Your Guide To The Coaching Rumors

Published: October 5, 2020

Tyronn Lue

Ty Lue has been associated with the Pelicans before Alvin Gentry was even fired. With reports indicating the Pelicans had their eye on Lue since the 13 game losing streak in December, Lue should be the presumptive favorite. But are the Pelicans Lue’s favorite? 

Since Alvin Gentry was fired, multiple sources have maintained that Lue views New Orleans as nothing but a fall back. The championship winning head coach prefers a team that is closer to higher levels of competing. 

Where does that leave the Pelicans? Well Lue’s market has changed considerably over the past few months. Premier Eastern Conference contenders have already made splashy hires in Steve Nash and Doc Rivers, leaving only the Clippers and Rockets as the remaining high level winning teams. Those two teams along with the Pelicans are the teams last reported Lue was interviewing with. 

When compared to Pelicans, those other two teams are certainly further along in terms of winning. However, anything goes with owners like Steve Ballmer and Tilman Fertitta. Ballmer has the deepest pockets in the league and the ability to pay top dollar for any wild card option. Fertitta is the opposite. Will he be able to stomach the dollar amount Lue will likely command? It’s due to this uncertainty, Lue has a fall back in the Pelicans. 

This does not mean the Pelicans have sat idle waiting for the Lue situation to resolve itself. David Griffin is a more connected man than I and there’s no doubt he has heard of Lue’s desire for a better team from others, and likely even Lue himself. The Pelicans can simultaneously operate under the assumption that Lue ends up elsewhere while not closing to door on the possibility.

So is Lue using the Pelicans for leverage? Yes and no. When a candidate has multiple offers on the table, he can leverage the compensation from one against the other. The Pelicans also benefit from being associated with Lue – a championship head coach seriously considering the Pelicans is a sign of legitimacy. While the marriage of the two is unlikely, both parties have shrewdly left the door open for each other should plans fall through.

Jason Kidd

Much has been made of the fact that Jason Kidd was reported as a candidate the Pelicans are considering. I am not going to spend much time here on Kidd’s history or on why he’d be a bad fit with the Pelicans, but rather focus on why is he associated with the Pelicans at all? In a word – relationships. 

David Griffin and Jason Kidd’s relationship goes back to the time when Kidd was a player in Phoenix. Beyond that, the two share an agency. The NBA is a business built on relationships and a small favor now may come in handy down the road. My read on the Kidd situation is that Griffin is doing a favor to a former business associate and the agency. While there is a legitimate conversation to be had regarding giving Kidd a platform at all, I don’t expect he will end up with the job. 

The Field

While the Pelicans haven’t been linked to any other specific candidates publicly, there are a number of strong candidates on the market. My read of the situation is that the Pelicans are not interested in a first time head coach given the two names the Pelicans have been linked with and the seeming lack of leadership this past year. I believe David Griffin wants a coach who would run a tight ship with accountability on all levels – even minor things such as ensuring the team bus leaves at the scheduled time. To accomplish this, I think Griffin searches for a coach who already has experience running  a locker room. Here are some former head coaches I think may be considered in the search. 

  • Kenny Atkinson –  This seems to be the name everyone jumps to, and for good reason. The former Brooklyn Nets head coach has experience working under General Manager, Trajan Langdon and is known for his player development. Should Kyrie’s opinion of Atkinson be held against him? I’m not so sure.
  • Brett Brown – Like Atkinson, Brown has a long history of player development dating back to the Spurs. Also like Atkinson, Brown carries questions about his ability to generate buy-in from star level players after his time coaching Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Jimmy Butler.
  • Brothers Van Gundy –  Jeff and Stan Van Gundy have both been out of the game for quite some time. Jeff has been linked to many high profile jobs across the years, including Houston this year. Despite his idiosyncrasies as a TV analyst, Jeff has built a strong reputation as the National Team head coach in FIBA competitions. His brother, Stan is a much stronger TV analyst, and in my opinion, a much stronger fit with the Pelicans. Stan’s players rave about the level of preparation he provides them with going into games. His fiery, perfectionist personality fits very well with what I imagine Griffin is looking for in a head coach.

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