Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) have been stripped of their team presidencies, though both will remain coaches. That leaves Gregg Popovich (Spurs), Stan Van Gundy (Pistons) and Tom Thibodeau (Timberwolves) as the only remaining president-coaches.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver probably doesn’t mind the reduction.
Silver wasn’t necessarily against Rivers’ ascension to the top of the Clippers masthead, but the commissioner has privately expressed concerns to owners and senior franchise officials in several instances, case by case, about the dynamic of the coach-in-charge model, league sources said.
Coaching an NBA team is a full-time job. Running an NBA front office is a full-time job. One person doing both invites trouble, especially when that person – like Rivers, Budenholzer, Van Gundy and Thibodeau* – brings a coach’s mindset and lacks front-office experience. Building a roster requires a more measured approach than coaching.
*Popovich was San Antonio’s general manager before becoming its coach.
There are advantages to one person holding both roles, namely an avoidance of internal conflict. Sometimes, general managers and coaches spar over decisions – the general manager upset that a player he likes isn’t playing enough, the coach upset about the players he has. That’s all avoided with one person in charge setting a direction for the franchise.
The arrangement can obviously work. The Spurs are a model franchise, though part of that is based on Popovich empowering R.C. Buford. Likewise, teams with separate coaches and general managers frequently fail.
The commonality: It seems Silver is not shy about making suggestions when he believes teams could be better run.