Community Shootaround: Best, Worst Head Coaching Hires

More coaching vacancies were filled this week, with Nate Bjorkgren and Stan Van Gundy becoming the sixth and seventh head coaches hired since July. The Pacers believe Bjorkgren can deliver the modern offense they were looking for when they decided to replace Nate McMillan, while the Pelicans were impressed by Van Gundy’s leadership skills and his track record at his previous stops in Miami, Orlando and Detroit.

Earlier in the week, the Clippers officially promoted Tyronn Lue to head coach to take over for Doc Rivers. Lue inherits one of the most talented rosters in the league and already has a familiarity with his players after serving as lead assistant under Rivers for the past year.

This year’s coaching moves started in late July when the Knicks reached an agreement to bring Tom Thibodeau to New York. Thibodeau was rumored to be in contention for jobs with several teams that were part of the NBA’s restart, so the Knicks took advantage of their opportunity as one of the league’s eight inactive clubs.

Steve Nash was the most surprising move of the offseason as the Nets hired the two-time MVP as their head coach without any previous experience. Nash beat out interim coach Jacque Vaughn, along with an impressive field of rumored candidates that included Lue, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd, ABC/ESPN broadcasters Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson and Sixers assistant Ime Udoka.

Two other head coaches were hired shortly after being dismissed by other teams. The Sixers jumped at the chance to add Rivers, reaching an agreement three days after he was fired by the Clippers. Likewise, the Bulls pounced on Billy Donovan after the Thunder let him go.

Houston and Oklahoma City still have vacancies to fill, but we want to get your feedback on the coaching changes so far. Which teams made the best and worst decisions in choosing their head coaches? Please leave your answers in the comment section.

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38 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Best, Worst Head Coaching Hires

  1. mikey

    I don’t get why billy went to the bulls if he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding team, unless he really thinks that they can pull it together but that seems like an odd match. Steve Nash is also weird, maybe if it were a rebuilding team trying to take a shot and see if it works. But for them I would’ve put someone more experienced in that spot. But if they’re gonna be surrounding with an experienced staff like Vaughn and Dantoni, I could see it working. The other hires I like a lot more. Don’t really know much about Bjorkgren, would’ve liked to see Ime Udoka get a head coaching job, I think he deserves it. But I can’t say it’s a bad hire until we see them play games. A lot of times those assistant coaches you never hear about end up doing great so it’ll be interesting to see

    • mikey

      I like the Knicks with Tom tho, same with Van Gundy with pelicans, doc with 76ers, and Ty lue with the clips. I’d say perfect choices for all 4. Rockets I’d say to get other van gundy, and the thunder shock everyone and get Becky hammon. Tho they both are probably gonna go in different directions.

      • x%sure

        Agree with all of it, amazing. Now that SVG is hired, I’m hoping for JVG in nearby Houston for the rivalry.
        Also, seeing JVG on the BRK list and thinking, {but JVG is better than all them, how will he address them!}… Apparently my opinion of him is higher than I thought.

        Presti doesn’t seem to know what to do. One thing he could do after observing the OKC-Spur rivalry, is grab a Spur AC and make history! (And still not know the best rebuild path!)

      • cleve1969

        I believe Becky Hammon would do better to stay with the SASpurs and take over for Pop when he retires … the players know her and respect her abilities. Going to a new team might take her longer to earn that respect …

  2. Sillivan

    All jobs are tough

    My top 4 by order
    Van Gundy

    76ers, Knicks and Pacers won’t have success next year

    • Not bad Sullivan. I think you’re close. Very close.

      My top 4 by order
      Donovan ✔
      Nash ✔
      Lue ?
      Van Gundy ✔

      76ers, Knicks and Pacers won’t have success next year ✔ (except I think the Pacers will be pretty good.)

  3. Doc with the Sixers is a disaster. Massive expectations go unfulfilled for the next 3 years.

    I like Stan Van Gundy with the Pelicans. Watch out, they were on the cusp of being pretty good and Stan could help them move up from there.

    Donovan to the Bulls.. I think that Fresh Start looks a little more appealing to any rebuild in OKC. He’ll probably help the Bulls gain respectability and the playoffs. They’ve got some nice players there.

    Nash to the Nets I think is underrated genius. The assistants will do all the necessary prep and details. Nash will be like Phil Jackson.., someone who just brings it all together with expertise and tweaking and the right game call or play here and there. Not sure if Nash has Tex winter and Frank Hamblen but hopefully he does.

