Who are you going to get that’s better?
Mark Jackson being let go as the head coach of the Golden State Warrior had been rumored for months, and as Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com noted this was more mutual than people thought. Still, Jackson’s team won 51 games, made a strong playoff showing without their best defensive player, and are a team not far from contending. Golden State just had its best back-to-back seasons in decades. The players love him.
So who you going to get that’s better, Joe Lacob? As Jackson himself noted, the pressure is on the Warriors owner and front office now to find a replacement that is an upgrade.
MORE FROM CSN BAY AREA: Lacob explains rationale for firing Jackson
Here are the names that have been floating around the league as candidates and have been mentioned in reports:
1) Steve Kerr. He is the first name mentioned by everyone, owner Lacob and his son Kirk (working in the front office) have ties to Kerr, plus others in the front office are high on him. It’s why they moved fast on Jackson — Kerr was about to start talks with the Knicks (but hasn’t yet) and reportedly will listen to the Warriors, but they had to get their hat in the ring. There is one big question here: Do they want to replace one coach plucked out of the broadcast booth with no experience on the bench with another? This is going to be an upgrade? Maybe Kerr is easier to work with off the court (Jackson was described as “disruptive” to me), but is Kerr going to be a better coach? That’s a big gamble. This job has a very different pressure than the New York one, but with an ownership group that thinks the team is a contender there is real pressure.
2) Stan Van Gundy. This would be a potential upgrade — Jackson is not near the strategist Van Gundy is (Jackson let the assistants do a lot of the game planning, setting the defensive system, etc). Van Gundy has coached a team all the way to the Finals before and he seems to be itching to get back into it. Of course, if you just let go of Jackson because he is hard to work with and you bring in the outspoken Van Gundy, then you pressure him from the outside… go ask Orlando management how that goes. Still, he may be the betting favorite to get the gig.
3) Fred Hoiberg. He is on a lot of NBA teams’ radar. He worked in the Minnesota front office, is a former NBA player who has shown at Iowa State he knows how to coach the game. If he wants to come out of college to the NBA a number of teams (including Minnesota) would like to talk to him. So far he hasn’t shown any inclination to head to the pros, but the option is there.
4) Kevin Ollie. Another college coach on everybody’s list, he just won a national title at UConn. He is wisely parlaying that into new contract negotiations with UConn, and he is expected to stay, but apparently he will listen to the Lakers’ overtures. He may do so with the Warriors as well. Still smart money says he stays put.
5) Alvin Gentry. The former NBA head coach and current Clippers assistant next to Doc Rivers is a name put out there by the well connected Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. He has 12 years experience as a head coach, the last five of those with the Suns where the team went back to an up-tempo style. He’s well liked around the league. That said, does a guy with a career .475 winning percentage that has made the playoffs twice (once getting to the conference finals) have the star power to replace Jackson? Not really.
6) Tom Thibodeau. Another name Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News put out there from his sources. Even with the reports of friction between Thibodeau and the Bulls GM Gar Forman, it’s highly unlikely the Warriors would even get permission to speak with him, let alone having the Bulls let him walk. But like the Lakers, the Warriors may ask if they can approach him about the deal.
7) George Karl. He’s not on any rumor list, but he’s an available name coach who plays an up-tempo, free-flowing offensive style that would mesh well with the current Golden State roster. Just a name to keep in the back of your mind, particularly if the top few on this list do not pan out. The Warriors need to make a splash with this hire.