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NBA PM: Coaching Carousel Update

An update on the latest information on the five head coach searches going on across the NBA as things heat up on that front after the NBA Draft Lottery.

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The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers are currently in the midst of a head coaching search. Last week we saw two vacancies filled with Golden State’s hiring of Steve Kerr and Detroit’s hiring of Stan Van Gundy. With the NBA Draft Lottery now in the rear-view mirror, the coaching carousel is going to pick up even more steam. By the time the draft rolls around at the end of June, the five aforementioned teams should have their next sideline general tapped. Here’s a look at what we know about their searches now:

  • According to the New York Post, Knicks President Phil Jackson is considering a couple of his former point guards in Derek Fisher, who is currently playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Tyronn Lue, an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Brian Shaw, the head coach of the Denver Nuggets. Shaw is reportedly the favorite, but he has a couple of years remaining on his contract and up to this point has yet to voice any interest in leaving the Nuggets. The Nuggets would almost undoubtedly require compensation for the Knicks to hire Shaw. Formal permission has not been asked for by the Knicks yet. Kerr was Jackson’s top target and the two sides got as far as discussing contract structure, so Jackson has had to start over a bit and seems weeks away at best from getting the position filled.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers have begun the interview process now that they know where they are slated in the draft. Sources said that their direction could have changed had the won the lottery. Byron Scott and Mike Dunleavy were the first interviews in what Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is classifying as an extensive search. The last time the Lakers conducted a search was in-season and they didn’t really have the luxury of time. They had to make a decision quickly. This time around, they can be a little bit more methodical and thorough. The fact that they only have four players under contract makes it difficult to decide who is the best man to guide the team. However, without a coach in place they’re going to have a hard time luring in difference makers in free agency, so that domino has to drop first. Kupchak did mention that getting the most out of Kobe Bryant’s potential last two years is an important factor, which has created speculation that the Lakers could also try to hire Fisher, who won five championships alongside Bryant in the backcourt.
  • With a clear mandate, which has really been in place since last offseason, to get back to the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking at a wide variety of options to replace Mike Brown as well. They were initially interested in trying to bring over a college coach like UConn’s Kevin Ollie or Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, but after winning the draft lottery they could go with a more proven coach. There’s certainly quality options out there, like George Karl, Mark Jackson, Lionel Hollins and Jeff Van Gundy. With a promising young core, the No. 1 overall pick and plenty of financial flexibility, the Cavaliers’ coaching vacancy is almost as attractive as it was when they had a young LeBron James. In their dream scenario, James would re-sign with the team this offseason. Kentucky’s John Calipari has admitted to wanting to coach James and there is a mutual respect between the two, but it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to pluck Calipari from UK or that his hiring would actually bring James back. Another name being thrown around in hopes to appease James is Miami HEAT assistant David Fizdale, who has developed a good relationship with James over the last four years. Former Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and current Clippers assistant Alvin Gentry have ties to Cavaliers general manager David Griffin and could also get a look.
  • When the Jazz decided not to bring back Ty Corbin a lot of names surfaced as potential candidates, including Euroleague star Ettoire Messina, veteran assistant coach Quinn Snyder and San Antonio Spurs assistant Jim Boylen. Former Jazz star John Stockton was also mentioned as a potential candidate. Their names haven’t come up since, though. The first two to get interviews with the Jazz have been Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin and Gentry, who is starting to become somewhat of a hot commodity. The Sacramento Kings have also contacted him about their assistant coaching vacancy. Like the Lakers, the Jazz have vowed that their search will be expansive and thorough. They have a talented young core, but they’re several years removed from trading Deron Williams now and the pressure is starting to build to get back into the playoff picture.
  • No offense to the four openings above, but the most interesting search is quickly becoming Minnesota’s. Seemingly out of nowhere they were granted permission to talk to Memphis’ Dave Joerger. Memphis is currently undergoing a massive overhaul in the front office and a byproduct of that is ownership wanting Joerger gone and Joerger wanting out just as bad. However, neither is willing to break the contract in order to do so. The Timberwolves can make things a lot easier by hiring him and Joerger is reportedly meeting with the team’s owner Glen Taylor this weekend as the second step of the interview process. The Grizzlies would require compensation, if not for anything more than to not set a precedent that they’re willing to let a coach walk away from a contract for nothing, but it likely won’t be anything more than a highly protected second round pick that may never end up being conveyed. The Timberwolves have an unhappy superstar on their hands, so while Joerger may be eager to leave Memphis, he’s not exactly walking into an ideal situation in Minnesota. If the Timberwolves do hire Joerger, the Grizzlies are rumored to be interested in a veteran head coach to replace him. Hollins name has been thrown around. As unlikely as that sounds, crazier reunions have happened in the NBA. If that doesn’t happen, expect to hear Karl, Jackson and Van Gundy’s name thrown around. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera is under a lot of heat right now and the only way for him to come out of this overhaul looking good is by upgrading across the board.

 

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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