    • harden-westbrook-mvps

      Doc had a lot more talent to work with last season, and still couldn’t even get the Clippers to their first WCF appearance. At least there are a lot fewer teams to worry about in the east so getting to the 2nd round is hardly much of an accomplishment. So he can do the easy part of getting the Sixers back to the playoffs, and maybe they won’t get swept again in the first round.

  4. mike.honcho

    Coaching, even elite coaching, can only take you so far ……. elite coaches like Spoelstra & Nurse, took their depleted teams as far as it can go this season.

    In the end, it’s all about the superstars. The NBA is the most superstar-centric league in the world. You get superstar players, you will contend.

    Everyone knows this, especially Lebron, I mean Pelinka ……… that’s why Lebron, I mean Pelinka got AD to the LAKERS last season.

    The MAGIC was absolute garbage under Vogel, yet Vogel won a ring with the LAKERS this season.

    The WARRIOS won rings with Kerr – yet they had the worst record last season, all because KD left and the Splash bros went down …… despite still having All-Stars Draymond & DLo at some point last season.

    Luke Walton set new wins records as an interim coach with the WARRIOS back in 2015 …….. then he went to the LAKERS, then the KINGS where he has yet to reach the playoffs.

    It’s all about the superstars. The NETS will make the playoffs, they’ll likely make a deep playoff run which will make Steve Nash a good coaching hire.

    • x%sure

      A long list increases the chances of finding disagreement! Kerr was not motivated to win, indeed the opposite, though I doubt he ever used the word tank. Fans openly supported tanking though.
      The players looked like they were auditioning.

      • mike.honcho

        I can understand the letdown of losing your top players to injury, but Jesus Christ, Kerr still had a decent enough team last season – enough to not bottom out.

        He even had Draymond & DLo at some points last season.

        I agree that the fans seemed to have given Kerr and the team a free-pass last year though ……… after that 5-year long joyride.

        • arc89

          GSW and Kerr let the team bottom out. They traded 3 of their best bench players for draft picks. Some games they did not even have enough starters to play because of injuries dipping into the G league. I don’t know of any coach that could have won with a G team they had. So let you understand how under man they were. Of their starters all 5 were injured. D’lo missed many games. Green missed most of the year. Curry missed all but 2 games. Starting center traded for a draft pick. Their top 2 bench players traded for draft picks. Looney was injured almost all year. So tell me which coach could have won with how bad that team was?

          • mike.honcho

            You may have missed the part where I posted – they still had enough to not have bottomed out.

            Draymond played in 66% of their games ……… Barkley & Shaq be laughing at the triple-singles, because Draymond played in more than enough games to see that he’s struggling without the other stars.

            More than the losses, it was the way they lost most of the games …….. I agree with the earlier post from @sure, it’s sure seemed like Kerr treated the games as if the players were on tryouts.

            Players were just going through the motions, some looking for shots than usual.

  5. mike.honcho

    There are elite coaches, great coaches and good coaches ……… some downright bad ones from time to time, Rambis, Boylen, Fisher, Floyd, Cleamons, etc.

    GM’s will try to get those elite and great ones, when available.

    But it doesn’t matter as much as getting superstar/s for your team.

  6. Simmons>Russ

    Worst is Tom Thibs on the Knicks.

    He is an old school coach who plays his players big minutes, expects a huge effort on defence and his players often get tired and tired. He has no track record of developing young players.
    Terrible fit for the Knicks who are a young team, with no real big name players in a rebuild. Obviously the front office/ownership makes the decision and are trying to win now which not going to happen.

    Best hire I think goes to the Bulls with Billy Donovan.

    Donovan started coaching as an assistant at Kentucky then made his name in Florida college basketball. He then went to OKC where after coaching for 1 season and going from a non playoff team to the third seed, Kevin Durant left him. It’s hard to kinda judge his coaching at OKC where I feel Russ made most the decisions.

    Russ wouldn’t have been easy to coach and you have to look at how he managed to keep a good locker room even with someone like Russ and then Melo. I also thought he had done a good job constantly achieving with a roster which seemed to change every season, take this year for example many never predicted OKC would’ve made the playoffs and how well he balanced having 3 point guards and no shooting wings.

    In Chicago I’m not sure what he’s expecting to do with them but LaVine is a near all star, Markeneen has shown major glimpses and the rest of the roster ain’t bad but there isn’t much. I think they made the right call in cleaning out the front office aswell and books wise they have some nice expiring deals and some youngsters that have show skill.

