Five College Coaches on NBA Radar
As the field of competitors for the 2014 National Championship has shrunk down to 16, the college basketball coaching carousel is moving at a dizzying pace. With over 300 Division I men’s basketball programs throughout the country, there’s always a ton of movement throughout the coaching ranks year in and year out.
Everyone longs to be in a position like Duke’s Mike Kryzyewski. Throughout his tenure he’s had numerous of other job offers, but he built the Blue Devils program into one of the premier positions in the country. No one, not even the Los Angeles Lakers, could make him a good enough offer to leave what he has.
Typically, though, when NBA teams come calling, they get their guy. We saw it last season with Butler and Brad Stevens. Stevens was working his way toward sainthood at Butler, but the Boston Celtics were able to pry him away to be their head coach.
We’re at the time of year where successful college coaches’ stocks are rising while struggling NBA head coaches’ seats are heating up. With that in mind, we take a look at the five college basketball coaches who appear to be gaining the most attention from the big league:
Tom Izzo – Michigan State
According to ESPN’s Jalen Rose, Izzo is a candidate to become the full-time replacement for Maurice Cheeks as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. John Loyer is currently occupying the position in the interim, but the likelihood of him having the tag removed before were small and they have not increased much, if at all, since.
Izzo has long maintained that he’s a Spartan for life. He turned down the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2010 when they came to him with a reported five-year, $30 million offer. Just prior to that, Oregon was rumored to have offered him a deal that would have exceeded what John Calipari gets at Kentucky.
Izzo currently has a seven-year “rolling” contract that is automatically renewed at the end of every season. To put it simply, after he serves a year, an additional year is tacked on to his deal. After snubbing Oregon and the Cavaliers, Izzo received a $500,000 annual raise that pushed his yearly salary to $3.49 million. By winning a national championship, he could earn an additional $350,000 in bonuses. His deal also includes 25 hours of free private jet rental for personal use. He’s on record describing his buyout as “a couple of million.”
That contract is even favorable to the one Brad Stevens received from the Boston Celtics. That deal was worth $22 million over six years, which is slightly more annually, but an argument could be made that the auto-renewal language in Izzo’s agreement is worth more than the extra $176,666 Stevens is bringing in yearly. In years like this where Izzo’s team is contending for a title, he stands the chance to make even more than Stevens. This is while coaching less than half the games and being able to hand pick who he coaches, as well. That’s the luxury Stevens gave up with going from the NCAA to NBA. There are people above him who choose who he coaches. At Michigan State, the only voice that matters in all things involving basketball is Izzo’s.
If the in-state Pistons can’t lure Izzo away with a monster offer that could potentially also include a say in basketball operations with Joe Dumars expected to move on, it’s time for other employers to stop pursuing all together. He won’t be leaving. He came out today and denied interest in any jobs outside of his own, but that’s to be expected with his team in the midst of a battle for the national championship and no official offer on the table. With the right offer, the Pistons could at least earn some consideration, if he’s who they want to hire.
Fred Hoiberg – Iowa State
Since taking over his alma mater in 2010, Hoiberg has become one of the hottest names in basketball coaching. He’s turned the program into a national contender and this offseason he received a 10-year contract extension worth $20 million. His buyout to coach another NCAA program is $2 million, while it only costs him $500,000 to go to the NBA.
That annual salary puts Hoiberg well below the likes of Izzo, Coach K and Stevens. If an NBA team comes in and offers him $3 million, a 50 percent increase, he’d have to give it strong consideration, despite how comfortable and secure he feels at Iowa State – where he’s referred to as the “Mayor.”
It’s going to be very interesting to see if the Minnesota Timberwolves come after him this offseason in the event that they part ways with Rick Adelman. Adelman’s deal only has one year left on it and at 67 years old, he’s at the age where retirement is always a possibility. The team has underachieved this year. However, if he leaves it will likely be due to family issues more than a true desire to step away from the game or the Timberwolves losing faith in his abilities.
Hoiberg’s ties with the Timberwolves date back to his days there as a player in 2003-2005.
Afterward, he held roles on the coaching staff and in the front office. He left there in high regard and that has only increased as he’s taken Iowa State back to prominence as head coach. With the reputation of a player’s coach, Hoiberg could go a long way in helping keep Kevin Love in Minnesota long-term.
Former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr recently said that as soon as Hoiberg makes it known he’s open to NBA offers, he’ll start receiving them.
Kevin Ollie – UConn
When Ollie first took over for longtime Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun, he was earning $625,000 on a one-year contract. That deal was in place for about three months before UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel locked him up long-term with a five-year contract worth $7 million that runs through 2017-18.
His value has continued to skyrocket since the agreement, with his team now playing in the Sweet 16 after enduring a year-long postseason ban his first season due to poor APR scores. As a longtime point guard in the NBA, Ollie has plenty of admirers at the next level.
