The list: NBA head coaching candidates

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
4:22
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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When an NBA team is in search of a new leader, where do they look? This list, built on conversations with agents, front office personnel and insiders, is the place to start. This list will be updated with the evolving marketplace.

The big names
  • Jeff Van Gundy In a summer with potential for high-profile vacancies, this high-profile candidate is being discussed.
  • HIRED: Lakers Mike Brown His reputation took a beating in Cleveland, but what candidate has won, or dealt with superstars, like Brown has?
  • Rick Adelman The trend is toward more intense, "Thibodeau-style" coaches. That's not Adelman. But it's tough to argue with his body of work, and the Lakers in particular are known to value pretty basketball.
  • Pat Riley The idea he'd leave the Heat is laughable, except to a few insiders who know his competitive drive.
  • Larry Brown Insiders can't agree whether or not Brown will get another shot after wearing out his welcome at his last two stops. Nobody disputes he'd like one.
  • HIRED: Warriors Mark JacksonThere's tons of respect for his command of the game, but having been close so many times, one insider suggested he take an assistant job merely to demonstrate hunger.
  • HIRED: Rockets Kevin McHale Players liked him as a coach in Minnesota. Should Doc Rivers leave Boston, it'd be hard for the Celtics to find a candidate with richer lore.
The assistants
  • David Joerger As the Grizzlies keep winning, their smart, hard-working assistant looks better and better. Joerger has paid long dues, which is rare in combination with open-mindedness to analytics, and enough fire to lead.
  • Lawrence Frank If the Celtics make a deep run, Frank could be flavor of the month ... but having coached the Nets to an 0-16 start still stings.
  • Jamahl Mosley Remember when LeBron James talked all that trash to the Cleveland bench, and YouTube featured a Cleveland assistant who coolly told him off? That was Mosley.
  • Dean Demopoulos He coaches defenses, and his arrival in Los Angeles coincided with a notable Clipper improvement at that end. Not a bad reputation, in the year everyone wants to hire the next Thibodeau.
  • HIRED: Warriors Michael Malone The best hire of recent years was intense assistant Tom Thibodeau. Mike Brown's former assistant is said to fit the profile.
  • Elston Turner A long-time Rocket assistant -- if the people who know him best don't offer him the job, it'll hurt his chances elsewhere.
  • Lester Conner He played for a lot of the teams that have openings, and it's hard to find anyone who'll criticize him.
  • Kelvin Sampson The Bucks' assistant was a head man in college, where he developed ties to players including Blake Griffin.
  • Brian Shaw Once seen as having the inside track to replace Phil Jackson, word is that's less certain now as Jim Buss has emerged as the team's point man in the search.
  • Armond Hill Doc Rivers is as respected as they come, and Hill is among his most trusted assistants.
  • Mike Budenholzer Gregg Popovich's basketball factory has cranked out plenty of NBA leaders.
  • Dwane Casey No one doubts his knowledge or work ethic -- the challenge is to wow owners in interviews.
  • Tony Brown A former player with more than a decade in the trenches, and plenty of charisma.
  • Johnny Davis Joerger isn't the only Memphis assistant drawing interest, and Davis has head coaching experience in Philadelphia and Orlando.
  • Adrian Dantley The former star player was on a ton of short lists ... fewer since the Nuggets fell apart on his watch in last year's playoffs.
The college coaches
  • Mike Krzyzewski Kobe Bryant has professed his admiration time and again, and the Lakers are coach-shopping.
  • John Calipari The name comes up plenty, and with William Wesley on his side he could command respect from big-name players. But does he really want to coach in the NBA, or a bigger deal from Kentucky?
  • Sean Miller "There were two guys who I knew, from the very start of their careers, would be great coaches," Stan Van Gundy tells ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz. "Sean Miller and Erik Spoelstra." David Thorpe says the Arizona coach “acts like a pro coach: He’s very composed, a very good teacher."
  • Nancy Lieberman She is coaching men already in the D-League, and after a lifetime of firsts, what's one more?
  • John Groce Ohio's coach, who was once Greg Oden's de facto offensive coordinator, is said to have an NBA playbook and demeanor.
  • Brad Stevens He's on plenty of short lists after pushing all the right buttons for Butler.
  • Billy Donovan No one doubts his ability to lead. His NBA issue is whether or not his dalliance with the Orlando Magic has disqualified him from the whole league, or just that one team.
  • Jay Wright Plenty of respect for the Villanova coach's abilities ... some speculate he may have stayed in college too long.
  • Jamie Dixon The Pitt coach has fans in NBA circles.
  • Bill Self The Kansas coach is well-liked, and has coached plenty of NBA players.
Looking ahead
  • Ettore Messina Nobody doubts he's one of the best coaches in the world. Whether or not NBA owners are bold enough to entrust an outsider with an NBA roster, however, remains to be seen.
  • David Blatt Maccabi's head coach played at Princeton under Pete Carril, coached Andrei Kirilenko on the Russian national team, and has plenty of NBA connections.
  • Chris Finch After a stint in Europe he leads one of the D-League's model franchises, which happens to be run by the Houston Rockets, who have an opening.
  • David Fizdale If the Heat start winning titles, Erik Spoelstra's lead assistant will enter the spotlight.
  • Derek Fisher A good chunk of his value as a player is in team leadership, which points to high potential on the bench or in a front office.
  • Igor Kokoskov People who know the Suns assistant rave, but few consider him a major candidate yet.
  • Steve Nash Several suggest Nash has everything it takes. Less clear is why someone with his money and range of interests would put up with the grind of coaching.
  • Brian Scalabrine He has played for Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau and Byron Scott, and alongside Jason Kidd and Kevin Garnett. And he's not afraid to speak his mind.
  • Manu Ginobili Foreign players haven't often gotten these kinds of opportunites, but can anyone question his smarts or passion?
One more time?
Insiders mention these former head coaches repeatedly, but it's hard to find anyone who thinks any of them is likely to get hired soon.
  • Maurice Cheeks
  • Keith Smart
  • Terry Stotts
  • Jerry Sloan
  • Herb Williams
  • Eddie Jordan
  • Mike Woodson
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • P.J. Carlesimo
  • Darrell Walker
  • Brian Hill
  • Bernie Bickerstaff
  • Terry Porter
  • Eric Musselman
  • Randy Ayers
  • Marc Iavaroni
  • Jim O'Brien
  • Reggie Theus
  • Sam Mitchell
  • Mike Fratello
Former players
A list of former players with the potential to get hired based on name recognition, but whom insiders say still have plenty to prove:
  • Mario Elie
  • Jack Sikma
  • Bill Laimbeer
  • Patrick Ewing
  • Pete Myers
  • Dan Majerle
  • Sam Cassell

Henry Abbott | email

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