By Jason Wojciechowski on May 1, 2008 at 4:10 AM
The NBA coaching carousel is looking really interesting right now. Avery Johnson is out in Dallas, Mike D'Antoni could be out in Phoenix, and New York and Chicago are looking for coaches. The Miami Heat job looked like it was going to be open, but Pat Riley has promoted Erik Spoelstra from within to replace him. Larry Brown has already replaced Sam Vincent in Charlotte, and Sam Mitchell might be out in Toronto. Oh, and George Karl is in trouble in Denver as well. Milwaukee's job is also open, for what it's worth, with Kelvin Sampson apparently headed there. Not that anyone cares. Do they still play basketball there?
Do any of these jobs make sense for Avery Johnson? If we want to keep ruining the Suns, as Steve Kerr seems determined to do, I guess Johnson could go there and have Steve Nash just stand around and shoot threes off of kickouts from Shaq. New York would probably be a terrible place for him: this was already a boring team, and Johnson loves the boring, grind-it-out basketball game. Plus, he'd probably murder Eddy Curry by December. The last thing the Bulls need is another taskmaster whose idea of beautiful basketball is 85-79 with three punches landed. Maybe Avery could do a good job in Denver. Imagine if the guys in front of Marcus Camby actually focused a little bit on defense. Imagine if Eduardo Najera wasn't allowed to shoot threes. On the other hand, imagine if the four tremendous offensive players on that team (Iverson, Carmelo, Kleiza, JR Smith) were shackled. So I don't know.
Mike D'Antoni would be awesome in New York, by contrast, not because of the players there, but because at least it'd be fun. Do we want to waste a good coach in such a bad situation? It'll be getting better now that Isiah is out and Donnie Walsh is in, but it's going to take a while with all those long, untradeable contracts on the roster. No, I think the most intriguing place for D'Antoni is Dallas. Wouldn't that be great? It's like the Pistons moving from Larry Brown to Flip Saunders, except way more fun. Kidd would be useful again, Dirk could maximize his end-of-peak value, Josh Howard would be the new Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse would hit hundreds of open jumpers. I'd feel bad for my Knicks friend fans, but I really want to see D'Antoni in Dallas. And you know who'd be crazy enough to pull this off? Mark Cuban.
If D'Antoni's not going to Dallas, I'd like to see him in Chicago. The talent there is versatile, it's not particularly big or slow (except Aaron Gray), there are some good shooters ... in short, it looks like his system could take them from boring and bad to exciting and a contender for a top-four spot in the East. In Denver, he'd just be redundant. He's a better coach than Karl, probably, but when you fire a coach, it seems, you're usually looking for a new style. Karl to D'Antoni isn't a new style.
So who should we want in Phoenix? How about Jeff Van Gundy? He'll be a Steve Kerr kind of guy, with defense and posting up and all kinds of good stuff, but I trust he's smart enough to let Steve Nash do his thing at the same time. I'd miss him on the broadcasts, but that's a minor worry. Or maybe Tom Thibodeau, who's been talked up a lot as Boston's defensive coach this year and is a long-time Van Gundy understudy?
If New York doesn't end up with one of these guys, Donnie Walsh could do worse than make a Rick Carlisle reunion happen.
I wonder what assistant coaches, outside of Thibodeau, might be candidates. Mario Elie of Dallas? How about making Igor Kokoskov (Detroit) the first foreign head coach (that I'm aware of)? Brian Shaw from the Lakers?
(Did you know that Scott Layden is an assistant coach in Utah? How humiliating is that?)