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NBA PM: Coaching Search Update

The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers are several weeks into their coaching search and finalists are starting to emerge…

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There are only two head coaching vacancies remaining in the NBA: the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Cavaliers’ search has been going on for nearly a month now, while the Lakers are six weeks into their search. A hiring does not appear to be imminent in either situation, but here’s what we know about where they are in the process:

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers swung for the fences by trying to pry John Calipari away from Kentucky, but even an offer worth up to $80 million and the chance for him to have some say in personnel moves wasn’t enough for them to get their guy. They have also been mentioned in association with some of the other top college coaches, like Kevin Ollie, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan, but only the latter seems to be a possibility still.

The names being mentioned the most right now are two Clippers assistants, Tyronn Lue and Alvin Gentry, along with former Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt. The Warriors are also going after Blatt to be one of Steve Kerr’s top assistants. Lue and Gentry are already set to have their second interview, while Blatt has yet to officially interview with the team.

Two other names to keep in mind are Nate McMillan, the former Trail Blazers coach who is now an assistant in Indiana, and former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. With the draft two weeks away and the No. 1 overall pick belonging to the Cavaliers, Cleveland is likely feeling a little pressure to wrap the search up and find their guy.

Cavaliers GM David Griffin, the man heading the search, is said to want a coach who will institute an up-tempo system and utilize the Cavaliers guard play more effectively than Mike Brown was able to.

Los Angeles Lakers

Unlike the Cavaliers, the Lakers seem content to go into July without a head coach. A recent report from USA TODAY’s Sam Amick revealed that they are going into free agency with aspirations of landing the likes of Carmelo Anthony and/or LeBron James. Not having a head coach in place and allowing the free agents to have some input on their selection could be a determining factor in landing them, plus it’s not like they’re in danger of their targets bowing out of the race.

According to Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck, Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry and Kurt Rambis are basically the three finalists for the position. Rambis and Scott seem to have an edge on Gentry, who shares too many similarities with Mike D’Antoni, who he also replaced in Phoenix. While Rambis has a spot waiting for him on Derek Fisher’s staff in New York, the Lakers are the only team that will give him the opportunity to be a head coach right now. The same goes for Scott, so they’re really just forced to wait without much leverage to negotiate with. There’s no reason for the Lakers to rush, especially considering the competition they’re going to be facing for those All-Stars in free agency.

Given their targets and their relationship with Calipari, he may be the dark horse for the position. There was a rumor just before the start of the national championship game that Calipari was heading to the Lakers regardless of the outcome. Obviously, that was put out in haste, but if that’s who James or Anthony say they want to play for, the Lakers won’t have a choice but to aggressively pursue him. There’s been rumblings of such a pairing for years now, and this summer we could find out just how legitimate they are.

The most likely hire, though, appears to be either Scott or Rambis, given their familiarity with the franchise and their desire to go in a different direction than the one they were on the last two seasons with D’Antoni at the helm.

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Lionel Hollins Exclusive Part 2

Earlier this week, we ran Part 1 of our exclusive with Lionel Hollins, where he talked about how surprised he is that he’s not coaching right now, how he adjusted with the Memphis Grizzlies and his coaching philosophies. Here’s the rest of our conversation with Hollins in which he goes more in depth on his time in Memphis and what he’s learned about himself as a coach:

On adapting to his personnel:

Hollins: “When you go in, I think in order to be a success as a coach you have to look at what you have and try to build a system around them instead of trying to make them fit your system because your system may not be the best system for that group of people. I thought that Mike D’Antoni had that same situation in LA; he has Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and he wants to play four out and one in, the pick-and-roll game and shoot threes. It really didn’t fit the group and Dwight Howard leaves and he has a little more success this year playing that way because the personnel fit his system, but the year before the personnel didn’t fit his system. I don’t think that he tried to fit the system to the personnel. Jerry Colangelo told me a long time ago the coach has be to a motivator, a communicator and he has to be flexible; I stick by that. I try to come out and be flexible in what we’re going to do and in fact when Zach Randolph went down in the strike-shortened season and I think he missed 30-something games, we changed how we played. We were still able to be successful playing that way, and that to me is how you win in this league and when you ask what was the key to my success, I think being flexible and recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of my players. I think that being a guy that’s honest, a guy trying to help them develop as people as well as players and letting them know that I care about them and it’s not about me it’s about them having success. I don’t need to be Coach of the Year, I don’t need any accolades. I want you guys to be successful and I want you guys to have the same success that I had as a player and experience what I experienced when being a part of winning. Selling them that the more we win, the more everybody gets the accolades. Zach Randolph was a 20 and 10 guy before he came to Memphis but because he was a part of winning he made two All-Star teams and he made third team All-NBA. He had a different label put on him because of that; that’s what basketball is about. It’s about five players playing together and working together for the good of a common goal. Our motto was. ‘One team, one goal’ and that’s what we stood by and that’s what we preached. I don’t think winning is a complicated thing, it’s a simple thing but as Hubie Brown used to say: ‘To be successful in basketball you have to know when to pass, know when to shoot and know when to dribble.’ It sounds simple, but it’s difficult for a lot of people and I think the same thing holds true for winning basketball; playing defense, rebounding the ball, getting easy buckets, getting to the free throw line, executing on offense, hitting the open man and never quitting on a game. All of those things sound so simple but to get 12 players to do it can be difficult. Getting players to understand it’s every night, doing the same thing and being who you are. Identify who you are and be who you are and once you do that you can have success in the league. I don’t think we were the most talented team in Memphis, we certainly didn’t shoot the ball great but we played to our strengths, we led in points in the paint and second chance points with the offensive rebounding. Defensively we got a lot of turnovers and we scored points off of those turnovers and we made the other team shoot a low percentage. We played to our strengths and we were successful. Hopefully when I get another team as I said after coaching the All-Star team yesterday against the USA, the Euros I said I pray to God that I have as many shooters on the team. When I was in Memphis we didn’t have a huge collection of shooters but we made enough shots and we did enough to keep the floor spaced and we played and did things that took advantage of teams where they couldn’t just load up on our post guys consistently. When you get to the playoffs, teams take away what you’re trying to do and make you play to your weaknesses.”

