After a slow start to filling the NBA's coaching vacancies, three hires have been made in the past 24 hours - and none of them has previous head-coaching experience.
Jeff Hornacek was the Phoenix Suns' choice. Mike Budenholzer went to Atlanta (Larry Drew’s contract was due to expire on June 30). Lesser-known candidate Steve Clifford left the Lakers' bench to be in charge of the Bobcats.
The theme for hiring coaches this offseason is “take a chance on me.”
So how do these hirings impact the Sixers - if at all?
I don’t think any one of the names above was going to land in Philadelphia. They each found the right fit for them, which is what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie has said he is looking for in hiring his new head coach. That said, there is something to take from each of Tuesday’s moves.
Hornacek played for the Suns and has long made his home in Phoenix, even when he was working for the Jazz. He is a good basketball name in that community. A similar kind of guy for the Sixers could be Aaron McKie. Or it could be Maurice Cheeks - yes, Cheeks has coached here before, but he is incredibly well liked and he has done an amazing job being Scottie Brooks’ right-hand man in Oklahoma City. If Mike Brown can go back to Cleveland, why not Cheeks to Philadelphia? Cheeks has, however, interviewed for the vacancy in Detroit.
Budenholzer has been with the San Antonio Spurs for the last 19 seasons and has a chance to leave on the highest note with San Antonio advancing to the NBA Finals on the heels of sweeping the Grizzlies. He has long been sought after as a head coach given the success of the Spurs, but it took a relationship with Hawks general manager Danny Ferry (who previously worked for the Spurs) to pry Budenholzer away from Gregg Popovich’s side.
Ferry and Budenholzer will try to forge a marriage similar to that of Popovich and R.C. Buford in San Antonio, and because Ferry and Budenholzer saw it work firsthand, they have a strong understanding of the importance of general manager and coach being on the same page.
Of the candidates mentioned for the Sixers, Kelvin Sampson would fit the above bill because he and Hinkie both worked in Houston.
Steve Clifford is a relatively unknown name in mainstream basketball ranks, but his pedigree is strong. Clifford worked for both the Van Gundy brothers - Jeff in Houston and Stan in Orlando. Charlotte saw an opportunity to hire a credible good coach before competition impacts the situation.
The Bobcats have had six coaches in 10 years and have had losing season after losing season. It is an undesirable destination without a strong commitment from management to the coach. Clifford received a three-year, $6 million deal, with the team having the option on the third year.
If Hinkie has a guy that he believes could be the next Tom Thibodeau but lacks name recognition, Charlotte has now paved the way for such an appointment. And Clifford may just be that guy, but unfortunately, Charlotte did the same a year ago, and Mike Dunlap is no longer coaching there.
Trepidation in hiring an unknown is understandable, but such hires have been made before.
There are now five openings with similar names being bantered about in all five remaining cities: Brian Shaw, Michael Malone, Nate McMillian, Larry Drew, Kelvin Sampson.
Former Sixers associate head coach Michael Curry has talked with the Bucks and is expected to speak with his current employer. A source has also said it will be Curry, who is under contract through June 30, that will conduct the pre-draft workouts with potential draftees in the upcoming weeks.