GOD: Hi Adam, you’ve been doing a great job, and I’m glad you spared me from having to deal with Donald Sterling in Heaven. I always knew he was a creep, but things have become a bureaucratic nightmare up here and he had good lawyers ready to lobby The Board.
Adam Silver: Oh hey, God. Thanks!
GOD: I just need one more thing.
Adam Silver: Hit me! Get it? Because of the gambling?
GOD: Alright, let’s never do that again. Here’s what I need: There’s this guy named Daman who wants to write about basketball and other things once a week(ish) but wants to do something a little different. Can you arrange to issue a decree in which each team has to fire their coach and has to hire a coach that never previously was their coach? Also, since Daman started writing this before Jacque Vaughn was fired, can we keep him in the pool? Thanks! Gotta go, Season 6 of The Wire and the modern reboot of The West Wing are both premiering tonight.
So here’s my “False Hypothesis” (this gimmick will die quick, I promise): I believe that I can re-arrange the current head coaches in the NBA to optimize the league.
HUGE UPGRADES (3 Points Each) – 1 Coach
Oklahoma City Thunder – Brad Stevens
Here’s my steaming hot take: I believe that any and all bad fortune to this team is deserved. I believe that Sam Presti and the ownership of this franchise have taken the team’s title window for granted and will be punished by the NBA Gods (not the same GOD from above). It’s not even about the James Harden trade, it’s about what they didn’t do with the new flexibility they sacrificed the 4 headed beast of Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka for. It’s about keeping Scotty Brooks despite an offense that hasn’t evolved to keep pace with the rest of the league. I firmly believe that Scotty Brooks was a near perfect coach to give Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the freedom to make mistakes and learn who they are. But, as was the case with Mark Jackson in Golden State, that does not mean that he is the right coach to take them over the top. Enter Brad Stevens, the darling coach of Butler, who is rotting away with a terrible Boston Celtics franchise that have no history of success (I’m a Laker fan). Brad Stevens is a perfect fit in the small Oklahoma City market, will light up the league with a mature offense that can properly leverage the Dynamic Durant-Westbrook Duo and the shooters on that roster. You don’t deserve him, Clay Bennett, and OKC fans, you should be more upset about your management’s decisions, but you’re welcome.
SOLID UPGRADES (2 Points Each) – 8 Coaches
Portland Trailblazers – Rick Carlisle
One of my many “cop-out” picks in this list. The Blazers stand at 34-16 as of February 5th and just got done blowing out The Suns in impressive fashion. Terry Stotts has done a fantastic job stabilizing a franchise that seemed to be on the verge of trading its superstar in LaMarcus Aldridge and has implemented a great system. So why shake things up? Stotts was an assistant on the Mavericks under Carlisle from 2008-2012, so let’s trade up for the head coach. The only reason Carlisle qualifies as a “solid upgrade” is simply a testament to how strongly I believe in Carlisle’s ability rather than any knock on Stotts.
Houston Rockets – Stan Van Gundy
You wouldn’t want to see that?
But seriously — the Rockets are significantly more talented than the Magic team SVG took the finals in 2009, and McHale has done a good job with that team but so far SVG has been the coach that’s gotten the most out of the NBA’s Baby Daddy.
Sacramento Kings – Kevin McHale
I feel bad for Demarcus Cousins. I feel bad for the people of Sacramento, until they yell at me for the completely-fairly-officiated Western Conference Finals Game 6 in 2002. I feel bad about the fact that the first Indian owner of a professional sports franchise might not be a great owner. And I feel bad for everybody that sees Boogie as a villain. Watch this video
Demarcus needs somebody who’s a little old school. A person that knows what it means to be a dominant post threat. A person that was a dirty player of a dirty franchise.
Kevin McHale time! Although I feel his coaching hasn’t been consistent enough, he has shown enough this year to be worthy of a “Solid Upgrade” over Ty Corbin.
Washington Wizards – Doc Rivers
John Wall plays an improved Rajon Rondo. Bradley Beal plays Ray Allen. Paul Pierce plays Older Paul Pierce. Gortat plays a worse KG. Nene plays a better Kendrick Perkins.
