Well with the final job opening in the NBA seemingly being filled the other night, all teams that felt the need to go in an opposite direction at the end of this season now have their guys to create optimism and hope for the future. Some teams decided to go the traditional route and have a process that consisted of extensive searches, finding hungry assistants with enthusiasm and who have no prior success but no blemishes either. Otheres went for the big names or the recycled coaches, but have hope that those coaches can turn it around with their rosters. Here we'll evaluate each coaching hire, what it registers on the name recognition (to create excitement for the fans) and what it means from the basketball side of things. By the way, the record for the outgoing coach will be their record with the team while career record will be used for the incoming coaches.
Outgoing Coach: Eddie Jordan (27-55)
Incoming Coach: Doug Collins (332-287; 15-23)
Overall: The first job to be filled this offseason was the 76ers job, which went to former Philadelphia player Doug Collins. Collins has been around the league before. He coached Michael Jordan with the Bulls in the late 80s and again with the Wizards from 2001-2003. He also had a stint coaching the Detroit Pistons in the mid 90s. Collins teams have always been notorious for doing great during his initial run with the team, but he's been very bad at player management and has seen his players quit on him in both Detroit and Washington. After a lengthy run in television, most people never thought we'd see Collins back as a team's head coach, but he's got a terrific basketball mind, is fantastic with X's and O's and while the talent isn't jaw dropping in Philadelhpia, if he just gets the team in the right direction before he retires, it's a great hire. I have faith in him doing that.
New Orleans Hornets
Outgoing Coach: Jeff Bower (34-39)
Incoming Coach: Monty Williams (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: Williams' hire was met with a lot of "who" reactions from many people inside and outside the New Orleans Hornets fan base. Williams, who was the lead assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers, is a former player and has been an assistant coach in the NBA for six years now and is meeting the job with infectous enthusiasm and hunger. He did a fine job standing in as Portland's head coach during Nate McMillan's injury this season and won a championship as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005. His name won't register much on the name recognition scale, but there's a new optimism amongst Hornets fans who didn't know much about him before the hiring process. An article where Craig Brackins states that Williams was guarding him and pushing him around during his draft workout to test how he'd react to NBA defenses is fantastic as well.
Outgoing Coach: Vinny Del Negro (82-82; 4-8)
Incoming Coach: Tom Thibodeau (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: It's not a slam dunk, necessarily, that Thibodeau is a guaranteed upgrade over Vinny Del Negro, but Thibodeau is the most decorated assistant coach in the NBA and rose to prominence for his involvement with the Boston Celtics defense his last three years there as an assistant coach. Thibodeau was also linked to the Hornets job, but expressed open support for the Chicago job during the entire process. He wants to be there and the time seems right for him to try his hand at being a head coach. Natural cynics point to questions about his offensive gameplans, but Thibodeau has a championship pedigree and has the kind of personality that will command respect in Chicago. It's a good hire.
Outgoing Coach: Mike Woodson (206-286; 11-18)
Incoming Coach: Larry Drew (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: There were a few people linked to the Atlanta Hawks gig after the team, probably wrongly, fired Mike Woodson this offseason. Seeing Woodson bring the Hawks from a 13-69 team his first season to a second straight Conference Semifinals appearance this season was not enough for Atlanta, who felt that Woodson had taken the team as far as he could take them. When you make that bold of a proclamation, you'd think you'd go after a coach with championship experience as that's what you felt Woodson was lacking. Instead, they go the cheap route and take Drew who is a fine assistant coach, but doesn't have head coaching experience let alone championship experience. Some people point to his relationship with Johs Smith as being a big reason he landed the job, but you're not hiring the guy to babysit. It seemed like an unnecessary lateral move. The Hawks fired Woodson just 'cause it felt right, but then didn't want to pony up the cash to bring in a coach that carried the attributes they thought Woodson lacked.
New Jersey Nets
Outgoing Coach: Kiki Vandeweghe (12-54)
Incoming Coach: Avery Johnson (194-70; 23-24)
Overall: Going into this offseason, New Jersey was hoping to continue to build from the ground up. Last season, they were selling the cap room the team had made in their firesales over the last couple of seasons. Now they're selling the prospect of a good, young team in Jersey. But if you have a good, young team, it'd make sense to hire a young, hungry assistant. Avery Johnson's a really good coach. He took a Dallas team that couldn't get over the hump and then brought them to the NBA Finals in his first full season as Head Coach. But he quickly soured in Dallas, being apart of the greatest collapse possibly in NBA history in the 2007 playoffs and then getting bounced out of the first round a second time in 2008, at which point many Dallas players told owner Mark Cuban they were tired of Avery. Seeing Avery's act tire in Dallas, it's a possibility he won't be a great fit in New Jersey if they are forced to go into next season still with a "young, talented team." He probably would have been better suited in Atlanta (a job he was linked to) but New Jersey still gets a good coach who won a championship as a player and made it to the Finals as a coach. That's a huge upgrade over any coach they've had since Byron Scott left.
Outgoing Coach: Mike Brown (272-138; 42-29)
Incoming Coach: Byron Scott (352-355; 33-24)
Overall: Fired for his inability to get the team to an NBA Championship, Cleveland somehow thought that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo would be the guy to do it, even if he'd never coached a game at the NBA level. Thankfully, Izzo turned them down and Cleveland was forced to go after a real basketball coach. However, as was the case with Atlanta, it seems like a lateral move if you fire a guy for being unable to win a championship, and hire a guy who has never won one either. However, Scott oversaw two rebuilding processes in New Jersey and New Orleans and both franchises achieved the best success in their respective histories during Scott's time as head coach. He, too, has a reputation of players turning on him after awhile, but if LeBron James does leave Cleveland, at least they have a coach, in Scott, who has sat in on two fantastic turanarounds with the Nets and Hornets.
Los Angeles Clippers
Outgoing Coach: Kim Hughes (8-25)
Incoming Coach: Vinny Del Negro (82-82; 4-8)
Overall: With the Clippers being the Clippers, hiring Vinny Del Negro may entice a few groans from some of their fans but Del Negro actually did a fine job in Chicago. Every fanbase needs a scapegoat for certain situations, and Del Negro was that guy with the Bulls. In all actuality, his first year on the job, not much was expected of the team and Del Negro oversaw the Bulls return to the playoffs. In his second season, he saw the Bulls get rid of important players during the stretch run so that they could be players this offseason (a move that resulted in Carlos Boozer. Great job, Chicago!) and Del Negro overcame a front office not dedicated entirely to winning and multiple injuries to the players on his team to lead Chicago to the playoffs again. Even still, fans complained of Del Negro's inconsistent rotations and questionable late game exectuion, and personally blamed him for Chicago's shortcomings instead of the front office. With that being said, I'm surprised that another team in the league saw fit to give Del Negro a second chance so quickly. But now's the time to see if Del Negro really can make it in the league as a head coach. I worry of how he'll handle the egos of some of the players on the Clippers roster (Baron Davis) but that's a challenge of an NBA Coach. Del Negro is still a mystery, all things considered. There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says "Fool me once, shame on.. shame on you. You fool me, can't get fooled again."