His contract has a descending buyout that was a massive $3 million last season, but is now down to $2 million. In 2015, it goes down to $1 million and it’s just $800,000 in 2016.
Among the fits at the NBA level that would be the most intriguing for Ollie are the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz. Mark Jackson seems to be wearing out his welcome with the Warriors and only has only one year left on his deal. The way his tenure is going could discourage them from hiring another former player, but Ollie brings more experience than Jackson originally did and jumps out as a particularly good fit with their personnel. Meanwhile, Corbin is in the final year of his contract with the Jazz and no contract extension talks have been initiated as of yet. That’s typically not a good sign and with a young roster Ollie could be the perfect guy to mold this team into a respectable contender again.
John Calipari – Kentucky
For years there have been rumors about Calipari making a return to the NBA. He went 72-112 during a three-year stint with the Brooklyn Nets that ended early in the third season after a 3-17 start. Afterward, he served as an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers, but then took over at Memphis and built the program into the dominant force of Conference USA. Kentucky stole him away in 2009 with an eight-year, $31.65 million contract. Two years later they were awarded with a national championship.
Calipari has turned Kentucky into a hotbed for one-and-done talents. He gets the best of the best in recruiting because he not only heavily focuses on preparing his kids for the next level, but embraces them leaving when their stock justifies doing so.
In 2011, Calipari was awarded a two-year contract extension to make his total deal worth $36.5 million and run through 2019. He can net up to an extra $700,000 any year by winning a national championship. The contract also calls for free country club membership, two “late model, quality automobiles” with complimentary gas, and tickets to basketball and football home games.
The buyout language is unique in the sense that there is no defined buyout beyond this season in which it is $1 million. Afterward, though, Calipari would have to give up his retention bonus of $1 million in order to get out of his deal. So, it serves the same purpose and is the same amount.
With one of the top jobs in the country and a bad taste in his mouth from his first NBA experience, it’s going to take a high-profile job with a long-term commitment in order to land Calipari. Coincidentally, both the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be looking for a new head coach this summer. Calipari’s chances at either seem slim, though, based on the leadership in place. If the relationship between Chicago Bulls management and head coach Tom Thibodeau ever hits a breaking point, though, reuniting with Derrick Rose in the Windy City may be enough to draw Calipari’s interest.
Larry Brown – SMU
As recently as this offseason there were a couple of teams, the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, contemplating making Brown an offer. Although his SMU Mustangs came up short of making the NCAA Tournament, they did have their best year under Brown, winning 25 games. They’re poised to really make some noise next year with a strong recruiting class coming in, led by one nation’s top incoming freshmen in Emmanuel Mudiay.
Brown’s exact contract details have not been widely publicized, but he does have a multi-year deal in place worth around $2 million annually. Buyout terms are not known, but Brown has a reputation for moving around – so it’s highly unlikely he agreed to anything that he wouldn’t give him a reasonable way out.
With decades of coaching experience but some bad and unexpected break ups, Brown’s options in the NBA are somewhat limited. He had close ties to the Nets with Billy King there and a successful history with the 76ers. With those two options off of the table for at least the next couple of years, there’s a chance we may not see Brown in the league again. He’s said that he would prefer to return as a general manager, if anything. If the Los Angeles Lakers came calling this offseason about replacing Mike D’Antoni, though, the opportunity to coach one of the league’s biggest franchise could be too good for Brown to pass on. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak will have one of the more prominent voices in the Lakers’ coaching search. Not only is Brown a fellow Tar Heel like Kupchak, but he’s a veteran head coach who stands as good of a chance as anyone to have a strong working relationship with Kobe Bryant. Bryant wants to get back to competing next year and the hiring of Brown would signal to him that they’re in “win-now” mode.
With the struggles of Calipari, Pitino and other former college head coaches in the NBA, there is somewhat of a negative stigma that comes with hiring them. However, the group above have credentials that put their value above the stereotype. Odds are, though, we see more coaches make the move down from the NBA to college rather than vice versa. There are reports that Mike Woodson will be immediately offered a college head coaching job if he’s fired by the New York Knicks, while top Houston Rockets assistant Kelvin Sampson is a candidate to take over at the University of Houston.
A Few Good Free Agents Left
David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.
The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.
A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.
For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.
Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.
He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.
Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.
Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.
He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.
The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.
He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.
During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.
With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.
NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.
With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”
Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.
“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”
In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.
“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.
“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”
One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.
“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”
Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.
“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”
The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.
“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”
With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.
NBA Opening Night Storylines
Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.
The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.
Rejoice, hoop heads.
Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.
With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.
As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.
Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.
And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.
The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.
But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.
While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.
By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.
Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.
Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.
Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.
And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.
Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.
This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?
Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.
Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.
While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.
Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?
After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.
“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”
It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.
That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.
Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.
With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.