Through the first 10 games of the season, just about anybody with a vote would have no real choice but to make Luke Walton the Coach of the Year. After all, he took a young L.A. Lakers squad almost nobody believed in and transformed them into the team with the third-most wins in the Western Conference.
Factor in his role in Golden State’s record-breaking regular season last year, and it’s pretty clear that this is a man who was born to work a sideline. He’s good at coaching, obviously, but considering how he grew up and where he worked as an NBA player, that probably shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.
Former players become coaches all the time. Some, like Walton and Steve Kerr, are very good at it. Others, like Derek Fisher and Vinny Del Negro, didn’t quite find their stride (as of yet) when in charge.
With all that said, here’s a look at current and recently-retired NBA players who could very well make for excellent head coaches someday. They might not meet Walton’s early success, but any of these guys could be great at the job if given the opportunity:
Jason Terry – Currently with the Milwaukee Bucks, 17-year NBA veteran Jason Terry has spent his last couple years transitioning away from playing big minutes and toward more of a mentor and coaching role. Last season, for example, when the Houston Rockets brought Michael Beasley over from China, Terry immediately took it upon himself to work with Beasley and get him acclimated to the team. Beasley certainly played well upon his NBA return, but getting up to speed that quickly had at least something to do with Terry’s influence and efforts.
The guy already has such command of the game itself, but his intelligence and personable nature make him a very promising candidate as a coach once he does retire. In fact, the University of Alabama at Birmingham actually interviewed Terry for a head coaching opening this past spring, but he ultimately found himself back on an NBA roster for at least one more year. When he’s done playing though, you can bet he’ll end up on some sideline in a suit and tie.
Chris Paul – In the most recent GM survey, Paul was named the player most likely to be an NBA head coach someday, with 27.6 percent of current general managers naming him the frontrunner for that career path. Of course, back in February, Paul told Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post that he has no desire to do such a thing, but you never really know until the opportunity is staring you in the face:
Chris Paul: "I won't be a coach. You can quote me on that."
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) February 12, 2016
Despite this declaration, Paul would likely do a great job if he gave coaching a chance. There have been several seasons, particularly earlier in his career, in which he essentially was the player/coach, and based on his sky-high basketball IQ, that was a role in which he excelled. He has also been known to take younger players under his wing and help them develop, with Eric Bledsoe being an example. Still, Paul doesn’t seem to be even considering those prospects, and he’ll have made enough money over the course of his career to just retire and then ride all the banana boats he wants.
Jared Dudley – Right behind Paul in this year’s GM survey was Dudley, and it seems he actually has interest in the job. After only 10.7 percent of GMs voted for him, Dudley jokingly tweeted to Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy that he felt he deserved more votes.
% is to low ? https://t.co/hK1MFJJMdR
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) October 18, 2016
He’s someone who deeply understands his fellow human beings, which means in terms of a coaching style he’d probably be what we’d consider to be a “player’s coach.” He’s diplomatic, thoughtful and unafraid to lead, all of which make great qualities for someone asked to head up an NBA roster. It also helps that he’s no slouch in terms of the X’s and O’s of basketball, and his experience as something of an NBA journeyman has given him plenty of experience with a variety of players and organizations. His temperament and intelligence make him an ideal candidate for a coaching job sometime after he retires.
Chauncey Billups – Anybody who’s watched Billups do TV work since his retirement knows he’s a brilliant NBA mind that absolutely has an elite grasp on the way this game works, but that’s not necessarily surprising considering how many elite NBA point guards before him also have had genius-level understandings of how basketball is best played.
He was atop that GM survey as the league’s top future head coach for years, and in just the last couple of seasons he already has been given serious consideration for jobs in Minnesota and Orlando. Reportedly, the Wolves job could have been his in 2014-15 after Flip Saunders’ passing, but Billups turned it down for fear of starting his coaching career with the worst team in the league. Orlando pushed hard to get Billups as Frank Vogel’s lead assistant just this past offseason and even were prepared to make him one of the best-paid assistants in basketball, but he didn’t want to give up his cushy analyst job just yet.
Two years ago, Billups told Kennedy that he’d prefer a front office gig to a head coaching one: “If I stayed in the game, I always felt like my best role would be in a front office.” But he didn’t completely rule out the possibility of coaching, so we shall see. Whether it’s the front office or the sidelines, Billups looks destined to find himself involved with an NBA team in the near future. It’s really more a question of “when” than “if.”
Ray Allen – Back in the summer of 2014, Allen talked about the potential for coaching following his retirement from playing, and while Allen shrugged off any immediate opportunities in favor of spending time with his four young children, he did leave the door open for coaching at some point down the road, perhaps when his kids were older.
“I like trying to get people to realize their full potential and getting people to be better and motivating people to be better than what they were,” Allen told Kennedy back in 2014. “I’m a coach already.”
Allen only recently officially retired, but once he’s gotten the most out of parenthood and his children are more capable of taking care of themselves, he may consider a trip to the sidelines, where his combination of intelligence, court smarts, experience and tact certainly would make him an excellent NBA head coach.
Elton Brand – There is a very strong chance that the recently-retired Brand will end up either coaching in some fashion or working in a front office. In fact, Philadelphia already offered Brand a lower-level front office position upon his retirement, according to Keith Pompey of Philly.com, but he turned it down without ruling it out for later.
In reality, the last few years of Brand’s career, he was brought in more to mentor young players than to actually play. Teams have loved his leadership qualities as well as his ability to keep the younger guys motivated and in check, and those are things that obviously could translate well to a head coaching position at some point. He already has a few years of unofficial experience.
Mike Dunleavy, Jr. – It’s no secret that the original Mike Dunleavy had plenty of success on the sidelines in his own career, but putting his successful basketball son, former No. 3 overall draft pick Mike Dunleavy, Jr., through a childhood that included plenty of time spent with basketball legends was the first step in grooming him for his own career as a coach someday.
When Dunleavy, Jr. was 10 years old, his father was the coach of the L.A. Lakers, which put him around guys like Magic Johnson and James Worthy. That, combined with a tough home basketball regimen that literally never saw the father go easy on the son, helped prepare him for playing basketball at a high level. Dunleavy, Jr. also played under Coach K at Duke, who taught him even more about that aspect of the game. Now he’s one of the most cerebral, professional players in the entire league. The path to him coaching is an easy one to envision, if only because being around it his entire life very obviously has rubbed off on him as an adult.
Metta World Peace – Yes, seriously. Had World Peace not made the Lakers roster this year, Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com reported that the organization was giving serious consideration to keeping him around in a different role:
Story posting now with @ramonashelburne: Lakers have interest in making Metta World Peace an assistant coach if they run out of roster room.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 21, 2016
Don’t laugh, because he’s apparently pretty serious about it. Rick Carlisle, easily one of the game’s longest-tenured and most respected head coaches, has emerged as something of a mentor to World Peace, answering texts from the player with fairly regular questions about the profession.
“He is a great guy who has absolute love and passion for the game,” Carlise said earlier this season. “I think he’s got a chance to be a good coach.”
There isn’t much World Peace hasn’t seen over the course of his career, and that knowledge and experience reportedly is why the Lakers were interested in hiring him. World Peace told TMZ earlier this season, “I think these coaches are having a great time, doing something they love to do, and I want to be in that same position someday.”
And maybe he will. Despite some questionable actions earlier his career, maybe he will.
Are there other players you think might make a great head coach someday? If so, hit up the comments section and put in your two cents. If Metta World Peace is an option, there should be no shortage of suggestions!
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