An Early Look at the Candidates to Replace Monty Williams

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Published: May 12, 2015

Now that Monty Williams has been relieved of his head coaching duties, it is time to look forward and try to figure out who will be the next guy in charge. The issue is that we don’t fully know who is calling the shots, and as you will see by my list, that could make all the difference in the world. The issue with Dell and Monty was that they did not see eye to eye from a philosophical standpoint. Dell wants to space the floor, play small, and get plenty of ball and player movement, while Monty has a more conventional, old-school approach to the game.

Dell filled out the rosters with his type of players, but Monty did not utilize them in the way Dell envisioned, so Dell got guys like Asik to fit into Monty’s scheme. Monty said as much recently when he revealed that he was finally starting to get “his type” of players, an underhanded shot at Dell. But with Monty gone, Dell can finally hire a coach that he sees eye to eye with. That is unless it is really Loomis calling the shots as Dell remains no more than a figurehead GM.

If Loomis is calling the shots, a “big name” or, at the very least, a more established coach might fit the bill. This is a business after all, and the fan base needs to be re-energized after a deflating playoff sweep. The issue with some of the big name guys is that they will likely want more power than a typical head coach has, and that might not end well for Dell. So, you can see how this plays out totally different depending on who is running the show. With that in mind, let’s look at both scenarios.

If Dell is Running the Show

Kenny Atkinson – Atkinson is currently an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, and is a hot name behind the scenes all over the league. Kevin Arnovitz did an interesting profile here. He is fantastic at communicating with players and in finding ways to improve their game. He is coming from an offense that runs a lot of what Dell wants to run here, and has European experience as well (something else Dell is a fan of). As most of you know from listening to the podcast, my best friend works for the Hawks, and to say that he couldn’t stop raving about Atkinson is an understatement. I would fully expect Atkinson to be at or near the top of Dell’s list.

Ettore Messina – “Who?” was the number one response I got on Twitter when I mentioned his name. Messina is a god in European circles and has been serving as an assistant with the Spurs this year. Want to know his philosophies? Check out this article HE produced on his coaching style/beliefs. It’s fascinating. For the TLDR crowd, he believes in high IQ players who can read defenses and make proper adjustments on the fly. He loves centering his offense around a big man (hello!) and emphasizes floor balance and ball movement. Dell will LOVE to hear that.

Alvin Gentry – The top assistant on the #1 team in the league right now, and Gentry has experience as a head coach to boot. Gentry said recently that he would like to be a Head Coach again, and he did get Phoenix to the WCF with an uptempo style in 2010, but he does have a below .500 record and has only been out of the first round once. Also, at 60, he might not be the ideal guy to grow with AD. But what he can do is unleash the offense, and if he can bring in a great defensive assistant, the Pelicans can make a huge leap forward on both sides of the ball.

Sean Miller – Miller is on this list because I was told by a source that I trust that he will be angling for the job. He is a top-notch college coach who runs a motion offense that has been successful and is the blueprint a lot of coaches in the college game use currently. And his defense knowledge is top-notch too. He seems to get along with players too and Jeff Van Gundy calls him one of only two people ever who he instantly knew were born to be a head coaches (Spoelstra was the other). Here is an interesting piece on Miller, the man.

Fred Hoiberg – Those who follow me know that Holberg is option #1, 2, and 3 personally. But he has said multiple times he is not likely to leave Iowa State. But how many offers come with the NBA’s next greatest player attached, though? Holberg’s offensive system would be perfect for this Pelicans team, and he has NBA experience as an exec and a player. He is basically Steve Kerr 2.0 with a chance to be even more revolutionary offensively. Reportedly, he tops the Bulls list too, but which job would you rather have?

Mike Malone – Dell reportedly reached out to Malone to be a “consultant” when he was fired from Sacramento, but Malone chose Minnesota instead. Maybe Malone was told it would be an audition of sorts, but was uncomfortable stabbing Monty in the back. But now that the job is open, Malone could be considered again and does have experience. However, I don’t think his offensive philosophies would necessarily flow with Dell’s.

If Loomis is Running the Show

John Calipari – This is the home run swing that the organization could take, and if Benson gives Loomis a blank check, Caliper could jump at the opportunity to work with AD and Tyreke again. Would Caliper be a great NBA coach? Impossible to tell (though many will try to convince you they somehow know the answer to this), but we do know that he has the respect of players from this generation, and that is half the battle. Calipari in likely means Dell out, as he would likely demand to be President and hire his own GM like Stan Van Gundy did in Detroit.

Mark Jackson – In this writer’s opinion, Jackson would be a lateral move, as I could not possibly find a coach more similar to Monty than Jackson. Their basketball philosophies are nearly identical, while Jackson yells more and Monty gets along with people better. But maybe Loomis will be intrigued by Jackson turning Golden State around and feel like he got a raw deal in Golden State.

Tom Thibodeau – This seems to be the guy atop a lot of fans wish lists, and I do see some connections. Yes, he was offered the job before Monty took it, but that was by a completely different front office and ownership group. He is also a defensive wizard, and that is the side of the ball where the Pelicans need help. This worked with Asik in the past and could likely be fired by the Bulls in the next few weeks. If he is let go, he will become the hottest candidate in the league and that can intrigue Loomis.

Jeff Van Gundy – His brother comes out of semi-retirement and agrees to coach the Pistons last year, and now maybe that gets Jeff’s competitive juices flowing again. If he was open to coaching, Van Gundy would be highly sought after and his track record would be appealing to Loomis and Benson. Like Thibodeau, he has a defensive background and could get that side of the ball fixed instantly.

Scott Brooks – The complaints from Thunder fans about Brooks sound eerily similar to the Pelicans fans gripes about Monty, but his career record (338-207) could appeal to Loomis. He has been through this part of the process before with a young MVP candidate and might be a multi-time champion by now if not for some unfortunate injuries.

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