This can work! Paul Pierce just cheered so loudly when he heard the news that his vocal cords could use a wheel chair. (Still bitter.)
Cleveland Cavaliers – Erik Spoelstra
This was a “Major” upgrade until the most recent Cavs win streak. Although I can’t say for certain what kind of a coach David Blatt will be, Erik Spoelstra proved himself in coaching a team of stars to 4 straight NBA Finals. He has the history with Lebron, and will be able to hopefully better utilize Kevin Love in a Bosh type role on offense.
Odds of the Blatt Cavs falling apart and Kevin Love joining the Lakers: 5,000/1. I’ll take it. Is that high?
Minnesota Timberwolves – Scotty Brooks
Now we’re talking. Scotty Brooks revitalizes basketball in Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins’ development accelerates. Flip Saunders isn’t built for building up young rosters, Brooks is. Solid!
New Orleans Pelicans – Dwane Casey
You’re Anthony Davis. Your new owner is 87 years old and is living on a diet of ice cream and red wine, your roster is so screwed up that the star point guard your team traded a first rounder and Nerlens Noel for being hurt actually helped the team get an identity, and you’re coached by Monty Williams. Where do you find hope? You wake up one morning and find yourself being coached by Dwane Casey that’s what!
Denver Nuggets – Randy Wittman
This is how Randy Wittman qualifies as a “solid upgrade” over anybody. When you as a coach call your team out by literally telling the media “I’d have more respect if guys just told me they didn’t feel like playing tonight from the start,” as a last resort to motivate your team and they respond with: 30 point loss to the Grizzlies, 18 point loss to the Hornets, 7 point loss to the 76ers, and a 4 point loss to the Celtics.
MODEST UPGRADE (1 Point) – 5 Coaches
Milwaukee Bucks – Frank Vogel
One of the more unpredictable developments this year is that I think Jason Kidd’s doing a great job in Milwaukee as their head coach. He is a legitimately good head coach and he’s only in his second year of doing this job, and only the first year working under a competently run organization. He’s gotten through to the young players on that team and they have bought into what he’s been selling. That being said, Frank Vogel has done it longer, has playoff experience, and can turn up Milwaukee’s defense to an elite level in short order.
Chicago Bulls – Dave Joerger
Modest upgrade? Over Tom Thibodeau? Here’s my case: Thibs has run out his welcome in Chicago, just like every other coach who has been employed by that franchise. I don’t know if it’s as simple as the front office not being able to deal with not getting enough credit in constructing these rosters, but this has to be troubling for any Bulls fan. Thibs isn’t without error, either. His minute management has been comical for years, but with as much depth as he has this year, it’s downright irresponsible. Joerger comes in with experience using 2 bigs effectively and has built a great system in Memphis that can be used in Chicago.
Atlanta Hawks – Gregg Popovich
Here’s how highly I think of Gregg Popovich. I’m replacing a guy that just went 17-0 in January, is on pace for 67 wins, and am actually calling that a “slight upgrade”. This is also one of the cop-out picks, as Spurs assistant for 17 years, this swap just makes too much sense. Your welcome, Atlanta. Hopefully at some point you’ll actually come out and support your team.
Orlando Magic – Quin Snyder
Here’s how much I know about Quin Snyder. He was the assistant for the Lakers one season. He looks like an insane person on the bench. And that I’ve only seen two Jazz games this year and they looked decent.
That’s also all I need to know that he’s an upgrade over Jacque Vaughn.
Utah Jazz – David Blatt
David Blatt joined this league in an entirely unenviable way. He signed on to coach a team that had failed its way to back-to-back NBA Draft Lottery wins and was loaded with impressionable young talent. A month or so later, they become the next scrutinized Superpower and the weight of the world is on him. The Utah Jazz, flush with young international talent, would be the perfect spot for him. He can experiment here freely, he can implement what he really wants his offense to look like, and nobody will notice! I watch basketball every single night and I don’t think I would recognize Derrick Favors and Alec Burks if they walked into my room right now.
NEUTRAL (0 Points) – 5 Coaches
Los Angeles Clippers – Tom Thibodeau
This team needs to be stronger defensively. This team needs to hire a coach that will hand over the keys to the offense to its star point guard and only focus on the defensive end. This team needs Tom Thibodeau.