Being an “old school” coach:

Hollins: “No, I don’t know what that means. You have to be everything; I don’t think you can be one thing. I don’t want to be known as a defensive coach, I don’t want to be an offensive coach. I think you have to know offense, you have to know defense you have to know how to put a team together chemistry wise, developing relationships, how to be tough and when to back off. I think coaching is all of that and I’m just about winning. I don’t know if it’s about being winning is old school then I’m old school but I don’t think that’s true. Is Pop old school? Is Thibodeau old school? They just go out and coach to win and get the personnel to understand who they are and what their roles are and to do them daily at a high level and that’s what it’s about. I hope that these young coaches are telling the players what they need to hear even though it’s not what they want to hear. I hope the young coaches are demanding and have expectations because that’s the only way you can be successful. I don’t think it has anything to do with old or new, young or old either. I cringe every time I hear that and it’s the same thing, ‘He’s a player’s coach.’ I’m a teacher, I’m a motivator, I’m a communicator and I try to make players understand that they have to be accountable for their actions. There are certain rules that everybody has to live with and there are certainly things that players of higher caliber get to do more of. They get to take more bad shots because they’re going to make more shots and do more good things. If you’re playing big minutes you can make more mistakes than a guy who goes in and is only playing six or seven minutes a half. He can’t go in and have three or four turnovers like a guy who’s playing 30 to 40 minutes. There is a balance in all of this and I just try to win. I try to figure out what we need to do to win and put it into a plan and just work it until the guys have it and they believe in it and they understand in it. That’s what it’s all about – getting your team to understand how to play to win and once you do you can release the reins and let them go be who they want to be. Until they get to that point, you have to keep on them. It’s like raising a kid. Until the kid gets it, you can’t let up. You got to stay after him and once he has it and he starts doing the right thing on a consistent basis, you back off and you give him more responsibility and let him have more freedom.”

Being in his prime as a coach:

Hollins: “I feel like I’ve gotten to where I understand players. I understand the game and I have the energy and it’s a lot when you’re young, there’s a lot that you don’t understand and there’s a lot of emotion that you had that takes away from you being as good as you want to be. It’s like players – they have the physical ability but they don’t have the mental ability. Then all of a sudden it comes together and they have five, six, seven and eight years where they’re like that and then the physical ability starts going down and as the physical ability gets to a certain level, no matter how much mind they had there are players out there like when I look at KG – he’s had an unbelievable career. I look at Tim Duncan who’s had an unbelievable career. They say Father Time hasn’t lost yet and when you’re an athlete there’s a window that you have. I sell that to the players. Your window is going to be anywhere from four years to 15 or 16 years if you’re fortunate and have good health. No matter what it is, it’s going to be over. You’re going to be 35, 36, or 37 and you have the rest of your life to live. This game is just that — a game. You can’t do it your whole life and there are a lot of other things that you have to do. You have to understand that everything that you do to be successful in this game you can take and be successful outside of the game. I know when I got done playing I went back to school to get my degree. I found out I was a straight A student when I went back to school but when I was in college I was not a straight A student. I had so much more understanding about life and my experiences taking me places so a lot of stuff that was coming at me in college I had already experienced in some kind of cultural setting and that made me a better student. I tell the players whatever you want to do if you put the same energy and focus in it, you can be as successful off of the court. I look at Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and even now Shaq and Michael Jordan. These guys were great players but they’ve also had great careers outside of playing because they’ve transferred that energy and they transferred that passion into what they wanted to do off of it and it just translates across the board. I believe if you can create a better person that talent is going to be able to show. If they have so many issues off of the court they can never reach their maximum on the court, you try to teach them about responsibility, maturity, professionalism and you want people to be reliable but you have to be responsible and reliable yourself back to the people that you want to be. I want you to respect me but you have to in turn respect that person as well. It’s the same thing in all of those areas as they become more mature as men then their focus and their vision more than their focus broadens and they can see the big picture and they get outside of being them. I’m a big believer that players are takers until they’re taught how to be givers and when you become a giver and you care about your teammates as much as you care about you and you’re willing to give you get so much more in return. When you have that attitude and you’re one of the best players everybody else starts picking up that attitude. They say what he’s doing and he’s the best player and this is how he’s playing. I think Magic Johnson and the Lakers, I think of John Stockton, I think of Larry Bird and I think of LeBron James now. I think of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. All of these guys are great players but they’re also givers and their teammates become better because they’re all givers; their talent transcends the game. They’re smart enough to know that they can’t do anything by themselves. It’s still a five-man team game. All of the times that Michael made big shots, he also gave the ball off to other people who made big shots to win games for them and they wouldn’t have won them without those shots.”

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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