kidd, Mike Budenholzer

Kokoskov has been an assistant coach for several NBA teams, including the Clippers (2000-03), Pistons (2003-08), Suns (2008-13), Cavaliers (2013-14), Magic (2015), and Jazz (2015-18). He also has some international head coaching experience, having coached the Serbian, Georgian, and Slovenian national teams. This will be Kokoskov’s first NBA head coaching job, and he also becomes the league’s first European-born head coach.

Toronto Raptors

  • Hired: Nick Nurse (story)
  • Replaced: Dwane Casey (story)
  • Contract details: Three-year deal, $10MM (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Rex Kalamian, Jerry Stackhouse, Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Mike Budenholzer

Nurse coached outside of the NBA for much of his career, spending more than a decade in the British Basketball League and six seasons in the G League. He arrived in Toronto as an assistant in 2013 and has spent the last five years on the Raptors’ bench. This will be his first NBA head coaching job.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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One thought on “2018 NBA Head Coaching Carousel Recap

  1. Don’t understand how Clifford got another HC job and how Vogul didn’t get invited for an interview with Toronto.

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