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Monday, July 18, 2011
Updated: August 2, 7:01 PM ET
Best, worst NBA head-coaching hires?

The TrueHoop Network

Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson will move from the TV booth to the bench next season as Golden State's new coach.

Free agency has ground to a halt as a result of the lockout, but the NBA coaching carousel is still spinning. The Lakers (Mike Brown), Pacers (Frank Vogel, bumped up from interim), Raptors (Dwane Casey), Rockets (Kevin McHale) and Warriors (Mark Jackson) have all updated their coaching staffs, while the Pistons and Timberwolves are still scouring the market.

ESPN Insider broke down the challenges that await some of the NBA's newest leading men. Now our crew plays a little 5-on-5 to figure out which teams have made the best, and worst, head-coaching hires this offseason, and to whom the leftover undecideds should turn now.

1. Which team has made the best coaching hire thus far?



Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Dwane Casey placed as the runner-up for head-coaching jobs at least five times over the past three years, but his credentials as the mastermind of the Mavs' defense finally -- and deservedly -- put him over the top in Toronto. Casey will bring his understanding of system and appreciation of order to a team that's been governed by chaos on the floor in recent seasons.

Rahat Huq, Red94: Houston. There were rumblings of a disconnect between Adelman and the Rockets' front office with the former having been not so receptive to analytical data nor enthusiastic about the call for a youth movement. In McHale, Daryl Morey gets a man open to his ideas but who carries a big stick, bringing instant credibility to the sidelines.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: I'll say Frank Vogel. "Interim" coaches often feel like aspiring boyfriends who have slipped into the dreaded "friend zone." However, Vogel did a terrific job with the Pacers this season and certainly deserved an opportunity to capitalize on his success. I'm glad Indiana didn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

John Converse Townsend, Truth About It: Indiana. I like Vogel, the 38-year-old upstart who changed the identity and the attitude of pro hoops in the Hoosier State. Vogel's new-look Pacers -- a "power-post team, blood and guts, old-school, smash-mouth team" -- made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and nailed the role of rude houseguests in Chicago. He's familiar, affordable and ready for the challenge.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Dwane Casey might be the better answer but let's say Kevin McHale. He was successful in his first fill-in role before scuffling through the second, but that came under the pressure of being a floundering GM in his home state. McHale seems rejuvenated by his broadcasting time, and players will immediately pay him respect.


2. Which team has made the worst coaching hire thus far?



Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: If you're someone who believes that experience on an NBA bench is a prerequisite, then it's Golden State with Jackson. If you feel that "players buying in" is overrated, then it's Houston with McHale. If you think that incumbency shouldn't mean anything, it's Indiana with Vogel. And if you insist the Lakers could've had anyone under the sun, then Brown might be a head-scratcher.

Rahat Huq, Red94: Anyone who watched the Cleveland Cavaliers even passively during "The LeBron Era" would share befuddlement over the Lakers' selection of Mike Brown over far more appealing candidates. The defense was solid, sure, but few have been less imaginative with a clipboard. Most disturbing is that franchise icon Kobe Bryant was not consulted for the decision, foreshadowing inevitable turbulence.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Mark Jackson is the worst hire so far. I've always enjoyed Jackson's work as a color commentator, but his résumé does not suggest he's prepared to be a head coach in the NBA. He may prove to be a success, but there are several other candidates whose capabilities are more certain.

John Converse Townsend, Truth About It: Golden State. The Warriors fell in love with Mark Jackson's strong personality and undeniable leadership skills, but it remains to be seen whether he can translate those qualities to the chalkboard. Jackson must quickly find a way to keep the undisciplined Warriors in line. His job depends on it.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: I am a St. John's University alum and the '98 Pacers are perhaps my favorite team of all time, but I just can't see any way that the Mark Jackson hire works out well in Golden State. If Monta Ellis gets dealt, that could help, but his inexperience plus that roster is worrisome.


3. Which newly hired coach has the toughest task ahead?



Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Mike Brown will be following the most decorated NBA coach of the past 50 years for a franchise that hangs banners only when it wins a title. The Lakers' core isn't getting any younger, and the roster has been accustomed to running the same system for the better part of a decade. Brown could win 55-60 games and still be deemed a failure by some.

