2019 NBA Head Coaching Carousel Recap

The 2017/18 NBA league year was one of the most active in recent memory for head coaching changes. Nine teams – nearly one-third of the league’s 30 franchises – named new head coaches between the start of the ’17/18 season and the 2018 draft.

The ’18/19 league year was only slightly quieter in terms of head coaching changes. Fred Hoiberg (Bulls), Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers), and Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves) were fired during the season, and several more coaches got the axe at season’s end.

Jim Boylen, Hoiberg’s replacement in Chicago, was named the Bulls’ new permanent head coach during the season and was extended at season’s end, but Cleveland and Minnesota conducted head coaching searches this spring. As such, the Cavs and Wolves are included in our round-up below of the offseason’s head coaching shake-up, but the Bulls aren’t.

Here’s a recap of which teams have named new permanent head coaches since the end of the 2018/19 season:

Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Hired: John Beilein (story)
  • Replaced: Larry Drew (story)
  • Contract details: Five-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Juwan Howard, Jamahl Mosley, J.B. Bickerstaff, Alex Jensen, Ime Udoka, Ettore Messina, Steve Hetzel, Wes Unseld Jr., Jordi Fernandez, David Vanterpool

After mutually agreeing to part ways with Drew, the Cavaliers conducted a long, thorough coaching search that focused primarily on young, up-and-coming assistants. So it came as a surprise when they made a long-term commitment to Beilein, a 66-year-old college head coach.

Still, Beilein has a strong track record developing young players at the University of Michigan. He’ll bring that pedigree to Cleveland, where he’ll be joined by other new hires like associate head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and assistant Lindsay Gottlieb.

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Hired: Frank Vogel (story)
  • Replaced: Luke Walton (story)
  • Contract details: Three-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Monty Williams, Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd, Juwan Howard, J.B. Bickerstaff

After months of rumors that Walton was on the hot seat, it seemed as if the Lakers would have a top candidate or two in mind to pursue at season’s end, when Walton’s ouster became official. Williams and Lue appeared to be those top targets, but Williams accepted an offer from Phoenix and Lue and the Lakers couldn’t agree to terms.

The Lakers moved onto Plan B (or was it Plan C?), unexpectedly turning to Vogel on a fairly short-term deal. The former Pacers coach will be joined by other former head coaches on the Lakers’ sidelines, as Kidd and Lionel Hollins are reportedly coming aboard as assistants.

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Hired: Taylor Jenkins (story)
  • Replaced: J.B. Bickerstaff (story)
  • Contract details: Not known
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Alex Jensen, Jarron Collins, Igor Kokoskov, Nate Tibbetts, Adrian Griffin, Sarunas Jasikevicius

The longest-lasting head coaching search of the offseason also resulted in the most out-of-left-field hire. Jenkins, a longtime Mike Budenholzer lieutenant in Atlanta and Milwaukee, hadn’t received much head coaching buzz in recent years, but the Grizzlies liked what they saw in multiple meetings with him.

The hiring of Jenkins was the first major decision made by the new Memphis management group led by team president Jason Wexler and executive VP of basketball operations Zach Kleiman.

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Hired: Ryan Saunders (story)
  • Replaced: Tom Thibodeau (in-season change)
  • Contract details: Not known
  • Also reportedly interviewed: Juwan Howard, David Vanterpool, Chris Finch, Darvin Ham

Saunders stepped in as the Timberwolves’ interim head coach in January when Thibodeau was let go, and he immediately emerged as a player-friendly coach who earned the trust of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and others.

With a new president of basketball operations arriving in the spring, it seemed as if the Wolves might go in another direction, and Gersson Rosas did briefly consider outside candidates. However, Rosas ultimately opted for continuity, making the 33-year-old the NBA’s youngest current head coach.

Phoenix Suns

  • Hired: Monty Williams (story)
  • Replaced: Igor Kokoskov (story)
  • Contract details: Five-year deal (link)
  • Also reportedly interviewed: David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbetts

Williams was one of the most popular head coaching candidates on the market this offseason, as the Sixers assistant received consideration from the Lakers and Kings in addition to the Suns. In Phoenix, he’ll assume control of a young roster headed by Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker.

It will be Williams’ second opportunity to serve as an NBA head coach. He previously held that position in New Orleans from 2010-15 for the Hornets and Pelicans.

Sacramento Kings

  • Hired: Luke Walton (story)
  • Replaced: Dave Joerger (story)
  • Contract details: Four-year deal (link)

No team moved faster to name a new head coach than the Kings, who had a deal in place with Walton just two days after firing Joerger. While there were rumors that Sacramento would consider Monty Williams and Ettore Messina, the team settled quickly on Walton, who was originally hired in Los Angeles to coach a young Lakers squad that didn’t feature LeBron James. He’ll get another opportunity to coach an up-and-coming roster in Sacramento.

The fact that the Kings moved so quickly on Walton meant that by the time sexual assault allegations against him surfaced later in April, he was already under contract with his new team. There has been no indication that Sacramento is reconsidering its commitment to Walton, who has vehemently denied those allegations.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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