Hornets Coaching Search Focusing on Just Two?

Published: May 18, 2010

The New Orleans Hornets coaching search seems to be moving forward, even as the club continues interviewing a new candidate. As was widely expected, local Avery Johnson seems to be one of them, while Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau has emerged as a second front runner, presumably in large part to the Celtic’s recent postseason surge.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports:

“Sources say Johnson and Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau, meanwhile, have emerged as standout contenders in New Orleans in a search that has generated seven interviews to date. Besides Johnson, Thibodeau and Casey, New Orleans has met with Portland assistant coach Monty Williams, TNT’s Mike Fratello, ESPN’s Mark Jackson and former New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank.”

Last year the team struggled to find an identity on defense, so it’s no surprise that both leading candidates are defensive specialists. Among available coaches, one would be hard pressed to find someone with a more impressive resume on that side of the ball than either Johnson or Thibodeau.

Tommy T (as he probably won’t be referred to again) is a defensive mastermind. When the Celtics wanted to improve their defense in the summer of 2007, Doc River brought on Thibodeau to bolster a team that wound up being number one in the league. It was his schemes that many would credit as key to stopping Kobe Bryant in the 2008 NBA finals.

To quote Bryant, “He’s awesome”.

When arguably the best basketball player in the NBA credits an assistant coach as being crucial to stopping him, you would think someone in a front office would listen up. Yet nobody did.

Now here we are two seasons later and guess which team looks to be making a run at the NBA finals? Why it’s the Boston Celtics. And how are they doing it? By dominating on the defensive end.

One stat that has astonished me about Tom Thibodeau is that during the 18 seasons he’s been an NBA assistant coach, his teams have finished in the top 10 in team defense 15 times.

On the other hand, native New Orleanian Avery Johnson remains the easy choice. He led the Dallas Mavericks to the finals as an NBA head coach, has a great overall winning percentage, and is widely regarded as a great defensive mind.

Seemingly contrary to what Stein wrote and what the media has long reported, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Avery is not the front runner for the job.

Whatever happens, the team could do a lot worse than to wind up with either of these two guys as head coach heading into next season. I for one am dying for a return to the days of 2007-2008, when third and fourth quarter defense was a staple of game nights at the hive.


Stein also reported:

“But one coaching source said Sunday that incoming Hornets owner Gary Chouest — who has participated in most of the interviews New Orleans has conducted so far — has also been occupied in recent days mobilizing his marine-vessel company to assist with containment efforts in the ongoing BP oil-spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.”

With Edison Chouest LLC playing a huge roll in the containment of the oil spill in the gulf coast, I can imagine that Chouest is a very busy man, especially with his purchase of the Hornets not yet finalized.

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