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#pounditThursday, February 29, 2024

10 hottest NBA head coaching candidates

Jerry Stackhouse
With a number of NBA coaching jobs opening up, teams are already deep into the process of finding new people to lead their teams. In many cases, these candidates are assistants or former NBA coaches who didn’t finish out the year. There are others, too — broadcasters and even a prominent G League coach who is impressing many.

Here are 10 of the hottest names on the NBA head coaching market.

1) Jerry Stackhouse

Despite a lack of NBA coaching experience, Stackhouse is attracting all sorts of interest. The former star guard has been a big success coaching Toronto’s G League affiliate, winning a title with them in 2017. Hiring a first-time coach at the NBA level is always a risk, but the amount of teams that seem sold on Stackhouse — or at least considering him — is impressive. They’re clearly convinced that his G League success could carry over to the NBA.

2) David Fizdale

Things didn’t work out for Fizdale in Memphis, but it doesn’t look like that will be a huge hindrance on the former Heat assistant’s job prospects. Sure, his tenure with the Grizzlies was flawed, and his breakdown with Marc Gasol is a big red flag, but if he can learn from that, he could still be an effective coach in the NBA. After all, he had Memphis in the playoffs a year ago, taking the San Antonio Spurs to six games.

3) Ettore Messina

In the running to become the NBA’s first European-born head coach, Messina has a hard resume to match, at least if you consider his accomplishments internationally. He has four EuroLeague titles to his name and has received an NBA education from one of the best in Gregg Popovich. He got a brief stint as a playoff coach in Popovich’s absence this season with San Antonio. Spurs players think he’s ready. Nobody will find a more experienced first-time candidate.

4) Jeff Van Gundy

Now that Jon Gruden has taken the jump back into coaching with the Oakland Raiders, Van Gundy becomes sports’s top will-he-or-won’t-he coach-turned-broadcaster. He has tons of experience, but not counting his gold medal stint at FIBA’s AmeriCup last year, it’s been 11 years since he roamed an NBA sideline. Plus, he has a pretty nice job calling games for ESPN right now. If he ever wants a job, though, he’ll find no shortage of interested parties, given his extensive resume.

5) David Blatt

Put aside all the off-court issues and stories about his relationship with LeBron James and boil Blatt’s Cavaliers tenure down to the numbers: an 83-40 record and within two wins of an NBA title. As Tyronn Lue has proven since taking over for him, coaching the Cavaliers is hard. A more forgiving environment — and a team where its superstar doesn’t have such a huge influence in decisionmaking processes — may agree with Blatt and make him an NBA success after all.

6) Mark Jackson

Jackson has made no secret of his desire to get back into coaching after his Warriors tenure ended a year before they broke out and won an NBA title under Steve Kerr. Jackson did an admirable job turning the Warriors into regular season winners, but stories of discontent within the organization during his time there are worrying. He’ll get his fair share of looks, but expect Jackson to be pressed on what he’s learned about organizational harmony in any interview he gets.

7) Ime Udoka

Another potential graduate of the Popovich School of Coaching, Udoka has the rather unique experience of being an NBA journeyman. He’s been a Spurs assistant since 2012, and he’s been linked to the Hornets and Magic jobs. Spurs players like him, he has forged a good relationship with the locker room, and he’s seen as a good teacher, which could make him an intriguing prospect for a lot of teams.

8) Kenny Smith

Smith would certainly be a bold and risky choice, though the New York Knicks are the only team that seem to want him. He’s become quite popular as a TNT broadcaster, but he has no coaching experience and it’s hard to discern what his strong and weak points would be. Still, it’s a well-known name that would certainly create a buzz if someone hired him, and the Knicks are clearly considering him, making him a name to watch.

9) David Vanterpool

An assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers, Vanterpool has been on coaching lists for a while. Working for Portland since 2012, he’s well-regarded on all fronts, and teams are taking notice. The Hornets and Magic have been linked to him. He, too, has EuroLeague experience, winning the title in 2006 as a player with CSKA Moscow.

10) Stephen Silas

Silas certainly keeps the right company and has all the credentials. The son of longtime NBA coach Paul Silas, he was once looked at as a potential lead assistant to Steve Kerr at Golden State. It’s easy to forget now that he was also the runner-up to Mike D’Antoni in Houston, and can now claim experience as the interim head coach of the Hornets as he filled in for Steve Clifford for about a month during his illness. He’s obviously impressed a lot of people, and this could be his year.


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