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The Phoenix Suns’ head coaching post has been empty for more than a week following Monty Williams’ departure. The organization is in the process of doing their due diligence. It is the first time that they have had a vacancy since 2018, when the team moved on from Igor Kokoškov. They are now interviewing head coaches and NBA assistants alike, trying to find that perfect fit for what they are attempting to build and achieve.
In the most recent, SBN Reacts survey, fans were asked who they would like to see fill that vacancy. Nearly 70% responded with a coach who has recently won an NBA championship.
If Tyronn Lue is the most desirable individual to fill the position, he hasn’t won a championship since 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. Doc Rivers? He hasn’t won it all since 2008 and hasn’t been to the NBA Finals since 2010.
The following is what you get when you look at the head coaching alternatives available, taking into account the ones Phoenix supporters desire most — those who have just won an NBA championship:
- Career Record: 261-186 (.584)
- Playoff Record: 52-33 (.612)
- 2016 NBA Champion
- Currently employed by the Los Angeles Clippers
From CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn:
The Clippers could command compensation from any team trying to hire Lue this offseason due to his current contract. The Suns don’t have a first-round pick to offer thanks to the Durant trade. The Clippers don’t have to let Lue go at all. But the more his name comes up in these conversations, the less committed he appears to be to the Clippers. Eventually, he’s either going to publicly squash the rumors or he’s going to land in one of these jobs. Until then? He’s a leading candidate.
- Career Record: 227-163 (.582)
- Playoff Record: 25-16 (.610)
- 2020 Coach of the Year
- 2019 NBA Champion
In hindsight it may be that the Tampa year was a leading indicator of some gaps in Nurse’s coaching toolkit. The ability to bring a team together and push through a difficult situation without fracturing is an important leadership test, one that Nurse failed. But because of the situation was dismissed it as unimportant.
The Raptors missing the playoffs two out of the last three seasons, and this season in particular being marred by poor defense (Nurse’s staple) and uncharacteristic low-energy play, plus bouts of selfishness, not to mention the lack of development from the team’s young players… there’s no argument something wasn’t right with the team. And when something isn’t right the coach is usually the first one to go. But I’m not sure if it’s the right decision, and I guess I won’t know until we see how the team does next season — and/or how Nick Nurse does in a new situation.
- Career Record: 484-317 (.604)
- Playoff Record: 56-18 (.538)
- 2015 Coach of the Year
- 2019 Coach of the Year
- 2021 NBA Champion
Mike Budenholzer turned around the trajectory of the team and established a winning culture that valued not just basketball prowess, but human decency as well. Fans foisted undue blame upon him every chance they got; while Coach Bud is not blameless for Milwaukee’s most recent playoff disappointment, the idea that everything would be better if only the coach was someone else seems misguided. In any case, the #FireBud avatar bearers have gotten their wish, and Milwaukee will begin searching for a new head coach to take the lead in 2023-24.
To be fair, it wasn’t all good under Bud. The Bucks were regular season world-beaters, but came crashing down to earth consistently enough in the postseason for Milwaukee’s playoff reputation to precede itself. In 2019, against the Toronto Raptors, the Bucks let a 2-0 series lead slip away in the Eastern Conference Finals because the Raptors adjusted…and Milwaukee didn’t. In 2020, in the COVID Bubble against the Miami Heat, Milwaukee got exposed in similar ways and was bounced in the second round, despite a Giannis Antetokounmpo ankle injury. Then 2021 happened, for which we are forever grateful.
A team with one of the best players in NBA history, in his prime, has high expectations. The Bucks fell short of those expectations too many times over Coach Bud’s tenure; when expectations continue to not be met, the solution is to either lower expectations or change the circumstances. The Bucks are not content to punt on the next few years of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status as a league-best talent, and so the team and head coach are now parting ways.
- Career Record: 1860-1097 (.590)
- Playoff Record: 111–104 (.516)
- 2000 Coach of the Year
- 2008 NBA Champion
In three seasons, Doc Rivers won 68 percent of his regular season games with a record of 153-82 record. However, his postseason shortcomings did him in, as the Sixers failed to progress past the second round. Rivers now has a career coaching record of 17-33 in playoff close-out games.
During the regular season, Rivers was an excellent coach and his record reflects as such. The Sixers have had bigger aspirations beyond that, and his consistent lack of production into the summer likely played the biggest part in his dismissal.
- Career Record: 431-389 (.526)
- Playoff Record: 49-39 (.557)
- 2020 NBA Champion
Even outside of the team’s disappointing season, the writing has been on the wall that the organization was not fully committed to Vogel for a while now. After whispers that they would either not give Vogel an extension on the final year of his deal, or not extend him for longer than one year, the team announced his extension in a Friday night news dump, the first sign that it was something they were trying to sweep under the rug rather than a decision to celebrate.
Not long after, the (expected) ensuing report that the extension was indeed only for one year made Vogel (in effect) a lame-duck coach. That they had previously hired an assistant coach that LeBron James loves in David Fizdale — whose prior small-ball offensive philosophies fit better with this roster than Vogel’s love for tall-ball — did little to quell speculation. By midseason, there had been multiple leaks that Vogel was on the verge of being canned at various points, and that he would have been dumped already if Jason Kidd was still on his bench. The team couldn’t even wait until the season was over to leak that their decision was already made, so it’s no surprise that the news came so quickly after it had officially ended.
I am in the Tyronn Lue camp, if that is even a possibility. The challenge is much akin to how the organization will have to strategically piece together a roster: Phoenix lacks the assets to make it happen if the opportunity presents itself. Lue is under contract and the Clippers, unless they mutually agreed to part ways, would demand compensation for him. And my guess is, seeing that they depleted their draft stock in an effort to obtain Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, they would want draft capital the Phoenix Suns don’t possess.
I also wouldn’t mind Kevin Young, current Phoenix Suns assistant coach. He is more of an X’s and O’s type of player as noted by Devin Booker. “He can do stuff on the court and he’s a mastermind with the X’s and O’s and game scouting and knowing teams. Having the balance of both has been a big boost for my career,” Booker said of Young.
He coached with trust. Blind trust. Wouldn’t it be nice to have somebody who could do something outside of that? Would it be nice to have somebody who possesses somewhat of an analytical mind to navigate a series?
Time will tell, my friends. Time will tell.
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