SACRAMENTO -- The Kings' search for a new head coach is likely to take plenty of twists and turns over the next few weeks. Vlade Divac is going to interview plenty of folks. Some will have a shot at the job, others are just part of the process.
The big names are already spoken for. Tom Thibodeau is landing in Minnesota on a monster deal that includes control of player decisions. Scott Brooks is likely to ink a big deal in Washington as the Wizards try to entice Kevin Durant to come home. Jeff Van Gundy, if he returns to the court, is probably going to back to Houston with the hopes of turning things around for the Rockets.
Those are your “A-list” coaches. Everyone else in the mix is either unproven, over proven, or maybe just needs the perfect fit.
Sacramento has interest in Luke Walton, but the 36-year-old Warriors assistant will have better options in a year. Maybe the Lakers improve via free agency or the Knicks turn the corner. Walton can land a marquee job, he’ll just have to wait one more year to do it. Or maybe he already has one lined up in Golden State if Steve Kerr decides that the stress of travel and running a team full-time is too much for his ailing back.
So with a few big names off the market, where do the Kings go from here?
It’s complicated. You can group coaching candidates into three different categories. We have retreads, we have first-timers and we have a handful of coaches that worked in other cities, but for one reason or another, their time there came to an end.
The Kings could swing for the fences with an unproven guy. They gave Michael Malone a shot and he looked very promising through a season and a quarter. There are coaches that fit this mold and most of them are part of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree.
Beyond the wins and the rings, Popovich will leave a legacy of coaches that will carry on his teachings. He may be the most influential NBA coach of the last few decades.
But nothing is certain when you bring in an unproven coach, no matter where he did his doctoral work. Ettore Messina or Ime Udoka might be the next Mike Budenholzer, but there is always a risk.
The retreads are what they are. We don’t need to drop any names here. And the Kings should be very leery of going down this road.
And then we have a small group of coaches that fit into a different category. This is where the Kings can find gold if they ask the right questions.
If Divac is really going to seek advice from his former mentor in Rick Adelman, his main objective should be to find someone just like him.
Adelman spent 23 years manning the sidelines for five different teams. He is mostly known for his work on the Trail Blazers and Kings sidelines, but he also had stints in Golden State, Houston and Minnesota.
There was a time when he may have been looked at as a retread. His two year stint with the Warriors in the late 90s was rough. He could have been passed over for another job and Sacramento fans would never have been treated to what they consider the golden age of Kings basketball.
How do you find the next Rick Adelman? What in someone’s past failures as a coach would lead you to believe that they can change the course of a different franchise’s future?
It’s a complex question. Thibodeau was handed a playoff ready Chicago team and they never hung a banner in the rafters. Brooks had two of the greatest players in the game and a bevy of star role players and he is ringless. Van Gundy took the Knicks to the Finals and came up short and he has a .500 career playoff record.
After these three, there are plenty of options. But finding the right fit and the right coach at the right time is a very difficult task.
Did Kevin McHale’s experience with the Rockets make him the right guy? Nate McMillan turned around Portland when their culture was at an all-time low. If it wasn’t for the knees of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, McMillan might still be running the Blazers. Vinny Del Negro won 56 games in his final season in Los Angeles and it still wasn’t enough to keep the job.
There is someone out there who is ready for the task of coaching the Sacramento Kings. Jobs are drying up. There are only 30 head coaching positions in the league and almost all of them are filled. The question isn’t if the Kings can find someone to take the job, its sorting through the qualified applicants and finding the right one.
Everyone is going to have an opinion, but this one is Divac’s to make. He should know who the right man is when he walks in the door. It won’t take a binder filled with advanced metrics on every player. A quality powerpoint presentation shouldn’t make a difference.
One of these candidates will walk into the room and everything about him will scream "leader." His resumé will matter, but his passion for the game and for the task at hand should be on point. That’s the guy who should get the job.