Clippers Taking Wrong Approach to Head Coach Search


Now that the NBA Lottery has been set and we know where John Wall will be playing his home games next year, it’s the time of year in the NBA where, minus the Celtics and Lakers, teams start to look towards the future.

For the Clippers, that means tackling some of the more pressing items on their to-do list (hiring a head coach, hiring a GM, signing free agents, targeting potential draft selections,  making sure Baron is staying in shape this summer…) the list is endless for the Clippers, but I’m going to continue looking at some of the possible outcomes, if only to amuse myself.

All accounts have the team looking to land a top free agent before deciding on hiring a head coach, their (usually unsound) thought process being that allowing said free agent signee to assist in the selection of their new head coach could help sweeten the pot as the team looks to establish itself as anything other that the disfunctional franchise that it truly is.

I’ve covered here the potential targets the Clippers will try to throw the maximum contract at and am not really interested in rehashing the speculation. I’ve also covered the fact that, while cash is still king, the Clippers can’t really be expected to lure any of the top free agents (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, possibly Amare Soudemire) to the team, as all of those guys have gone on record as saying they’re most looking for a team that will allow them to contend for a championship right away. So that will leave guys like Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, David Lee and a host of also-rans as the most likely to sign with the Clippers.

And that’s precisely why waiting until free agent season begins in earnest to hire a new coach is a horrible, horrible strategy for the team to take. The Clippers are putting themselves in a position to miss out on not only a potential franchise-changing free agent but also a franchise-defining head coach.

The Sixers agreed to terms with Doug Collins last week to become the team’s head coach. Avery Johnson has interviewed with the Hornets and Hawks and it has been reported that he’s also the favorite of Nets management to lead that team.

Of the four head coaches still coaching games, Doc Rivers is rumored to be in his last year at the helm of the Celtics(though these rumors have all but vanished now that the team is playing inspired basketball these last two rounds), Stan Van Gundy will likely stay around next year despite being revealed as a small-time coach in the conference finals, Alvin Gentry isn’t going anywhere, and Phil Jackson…well, Phil’s an interesting case.

The 10-time champion (as a head coach, Jackson also has two championship rings from his playing days with the Knicks) has been rumored to be looking for an extension that would allow him to remain a Laker next year and to be looking for a new place to practice his Triangle offense and unique motivational techniques.

But Phil’s had a winning record in every one of his NBA seasons as a head coach and his triangle offense is much more effective when the dominant player on the team is the shooting guard and not the point guard, which is the case with the Clippers.  Too make a long story short, no chance the Zen Master coaches the Clippers next year.

I’ve said all along that Mark Jackson is the guy I want leading the 2010-2011 Clippers and the fact that he will be broadcasting this year’s Finals mean he’ll likely be too busy to interview with potential suitors (he’s already turned down a request from the Sixers to interview for that position) and the fact that he lives in Los Angeles means he’s more likely to wait for the Clippers to come calling then he is to jump on the next situation that seems attractive (one would think he’d pass on the Hawks and Hornets job and the Nets new owner has gone on record saying they’re looking for someone with previous NBA experience).  But what if the Cavs decide to dump Mike Brown as a way to increase their chances of keeping LeBron in a Cleveland jersey next year? Or what if another team hears a rumor that Mark Jackson is LeBron’s preferred coach?

Then the Clippers will be, yet again, standing around watching their peers get better while they get worse.