Who should coach the Clippers?
A season of change is coming to a close, and the Clippers have yet to find a leader
Sources around the league maintain that, barring extraordinary circumstances, Olshey will be the Clippers' man in the front office going forward, but things are less settled on the coaching front. Even if you buy the Clippers' line that the job is Hughes' to lose, compiling a 5-16 record isn't the best way to forsake the interim tag.
Hughes laid out two goals when he took over the team: get out and run, and buckle down on defense. The Clippers averaged 94.3 possessions per game under Dunleavy and just 95.2 under Hughes, a marginal gain. Truth be told, the Clippers aren't equipped to play much faster than that, something Hughes suggests that he now grasps.
It's a bit harder to gauge Hughes' performance as a defensive coach because the Clippers traded away Marcus Camby, one of the best basket protectors in the league, three games into Hughes' tenure. But one fact is indisputable:
The Clippers have been a horrible defensive team under Hughes.
How bad? The Toronto Raptors have the NBA's most porous defense, allowing 110.1 points per 100 possessions. In Hughes' 21 games as head coach, the Clippers have allowed 112.3 points per 100 possessions.
There's some thought that the Clippers might keep the head-coaching job vacant into the free-agent period -- a tacit signal to a certain superstar that signing with the Clips would entitle him to choose his own coach. Barring that improbability, it's likely the Clippers will soon be in the market for their next head coach, presumably someone they envision sticking around to build a winner. It will be an enormous hire for a franchise with an intriguing core of talent and more help on the way.
What should the Clippers be looking for?
There are countless variables to consider. Should the organization spend the money on a top-shelf coach with a winning pedigree? How important is the capacity to coexist with Baron Davis? Given the pair of 21-year-olds to which the Clippers are staking their future, should player development be a priority? Should the Clippers look for a coach more inclined to push the ball, or would a half-court practitioner be better? Why not roll the dice on a high-risk/high-reward innovator, even if the résumé is shorter?
The Clippers have plenty of choices, but here are some of the better ones:
Tried and true: Jeff Van Gundy
Deserves a second chance: Dwane Casey
Recent history has been kinder to Casey than the Minnesota Timberwolves were in January 2007. They fired Casey when the team was 20-20 in his second season as head coach -- an overachievement when you look at the Wolves' opening night roster that season. Minnesota has won fewer than a quarter of its games since (and went only 12-30 under Randy Wittman the rest of the way in 2006-07, never winning consecutive games). Casey is a creative, defensive-minded coach who has compiled a fascinating array of experiences. He coached the Japanese national team for five years with luminary Pete Newell, then spent 11 years on the Seattle bench alongside George Karl, Paul Westphal and Nate McMillan. Casey is widely praised for his organizational skills and his passion for X's and O's. McMillan, in particular, trusted Casey to prep both him and the team with a coherent plan before each game. In Seattle, Casey also became familiar with the implementation of advanced stats while Dean Oliver was with the team. Casey is an assistant to Rick Carlisle in Dallas and has been a finalist in both Chicago and Philadelphia. In retrospect, he was probably the right choice for both teams, and he would be a smart pick for the Clippers.
From the assistant ranks: Elston Turner
University challenge: Jay Wright
European import: Ettore Messina
Biggest upside: Dave Joerger
Kevin Arnovitz is an NBA contributor to ESPN.com and ESPNLosAngeles.com and the author of ClipperBlog.
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