Rahat Huq, Red94: Asking Casey to coach Toronto is akin to handing Mike D'Antoni a lineup of Kevin Ollie, Keith Bogans, Nazr Mohammed, Kelvin Cato and Bismack Biyombo. Great hire, but may God be with the defensive genius in his future efforts to get the Raptors roster to buckle down on D.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Mike Brown has an incredibly difficult task ahead of him. He has to replace the man many believe to be the greatest coach ever. He is the only new coach who will be expected to compete for a title in his first season. A man named Metta World Peace is on his team. He has a difficult task ahead.

John Converse Townsend, Truth About It: Mike Brown. On paper, Brown is a great hire for Los Angeles: He has a Lakers-worthy résumé, an affinity for defense and the uncanny ability to orchestrate basketball symphonies with a one-man band. Sure, Brown will be coaching under the bright lights of Hollywood, but it's impossible to picture him stepping out of Phil Jackson's shadow.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Mike Brown. Pau is coming off a playoff meltdown, Kobe is a year older, and Bynum wants a larger offensive role that he is unlikely to get without upsetting his older, more accomplished teammates. And, oh yeah, anything less than a title is a complete failure in L.A. You've got a heckuva job, Brownie.


4. Who should be the Pistons' next coach?



Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: Over the past few seasons, Kelvin Sampson (currently a Rockets assistant) has gained a reputation as a potential just-add-water NBA head-coaching candidate. He's regarded as a strong communicator and adored by players. Though a black cloud hangs over his NCAA legacy, Sampson is a basketball lifer who can orchestrate a team.

Rahat Huq, Red94: Lawrence Frank might be the smart choice, but why not Bill Laimbeer? The legend would bring karma and good feelings to a franchise so down on hard times that Tracy McGrady was reeled in off the scrap heap as a potential savior. Can Charlie V learn to throw an elbow? A potential sticking point.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: Luckily for the Pistons, they could make a number of different choices and still have made a good one. Bill Laimbeer and Patrick Ewing both have what it takes to succeed as NBA coaches, but personally, I'd love to see Mike Woodson get another shot. Woodson strikes me as the kind of underappreciated talent Joe Dumars favors.

John Converse Townsend, Truth About It: Lawrence Frank is a top candidate for the Pistons job and deserves another shot as a head coach. Frank is an effective motivator who spent last season as Doc Rivers' lead assistant in Boston and I'm curious to see what he could achieve with Detroit's young and talented roster.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Lawrence Frank. By all accounts, Frank has a great mind for the game and he started his coaching career as the league's golden boy. People forget, but when he was 35, he was essentially doing what Scott Brooks is doing today. He deserves another job, and Detroit needs some order and dignity back on its bench.


5. Is Don Nelson the answer in Minnesota?



Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: The Timberwolves want to play an unorthodox style with Ricky Rubio at the controls. Why not make an unorthodox hire and tap renowned European coach Ettore Messina to run the show? Messina, who is currently on the Lakers' staff, is a master of inside-out basketball and knows how to maximize skilled big men.

Rahat Huq, Red94: What we've learned over the years is that Don Nelson is never the answer.

Graydon Gordian, 48 Minutes of Hell: For the sake of poor Anthony Randolph, the Minnesota Timberwolves should not hire Don Nelson. Although I don't envision him actually getting the job, I think Rick Adelman would be a far better fit. I'd love to see the same imagination he brought to an unusual Rockets roster applied to the young talent Minnesota has cobbled together.

John Converse Townsend, Truth About It: Don Nelson is not the answer in Minnesota. The Timberwolves were already one of the fastest teams in the league last season, so bringing in a coach with "uptempo DNA" is likely to blow the roof off the Target Center. Rick Adelman should get a look. He's more than capable of molding David Kahn's eccentric roster into a winner.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: No. I love me some Nellie and think that his innovative approach to the game revolutionized the sport. But Nelson's best coaching days are way behind him, and I don't think he is the answer anywhere anymore.