The Coaching Search: Our Preferred Targets

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Published: April 24, 2010

All of the news coming out about New Orleans these days points to one thing: The Hornets are gunning for a big name coach.  There are reports they have contacted Avery Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy, and Doug Collins in order to gauge their interest in returning to the coaching game.  Hugh Weber was quoted as saying “I think we’d gravitate towards someone’s who had success on the pro level.”

((Here’s hoping the possible snag in the Chouest-Shinn deal doesn’t nix the aggressive-seeming pursuit of a coach))

Well, Joe and I decided to throw out a couple names we’d each like to see coaching the Hornets, as well as a couple names we’re not too keen on. 

Joe’s picks:

Avery Johnson

It’s going to be very, very hard for the Hornets to pass up on the current ESPN analyst and former Dallas Mavericks coach. Avery was raised in New Orleans and has made it perfectly clear he wants coaching the Hornets to be his prerogative for the future. Much like Chicago native, Derrick Rose, prodded the Bulls to pick him first in the draft a few years ago, Johnson has the home field advantage for a job in which he’s already a favorite. I’m fully expecting to see Avery Johnson patrolling the sidelines next season. His 194-70 record as a head coach and head coaching appearance in the NBA finals should be enough to seal the deal.

Are there problems with Avery? Of course. His team quit on him in the final season, and underachieved despite the appearance. It’s not that farfetched to think that he may have learned from that experience and will come out even better this time around. Frankly, results like he had in Dallas would be welcome in New Orleans.

Bill Laimbeer

Fresh off his stint as assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bill Laimbeer has his eyes on becoming an NBA head coach. The former bad boy is best known for his hard nose style and intensity, both as a player and a coach. He’s won titles as a player (2x NBA) and as a coach (3x WNBA). Some might scoff at accolades from the women’s league being counted, but competitive basketball is competitive basketball. Taking an elementary school team to three titles in five years in a league with roughly a dozen teams would be impressive. The concern with Bill is that he butts heads with just about everybody he meets. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind a coach willing to get into players faces when they don’t play with the passion that reflects their pay. His hard-nosed approach to the game is something not seen too often in modern NBA.

Ryan’s Picks

Avery Johnson

There is a general idea that controlling coaches and brilliant point guards is like oil and water.  I don’t actually buy that.  To me, it’s controlling coaches and undisciplined point guards(or PG’s that have no half-court offensive skills) that don’t go too well together. Chris Paul – and Darren Collison – are anything but undisciplined.  So to me, having Avery Johnson controlling the offense isn’t going to cause a clash. 

In fact, the raw numbers indicate Johnson could help the Hornets.  Despite following behind an alleged offensive genius in Don Nelson, the Mavericks’ offense actually improved under Avery Johnson and then fell back to its previous levels once he left the organization.  The defense, though not as dramatically, also improved and then declined when he left.  Some of that had to do with Personnel – but not all of it, the key pieces of the Mavericks have been pretty consistent.

In the end, the only worries I have with Johnson is a penchant to play old-washed up defensive stoppers for long periods of time.  I got enough of that under Byron Scott, thanks.(Oh, and his squeaky voice is kinda annoying.  Maybe I should just stop there, though.)

Tom Thibodeau

Tom has been a prime defensive coordinator for some very, very good defensive teams.  He’s never gotten a chance as a head coach, but since the Hornets’ primary deficiency last season was their abysmal defense, I’m all for going for a guy who has a proven track record for improving it.

Besides, shouldn’t a guy named Thibodeau end up in New Orleans?  Isn’t that fate?

Flip Saunders

Flip is currently employed by the Washington Wizards.  He’ll probably remain employed by the Wizards too.  However, should the Wizards cut ties with their coach at the same time they clean house this summer, I would love to see the Hornets pick him up.  For years, Saunders has gotten the most out of what talent he has – implementing a complex offense(something the Hornets need) and a simple defense that has given him pretty good results whenever he was armed with the appropriate talent.  He is also one of only a dozen coaches who had a positive impact on player’s production, according to Stumbling on Wins.

I’ve always been a fan.  We probably won’t see him, but I would be pleased if we did.

Guys We Don’t Want to See

Joe’s Pick

Jeff Van Gundy

I really don’t see the team hiring anyone besides an ex-nba player and coach. Van Gundy doesn’t fit the bill as a player, and I personally just don’t think he’s a particularly good coach. He has the knowledge of x’s and o’s, of course, but as far as leadership goes, he seems to lack it. He might have made the playoffs more than most, but constant first round exits are how he’s remembered. He’s had his chance and proven that he’s just not a big game coach. For what he brings to the table, I can see no reason to pay him around five million a year.

Ryan’s Pick:

Doug Collins

My response to Collins is more visceral than anything else.  Sure, he’s had some success as an NBA coach.  I also enjoy his commentary on TNT, but I have to wonder what sort of respect he can command with players.  That two year stint in Washington crushed my opinion of him, as he played puppet to Michael Jordan and his wishes.  It’s just hard to see him as an effective coach after that debacle.

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