    • stevep-4

      You keep making this cliche case against Thibs, even though it is apparent you have not watched him coach many games. He is an elite coach defensively, and his offensive schemes are entirely based upon the roster fit. This makes him a “do more with less” coach, perfect for the Knicks, who really don’t have much right now. They can find out who of their youngsters has any real upside pretty quick.

      As for the Bulls, Donovan likely will do the same for them, and quickly. He is a smart in-game coach and may yet teach Lavine when to pass and when to play hero. He may find a way to use Markannen, but I am not convinced that he is really as good as the org thinks he is, seems a less-talented version of Mrotic, frankly.

      So we agree on Donovan but I really am tired of the bad rap on Thibs.

      • Simmons>Russ

        Elite defensive coach… on the bulls he had Jimmy Butler, Loul Deng, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Carlos Boozer and former defensive player of the year Jaokim Noah.
        That team was stacked with tough grind it out defenders, you’d expect them to be elite defensively.

        Whereas look at how he was with Minnesota, I never watch TWolves games so I searched up there team defensive rankings with him. They were 27th, 27th, 23rd with Thibs then this year without him went to 19th and that’s with Butler and Gibson gone aswell.

        So I consider Thibs a defensive coach but I wouldn’t even call him good at that.

        Then you said offensively he does the best with what he’s got on the roster. I think he burns out the starters on his roster offensively. For example Derrick Rose, torn his ACL and then meniscus. Loul Deng averaged roughly 39 minutes per game most season under Thibs and has now medically retired. Noah averaged 37 minutes per game then the next season dislocated his shoulder and had knee surgery. Then Zach LaVine was playing 37 minutes per game before he tore his ACL. Then Jimmy Butler, his season ending injury was after averaging 37 minutes per game (2nd in the league). KAT (36) and Wiggins (35) also were in the top 20 more minutes per game that season.

        I mean it’s straight facts that Thibs plays his dudes huge minutes and what comes from big minutes is big injuries.

        I can see RJ Barrett getting used 36 minutes per game as he’s your best player and then getting a huge injury, which at a young age is very tough. I really hope I’m wrong but it’s Thibs.

        • stevep-4

          Rose got injured because of his style of play, which was very high-risk until later in his career when he developed an outside shot.

          I was at the game where Noah got hurt and which ended up being his last Bulls appearance. He offered to come back early from another injury, against medical advice, which led to the worsening of the injury.

          His rotations are defined by the amount of depth on the roster, so, yeah, you probably will see large minutes in NY. But what should he do, play scrubs just to play them?

      • x%sure

        Agree on Thibs 1) being good for a team that needs to establish an identity. 2) They don’t have enough quality youth to make that a basis to hire someone on. 3) I don’t think developing players in a hothouse, youth-oriented atmosphere will will work in NYC like say, Denver. 4) Dolan already hired Rose, so a HC on the same page should follow, whether Dolan made the right choice or not.

        The Bulls also had a GM change like (4), but I’m not sure there is synergy. Karnisova just hired the best candidate and IDKY Donovan even applied there then accepted so quickly.

        • stevep-4

          Agreed on all your points, actually. I just think Thibs gets a bad rap as a coach, he is great in-game strategist and a guard whisperer, gets the most out of players at the margins. He may overwork the starters a bit, but I doubt he would do this if he has better reserves. I suppose the “bench mob” year he played the reserves more, but I would be interested in the statistics.

  7. x%sure

    team wins more than before– SVG, Thibs
    wins more but still unsettled– Donovan, Nash
    dependent on a successful trade– Lue, Bjorkgren, Rivers

    • mike.honcho

      Yep, SVG and Thibs will win for their teams.

      The PELICANS (especially Zion) stay healthy, I expect the making the playoffs, bottom-half.

      The KNICKS have nowhere to go but up, making the playoffs is a reach for now …….. good for the GM to acknowledge that a proper rebuild is needed.

      Same with the BULLS, I expect the BULLS to crowd that 8th to 10th spot all year.

      The PACERS Bjork guy is a big unknown for now, he could pan out like Jenkins or can flame-out like Kokoskov.

      The NETS will easily make the playoffs, how KD recovers should be a good indicator how far they go in the playoffs.

      The 76ers are a flawed team, guards who don’t shoot the long ball …….. a dominant center who does. They’ll still make the playoffs though.

