David Vanterpool is a surprise ‘serious candidate’ in Sixers’ coaching search


David Vanterpool is far from a recognizable name to the casual NBA fan. That could be changing soon, however, because the Portland Trail Blazers’ assistant has emerged as a “serious candidate” to replace Doug Collins as the Philadelphia 76ers’ head coach.

Vanterpool has just one season of NBA coaching experience under his belt, but he made enough of an impression with the development of Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard to earn an interview for the Sixers’ coaching vacancy. And, following that interview on Monday, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that he did well enough in the process that he’s now being lumped in with current assistant Michael Curry — along with San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown and Boston Celtics’ assistant Jay Larranaga — as a top candidate to take over the reigns of the rebuilding squad.

The 40-year-old seems to fit the same mold as Larranaga and Brown as lesser-known NBA assistant coaches with solid international coaching experience and reputations for developing players. Like Larranaga, Vanterpool ended a solid basketball playing career in Europe — with Euroleague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, no less — before moving onto an assistant coaching role upon retirement. He also spent time serving as a pro scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder before moving back to coaching with the Blazers this past season.

Vanterpool’s candidacy among his peers, though, seems to be interesting. Looking at the roster of assistant coaches Terry Stotts has assembled on the Blazers’ bench  — Vanterpool, Jay Triano, Nate Tibbetts, Kim Hughes and Dale Osbourne — the Sixers’ head coaching candidate is likely the least familiar to insiders that keep tabs on such things as NBA assistant coaches. In fact, it would seem that the 36-year-old Tibbetts would be the more likely candidate having cut his teeth in the NBA Development League before taking on assistant roles with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers before being hired by the Blazers this past summer.

Nevertheless, Vanterpool’s an intriguing candidate for the Sixers job … and is likely worth keeping an eye on going forward, even if he’s passed over in Philadelphia.

Avery Johnson will likely be coaching somewhere next year

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Unraveling the truth about Avery Johnson’s coaching ability is a tricky gig. He’s 194-70 all time, which is pretty amazing. He’s also known for two of the most disappointing postseasons in NBA history, failing to cash in twice on the Mavericks when they were the best team in the league, even being ejected in the first round by the Warriors in 2007.

But his work with the Mavericks and reputation seems to be enough to get him back on the sideline, if recent indications have any substance. Johnson has interviewed for the Sixers coaching job and will follow that up with an interview with Jeff Bower for the Hornets gig.

The Philadelphia job might be a good fit, since the Sixers need a stiff hand to instill discipline, but Johnson hasn’t proven an ability to win without superior talent. The Hornets position might be ideal, however.

Already primed with a superstar in Chris Paul, and with a core of veterans to supply support for the surprising rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. Johnson has experience coaching in the Southwest division, for the Spurs and Mavericks, and would provide the defensive intensity the Hornets need to compete in that division.

Questions will continue around the “Little General”‘s ability to maintain the attention of a roster, and whether he can compete without the All-Star roster he had in Dallas. But it looks like we’ll get the answer to those questions soon.