Why isn’t he an upgrade? Because given the Clippers bench strength Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Paul will average 48 minutes per game and burn out by the playoffs. As a bitter Laker fan, I don’t mind.
Memphis Grizzlies – Steve Kerr
This one’s a weird one. I had a hard time slotting Kerr into a spot, and I absolutely believe all the hype about his coaching ability. I think that coming into a tight-knit group that likes everything about their situation is difficult and Kerr did it replacing Mark “I got extorted by a stripper but I still pass judgment on others” Jackson and can do it again taking over the Grizzlies job. A good coach can adapt to his or her personnel and I think that the Grit n Grind can continue to live on under the stewardship of Steve Kerr.
Brooklyn Nets – Flip Saunders
The Nets bore the crap out of me. I don’t have many thoughts about Flip Saunders, he’s good not great. Neutral. Blah.
Remember when the Nets built a sweet stadium in the heart of Brooklyn and got the best new color combination for their jerseys and floor? Wasn’t it supposed to be more fun than this?
Golden State Warriors – Jeff Hornacek
I love Jeff Hornacek. I hate that the Suns will miss out on the playoffs again this year (most likely). I love what he’s done with the offense in Phoenix and while I believe that the defense might slip with Hornacek running the show in Golden State, the offense will be just as good. Neutral seems fair to me. Just a reminder, the Warriors are on pace for 68 wins, rank 1st in defensive and offensive efficiency, and might still lose in the first round against OKC. The West, man.
Phoenix Suns – Brett Brown
Only reason for this: Gregg Popovich Coaching Tree. I can’t properly judge Philly at least for the next couple of years, so that’ll have to do. See below.
SLIGHT DOWNGRADES (-1 Point) – 5 Coaches
San Antonio Spurs – Mike Budenholzer
The front-runner for Coach of the Year is considered a downgrade taking over for the 7th place team in the West. Why I’m now comfortable with the idea that Gregg Popovich is the greatest coach of all time above Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach? Pop has been able to sustain success with one franchise without a single sabbatical, reinvent his team on the fly, and has an incredibly impressive coaching tree. Mike Budenholzer is just one piece of Pop’s impact.
Charlotte Hornets – Lionel Hollins
Old school uniforms, old school style of play, old school coach. The Hornet also bore me, I don’t have strong feelings for or against Lionel Hollins, so this is all the effort I will put into this. Slight downgrade might be harsh over Steve Clifford but I was incredibly impressed by the season that the Hornets had last year and never felt the same way about Hollins.
Toronto Raptors – Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd was “kind of known as an asshole” as was Kyle Lowry. As mentioned above, Jason Kidd has turn into a solid NBA coach and only lacks the experience to level up with Dwane Casey. Casey seems to have had a great impact on the Raptors locker room and that is what they will miss the most. That being said, I’d be excited to see what Kidd could do with this team.
Los Angeles Lakers – Derek Fisher
I wanted Pop. I wanted Bud. I wanted Doc. I wanted Kerr. I wanted Thibs. I had to be fair.
The Lakers hired Byron Scott after a hilarious 23-interview (approximate) back and forth in some misguided “return to Lakers glory”. I’ve never understood the notion of what it means to be a “Laker” or “Celtic” or “Insert-Prestigious-Team-Name-Here”. Sustained success comes from organizational stability and excellence. That’s what it means to be a “good Laker”. That’s what Dr. Buss represented. I defend Mitch Kupchak and even the much-maligned Jim Buss for a lot of their roster decisions. What I can never forgive is their coaching hires. From the moment that Phil Jackson left, I don’t think they made a single good hire. I believe that they should have hired Rick Adelman right out of the gate and bringing in Mike Brown was the “Original Sin” of the Jim Buss era. Imagine Adelman running a Sacramento Kings Vlade-Webber offense with peak Pau and peak Bynum (remember him?). Oh well. You get Derek Fisher.
Also, I hate that I have to look at the draft tanking scenarios after every game just to have a chance at that top 5 pick. I understand why Lakers fans on twitter openly root for losses, but I just can’t get myself to root against the Lakers when I’m watching them. On paper, refreshing the box score? Fine, lose. But when I’m watching it still hurts. Your system sucks, NBA.