  8. Thibs is the best HC hired, and has a good chance to be the best hire. Donavan was also a good hire. SVG, short term, might work out well if their players buy in and Griffin maintains some roster continuity. The Pacer guy and Nash are unknowns. The only impact that Rivers and Lue will have is changing the name on the door of the HC’s office.

  9. El Don

    By far the best & only good hire is Nash, experience is overrated, very few HC’s in the league know more hoops than Nash, he is young & automatically respected by all players, doesn’t have to earn their respect, also is young enough to still have that connection of having played with a number of guys in the roster.
    The other hire that can turn any good is Bjorkgren to IND, I can see potential there, specially if he allows Domas to be the star of the team, with Brogdon & TJ next, should get rid of dead weight like Oladipo & Turner.
    All the other teams did dreadful hires, specially compounded by the fact that no one of them did hire J-Kidd, who is way better than all the bums that got hired (Thibs, Doc, Lue, SVG & Donovan)

    • mike.honcho

      I can see that very small argument wherein Kidd might, might be a better coach than Lue. Might.

      But Kidd being a way better coach than Thibs, Doc, SVG and Donovan?

      Some strong stuff you must be smoking now.

    • mcpucho

      Naturally Oladipo and Turner get traded to the Knicks.

      Nate McMillan top 3 defensive coach in league. Guy can’t catch a break.

    • x%sure

      I would like to see Kidd get another chance.
      I wonder if Kidd is more responsible than acknowledged for the recently successful style of the Bucks, the style that appeared lost in the bubble playoffs. But I would have to have followed them closer to be sure enough. I’ve already overrated Bledsoe. Again possibly, Bledsoe enforced Kidd’s scheme well for the overlap of 2.5 months in 2017/18, but without learning the whys & wherefors enough to last very far into 2020.
      Bledsoe would probably be more similar to Kidd than Buden.

      If a new HC wants to, he can blend the old HC’s ways into his for about a year. Not everyone tries to do that though… The trend is to want to start fresh.

  10. Nebraska Tim

    Nate Bjorkgren is the best hire by far.

    Nash is inexperienced, and everyone else is a “meh” retread.

    I’d like to see more actual coaches get a shot. For example, Jerry Stackhouse would immediately be a top 5 coach.

    • mcpucho

      Nets likely will hire D’Antoni as Co-Head Coach for 1-2 yrs.

      Stack became superb vet leader. Def coach material but head coach acumen not so sure.

      Sam Cassel deserves shot as head coach.

  11. phillyballers

    Team records at the end of the season will help determine best and worst hire. So repost this on the last day of the regular season. Thanks.

    • Okay so Doc Rivers will be the best hire. They’ll be the 3rd seed in the East and have a great regular season record. Well done Sixers. Fantastic regular season. Doc Rivers is the best.

      • mcpucho

        They’ll make changes. Doc knows Philly going no where until trade Al Horford & his contract. He’s 34 yrs old with 3 yrs left.

        SAS best fit as Horford fits their philosophy and lets SAS trade Aldridge for younger players.

        SAS sends DeMar Derozan and Patty Mills to PHI for Al Horford, Josh Richardson, future 1st.

        Expect Austin Rivers (PO) to be signed too.

  12. suburbanwarren

    I think all of the new coaches, will do a great job you can’t take chicken manure and turn it into chicken salad! You need great players with endurance, chemistry, and High IQ along with strong leadership

  13. WSnotAstros2017

    I think all coaches deserve a chance with new teams.
    I may not like a couple picks with the teams.
    Wonder who will take OKC and Rockets
    I really do not want Van Gundy again. But shocked Rockets have not picked him with his brother with Pelicans
    Lucas I know has been assistant or specialist with the team but is he a good one to take team. I do not think that Rockets will get a championship with Harden and Westbrook but maybe they will before Astros see a World Series win again that is not tainted.

  14. mcpucho

    The 4 yr/$24 million put rose colored glasses on the Bulls for Donovan.

    OKC is breaking down sum of its parts with looming trades for CP3, Schroeder and Stephen Adams to clear the books. No mention of resigning Gallo.

    It’s going to be a MAJOR rebuild.

    Chicago has a nice backcourt of White and Lavine,

  15. mcpucho

    Donovan made the right choice.

    OKC breaking down sum of its parts with looming trades for CP3, Schroeder and Stephen Adams. Going to be MAJOR rebuild.

    Chicago has Lavine, White, Markkannen, 2020 #4 draft pick & Porter Jr and TY expirings to trade. Bulls MUCH further along in rebuild than OKC.

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