Tom Thibodeau is the best candidate.
…At least in my opinion, but I figured I would explain myself a bit.
I hope they consider Tom Thibodeau SERIOUSLY, and he is available. We all know the Hornets biggest concern from a coaching standpoint is for rapid defensive improvement. He is a guy who all his past players respect. So the request by CP3 would be fulfilled with him as the hire and that would not need to be a concern. There is no-one in the potential coaches field that brings more proven defensive pop in the pro environment to the table. Check out the defensive ratings over at basketball-reference.com on the teams he coached vs. every other potential coach with experience in the NBA. For those that don’t know, Defensive Rating is basically the points a team allows per 100 possessions.
His Numbers in Summary: (I am leaving out the two seasons he coached under Don Chaney with the Knicks as those were the beginning of the dark years of the Knicks and not indicative of the rest of his career.)
The worst rating of a team he was the defensive assistant for is a 103.8 with this years Boston Celtics, but that is 5th best in the league in that particular year. The teams he is the defensive assistant average a 100.6. Oh, did I mention he has coached 5 teams to sub-100 seasons. For reference, an average Defensive Rating for a team is around a 106 with your top 10 defensive teams posting numbers around a sub-103. The best we have seen in recent memory with the Hornets was two years ago with a 105.7 which was 7th in the league. By the way that same year, Thibodeau’s Celtics posted a 98.9!
As amazing as that sounds alone, the biggest thing is just how fast EVERY team he comes to turns around defensively. From the Knicks in 1995, to the Rockets, and then to the Celtics. When he comes to your team the defensive rating drops below 101. And when he leaves you see it go up a minimum of 3 points. To me that speaks to HIS individual impact as this is under two different head coaches over 14 seasons. Most importantly, he seems be the main reason for a great deal of another candidate’s, Jeff Van Gundy, reputation as a winner.
He was JVG defensive assistant during all of his time with the Knicks and Rockets. JVG may have taught Thibodeau everything he knows about defensive coaching, as that is really what JVG was about, defense and discipline. The problem for JVG is we know from his record that his defensive focus appears to have always been to the detriment of offensive production. His best team offensive rating was 15th in the league and averaged mid to late 20th in the league every other year he coached. So if his teams would not have been top 5 defensively every year they would never have been able to make up for the lack of offense he brought to the table.
So for me, why go with JVG if you can get the possible guy behind the guy and someone who should have no problem bringing more to the table offensively. With Avery, his best defensive team has the same defensive rating as Thibodeau’s worst team. Del Negro, same deal. (Although I kinda like him as a prospect because of his ability to squeeze so much out of so little.) Doug Collins, again, at his best is Thibodeau at HIS worst with a 103.8. Not to mention that his teams are majority of the time slightly below average defensive rating. Casey is a flat out no for me. His best defensive rating is a 104.5 with way below average offensive ratings. He is just not in the top 5 of the candidates mentioned for me.
The interesting side note on his experience as a Celtics coach is how Doc Rivers works his assistants. The scouting and game planning for the opposing teams they face is completely delegated. Each coach, Rivers as well, has an equal number of teams they are responsible for scouting, breaking down film on, and developing the core of the game plan for the teams they are assigned. Then Doc will tweak it a bit, but for the most part the coach that is responsible for a team, say the Hornets, for that year is who has built the game plan for both the offensive and defensive adjustments to the normal Celtics system for that particular team. This shows that he has to have a firm grasp on all aspects of the team play and that he has taken a larger role than most NBA assistants in his latest of coaching assignments. I would LOVE to know what teams Thibodeau was responsible for this year and last and see how the Celtics did against those teams. I think that would speak volumes about his readiness to be a head coach.
In the end after looking at what few numbers can be attributed to Thibodeau, I wouldn’t weep over Van Gundy being hired. I would worry about Avery. I would expect a lot out of next season if Thibodeau gets hired.