New York Knicks – Jacque Vaughn
Who’s more upset? Byron Scott for being replaced by Derek Fisher and only be a “slight downgrade”? Or Derek Fisher for being replaced by Vaughn and be a “slight downgrade”?
Look, I love Phil Jackson. He deserves a statue outside Staples, he brought me 5 championships to the Best Organization In the History Of The World and I will always be indebted to him. Can you explain to me why the Hell Phil signed Carmelo Anthony? Can you even explain to me why the Hell Carmelo Anthony signed with the Knicks? It made no sense at the time and now that we’re around the All-Star break, it makes even less sense. I just don’t get it.
Oh well, you get Vaughn for the tank joy-ride. Get rid of him as soon as you can land yourself a star. Sorry Phil.
SOLID DOWNGRADE (-2 Points) – 4 Coaches
Detroit Pistons – Steve Clifford
Steve Clifford looks like the perfect choice for the Motor City. Literally, he LOOKS perfect, right out of Central Casting as a coach for a lunchpail city like Detroit. He’s solid, but SVG is great. -2 points it is!
Indiana Pacers – Brian Shaw
Brian Shaw was a Pacers assistant from 2011-2013, coinciding with the rise of the Pacers in the East. It seemed like he got along with everybody in that locker room, and it seems that the “old school” message that Shaw professes could actually work here.
That being said, Shaw hasn’t proven anything and Vogel has proven plenty.
Oh and how dare you for calling this another “cop-out” choice.
Dallas Mavericks – Terry Stotts
COP-OUT. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Terry Stotts, given enough opportunity in Portland, will have the chance to be revered like a Rick Carlisle, but as of right now he just has no shot. Solid downgrade.
Speaking of the Mavericks, I still believe that the Rondo trade was good for them. They should hopefully get some big man depth to account for Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright being sent away in the Rondo deal in the buy-out market. Beyond that, trading for somebody who handles the ball as much as Rajon requires an adjustment period and with a coach as good as Carlisle I am confident they’ll turn the offense around to be closer to where it was when the season began.
Philadelphia 76ers – Ty Corbin
I get what the 76ers are doing. It’s fine. I just don’t know how the players don’t develop bad habits and get so used to losing that they become numb to it. What kind of a culture are you establishing? I think that Brett Brown has done an admirable job, but what must he be thinking? How long is this process? Will you bundle assets this summer and pull the trigger? Next season? How much will your players actually develop when their front office is sad when they win? Why would Joel Embiid kill himself rehabbing when he knows that Hinkie doesn’t want him to play a meaningful game this year?
Oh yeah, Ty Corbin. He’s not very good.
HUGE DOWNGRADE (-3 Points) – 2 Coaches
Miami Heat – Byron Scott
What’s the over/under on how many games it will take before Miami fans notice Byron Scott is the new head coach? 62.5? Higher?
Good news, Heat fans. Byron Scott has decided that Dwyane Wade isn’t playing enough and going to crank up the minutes. He also believes that Hassan Whiteside is still too young and prefers the veteran leadership of Chris Birdman Andersen. What could go wrong?
I’m honestly still upset that Byron Scott will be my coach for the next 2-3 years at minimum. He’s not as terrible as I thought, but I also know that he’s not the guy that’s going to turn it all the way around. Spoelstra’s the real deal. Major downgrade.
Boston Celtics – Monty Williams
I wanted to give Byron to you, Boston. But it just felt dirty, so I give you Monty Williams. I pray you successfully tank, I pray you gather all the high draft picks and build a young team. I then pray Monty Williams stunts all their potential, those players end up available at bargain prices and become legends around the league.
FINAL MATH (Remember your Order Of Operations!):
1 Huge Upgrade * 3 Points + 8 Solid Upgrades * 2 Points + 5 Modest Upgrades * 1 Point + 5 Neutral * 0 Points + 5 Slight Downgrades * -1 Points + 4 Solid Downgrades * -2 Points + 2 Huge Downgrades * -3 Points = 5 Points net.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. I would sincerely appreciate if you share this on twitter, FB, and email! Thank you.