It's been another rough season to be a Golden State Warriors fan as the hopes of a winning season have once again come and gone. And with the end of the W's regular season comes the likely end of head coach Keith Smart's tenure with the team. The Warriors brain trust will have some big decisions to make towards the future of the franchise, and the choice of a new head coach is one of the biggest. There are a number of talented play callers out there to be had, the problem is finding the right one that can make this team a playoff contender. So the question is, what kind of coach do the Warriors need?
In my opinion the team needs a player-oriented coach who focuses first and foremost on defense. We all know the Warriors have scorers on their team, but if they could show some sort of consistent defensive prowess, it would definitely take them to another level in the NBA. Basically I have broken down the possible coaching options into three categories: the first category are well known coaches who would make a big splash upon arrival with the team, the second is a group of coaches with solid experience, but won't cause as big of a commotion, and the third category would be guys that would seem to be risky candidates for head coaches but could ultimately have a huge impact. I know who I would pick, and the answer might come as a shock, but you'll have to wait and see who that is...
‘Big Splash' Coaching Options: It would take a lot for one of these guys to come to Oakland...
Jeff Van Gundy: A very reputable coach with a winning track record that has some success with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. He has the desire to give up his broadcasting job to come back to the sideline, but seems to be waiting for the perfect opportunity to make his return. The Warriors are definitely a work in progress, which may or may not peak his interest to coach this team.
Larry Brown: The only basketball coach in history to have both an NCAA and NBA title, Brown's name seems to always be in the mix when a head coaching gig pops up. His experience is second to none as a coach, basically having seen it all and done it all in his long coaching career. He isn't exactly a defensive minded guy, but he's a very likeable coach who can get the most out of his players. But I think it would take another perfect scenario for him to come back to coaching now, and once again, the Warriors don't seem to fit that scenario.
Jerry Sloan: After the awkward mid-season departure from his long term employer the Utah Jazz, and the numerous playoff appearances without a title, one might think that Sloan would want another crack at getting that ever elusive championship ring. That being said, Jerry would basically be starting from the bottom up again, which is something he probably wouldn't want to do this late in his career, and it is still uncertain if he will ever want to coach in the NBA again.
Talented but lesser known coaches: A good place to find a great head coach in the making...
Lawrence Frank: The former New Jersey Nets head coach and current Boston Celtics assistant seems like he would be a good fit for the Warriors. His overall coaching experience and his time with Doc Rivers makes him one of the next in line to get a shot as an NBA head coach, and like his predecessor in Boston Tom Thibodeau, could be successful rather quickly. The Boston connection with majority owner Joe Lacob would likely make for an easy transition for Frank to the West Coast, and the winning mentality he would bring from Boston is one that the Warriors desperately need. I think this is one of the more viable options Golden State could have if shopping for a new H.C.
Mike Brown: The former head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA Coach of the Year in 2009 is another viable option for the Warriors to choose. He has been to the NBA Finals and has some significant playoff experience, and whether that was fueled by LeBron James or not, I think he is still a good coach that knows how to get his players to compete at a high level. He is another guy that is just waiting around for the phone to ring, and the Warriors might as well dial him up. On a personal note, he went to my Alma Mater USD, so he has to be a good guy (Go Toreros!).
Sam Mitchell: Another former Coach of the Year (2007, Toronto Raptors) and current assistant with the New Jersey Nets, Mitchell is a guy that could prove to be a decent leader for Golden State. With the barrage of former NBA players turned coaches now, Mitchell is one who is readily capable of returning to a head coaching position, and has some know how when it comes to turning around a franchise, as he lead the Raptors to the Atlantic Division title during the 2006-2007 season. He has certainly helped Avery Johnson make the Nets better; he might as well be doing it as a H.C. somewhere else.
Riskier (but possibly genius) Options: Hear me out...
Patrick Ewing: Probably the biggest stretch to be hired as Warriors head coach that I will list. Ewing does possess some serious basketball I.Q. and could help out the team defensively, especially in the paint. All of the W's big men would benefit from a guy like Ewing and his experience, and would easily be a player friendly coach that would keep the locker room loose. Would ownership go out a limb and hire a guy like this? Probably not. But he is still out there for consideration.
Mark Jackson: This is my number one pick for the Warriors next head coach, and here's why. The former player and current ESPN analyst has interviewed for head coaching positions with the Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, and New York Knicks, and actually was one of the finalists for the Knicks before GM Donnie Walsh chose Mike D'Antoni. Like Boston's Doc Rivers, he started in broadcasting and played point guard in the NBA, and actually has more NBA experience than Rivers with 17 years as a player compared to Rivers' 13. He doesn't have any history as an assistant in the NBA, but neither did Doc Rivers, or Larry Bird, Larry Brown, Mike Dunleavy, or even ex-Warriors coach Don Nelson, all of which went on to win NBA Coach of the Year in their careers. His knowledge as a guard in the NBA would help out Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis immensely, and his work on the court as a defensive minded player (1,608 career steals, 23rd overall in NBA history) could be a real asset to the W's as a head coach. I really hope the Warriors ownership takes a good look at Jackson if and when they go looking for a new head coach.
Dwane Casey: Current Dallas Mavericks assistant, former head coach of Minnesota Timberwolves (2005-06).
Dan Majerle: Former NBA player and current assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns.
Flip Saunders: Current head coach with the Washington Wizards, could possibly be let go at the end of the season.
That's quite the shopping list for Golden State, and is definitely not a comprehensive list of head coaching possibilities. But it's good to keep your gaze looking forward when it comes to this Warriors team, and the most essential piece of the puzzle is a head coach that can handle the reigns.
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com