What have we learned headed into Week 3 of the search to replace Monty Williams as Pelicans head coach?
Well, just one thing.
The Pelicans aren’t going to make a quick decision but are more focused on making the right decision.
The team seems to be taking a thorough approach and is weighing every option.
Other than a few names, not a whole lot is known about the search, and that’s just the way the guy heading up the search wants it.
“We understand there is a lot of interest in the coaching search for the Pelicans,” General Manager Dell Demps said. “As we do our due diligence, we have elected to keep the details of the search confidential.”
One thing that is no secret is what the Pelicans must do with this hire.
They must hire someone who sends a powerful message to Anthony Davis that the team is serious about winning.
Get this hire right, and you probably keep the centerpiece of the franchise.
Mess it up, and the Pelicans will find themselves losing Davis and starting from scratch.
It’s a job desired by many because of the chance to coach AD, who will likely be the best player in the NBA in the next few years.
But it’s also a tough job.
A coach could come in next season, lead the Pelicans to an even better record than they had this year and still not make the playoffs. That’s how rugged the West is.
But here is a look at some of the names that have surfaced since Williams was fired after five seasons at the helm. We’ve included, on a scale of 1 to 5, what we think that candidate’s chances are of landing the gig.
That number is based on fan base mostly on coaching experience, coaching style, affordability, appeal to the fan base, and appeal to AD.
JEFF VAN GUNDY (4): Van Gundy’s name is the latest to come up.
ESPN reported late Friday night that Van Gundy, an analyst for the network, has expressed interest in the job.
His response two days earlier during a conference call when asked if he was interested was probably an indication that he was.
“I have too much respect for the coaching profession and the sanctity of a job search to publicly speak about any job openings,” Van Gundy said. “That’s really not my style.”
That translates to: “I’m not saying no. Heck, I’m not saying anything.”
Van Gundy’s success as a coach of the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets speaks for itself.
Not counting the season he resigned from the Knicks, Van Gundy led nine of his teams to the playoffs, including that improbable run in 1999 when he took the Knicks to the NBA Finals … as a No. 8 seed.
But the one that may raise AD’s eyebrow (and those of Pelicans’ fans as well) is that Van Gundy hasn’t coached since 2007. Davis was barely 6-feet tall and was playing guard as an eighth-grader at the time. But once a coach, always a coach. And of course, he’s had success with big men, having coached Patrick Ewing and Yao Ming.
TOM THIBODEAU (5): If there was a Most Wanted Coaches list, Thibs would be at the top of the list. Everybody seems to want him as their coach. For now, he’s still the coach of the Chicago Bulls. Most expect that marriage to come to an end any day now. If it does (that should probably say “when it does”), expect the Pelicans, the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets all to be lining up to talk to him.
Thibodeau never got the Bulls to the NBA Finals, but the Bulls’ prowess on the defensive end makes him a hot commodity for a Pelicans’ team that finished 22nd in the league in defense this past season.
ALVIN GENTRY (3): Gentry, the associate head coach at Golden State, is the one person we know has actually already interviewed for the job. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr confirmed it. Gentry has been Kerr’s right-hand man in his first season and has the Warriors knocking on the door of the NBA Finals.
Gentry’s last head-coaching job was at Phoenix. In his second season with the Suns, they led the league in scoring reached the Western Conference Finals. While his name may not fire up the fan base like the first two candidates mentioned, don’t count Gentry out of the mix.
FRED HOIBERG (2): It’s no secret that the Iowa State coach is more of an NBA guy. He played in the league and worked in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office as director of basketball operations.
Hoiball, as his team’s uptempo style is called, would likely be a hit with the fans. But his name has also come up often as coach of the Bulls if (when) it comes open. If you’re a coach, which job do you take? Coaching a Bulls team that looks to have all the championship pieces if the team is healthy (especially playing in the East), or coaching a Pelicans team that (no matter how good it is) will still have a tough row to hoe in the West?
SEAN MILLER (2): Miller has won almost 75 percent of his games at Xavier and Arizona and is one of the up and coming names. He could be the next Brad Stevens, who vaulted from Butler to Boston and led the Celtics to the playoffs in his second season. As a kid, Miller even made a cameo in the movie ‘The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,’ which could probably help him if Tom Benson had renamed the team the Pisces instead of the Pelicans. But something tells me that Demps will be looking for someone who has proven himself, especially on the NBA level.
JOHN CALIPARI (1): Yes, I know coach Cal’s collegiate connections to AD and Tyreke Evans sound intriguing. But paying Cal the kind of money that Kentucky does ($8 million a year) doesn’t seem likely at all. Calipari came out on Twitter earlier this week and said he wasn’t interested. It’s doubtful the interest isn’t there. But it’s also doubtful that the money is there. He’d normally get a 4, but the gap in salary is probably too wide to consider him a serious candidate.
ETTORE MESSINA (2): The Spurs assistant works under Gregg Popovich, and that alone should be worth something. He also has had success overseas, winning four EuroLeague championships.
Cleveland decided to go with a coach with overseas experience in hiring David Blatt and now they look to be headed to the NBA Finals in his first season. OK, so that may be more LeBron than Blatt.
MIKE MALONE (2): Malone’s last job was as head coach at Sacramento. He was fired in December after the team got off to a 11-13 start. Malone was an assistant in New Orleans in the 2010-2011 season and is known for his defense. But hiring a recently fired guy may not be the answer.
KENNY ATKINSON (2): The Atlanta Hawks assistant is thought of as one of the next to make the jump from assistant to head coach. The former college point guard was an assistant under Mike D’Antoni with the Knicks before heading to a Hawks team that had the best record in the East this season.
CANDIDATE X: With the search being pretty confidential, there are plenty of guys out there who very well could be in the mix, depending on what direction the team wants to take.
Names like former Golden State coach Mark Jackson, former Lakers and Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, Clippers assistant Mike Woodson and Cavaliers assistant Tyronn Lue all been floating around. Jackson, who coached Golden State last season, said earlier in the week he is content with his job as a broadcaster.
But don’t be surprised if the Pelicans pull out a wildcard no one has mentioned just yet.