No one's quite saying Larry Brown was fired, but the Bobcats' press release does make it pretty clear that Michael Jordan was unhappy with the team's direction, so he moved to have Brown resign. Our thoughts, naturally, turn to who might coach the team next.
I'm of the opinion that there are probably 15 to 20 top-end, excellent coaches out there at any given time. They include the clear-cut best coaches in the league, the guys who aren't going anywhere: Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, and Gregg Popovich. And you can list the guys next down the list: Stan Van Gundy, Mike D`Antoni, George Karl, Scott Skiles, Avery Johnson, Doc Rivers, and maybe Rick Carlisle and Byron Scott might all be in that next tier.
However you slice it, once you get down past the top ten or so head coaches currently with jobs, you start running into the unproven, the proven mediocre, and the likely terrible. You can never say for sure how bad a coach is because so much of what coaches at this level do is dependent on the talent they're given, but there are some guys who appear not to "get it". The only current coaches on the fringes of incompetence are Jay Triano (who's been dealt a tough hand in Toronto) and John Kuester, who, interestingly enough, might be done in by the same forces that sent both Flip Saunders and Michael Curry packing: a set of entitled veterans who refuse to be coached by someone who won't cater to them the way (drumroll) Larry Brown did.
After eliminating those guys with head coaching jobs, how many out-of-work head coaches aren't just retreads? How many of them didn't get a fair shake before, and still have a lot to prove? Besides that group, how many dynamic assistant coaches that are good head coach material are there? I'd estimate there might be several hundred people with actual qualifications to coach an NBA team, but probably fewer than five of them are available to be hired right now, and worse yet, we don't know who they are.
What I can do is talk about the kind of coach I want to see the Bobcats hire. What kind of coach would represent Good Process?
1 -- Bring in a coach who can stay here for the next twenty years.
Talking about Paul Silas as anything other than a caretaker for the rest of this season bothers me. He had his chance, and he did well with the Charlotte Hornets, given the circumstances. Additionally, he has a reputation for working well with young players not named LeBron James, but, ideally we'd get a coach who will install a successful system that can be replicated year after year. Thing is, Silas is 67 years old. He's not staying more than two or three years, I'd be willing to bet.
Admittedly, this is reach-for-the-stars stuff. A franchise coach who embodies everything the team stands for and becomes as venerated an institution as the team itself comes around once a decade (stat pulled out of thin air), and for where the Cats are now, an older disciplinarian who relies on his gravitas isn't necessarily the course we should follow. We're not going to be a veteran team that needs a super-credible coach to get everyone to buy in, and otherwise let guys take care of their own business; we're going to be a young team that needs some enthusiasm, dynamism, and tireless work ethic to give an especially large group of inexperienced players the attention they need to be the best they can be.
2 -- Bring in a coach who will employ all types of players.
Successful coaches seem to have "their guys", players who, for whatever reason, seem to fit the coach's style better than than they fit any other coach's style. While probably true, it's more true that successful coaches use their most talented players to the best of their abilities, whoever those players are. Jackson, Sloan, Popovich. While their teams have had the good sense to hang on for dear life to franchise cornerstones (Kobe, Big Fundamental), they've also all had a revolving door of complementary players over the years and figured out how to use disparate talents and disparate personalities. While they have signature offensive sets, too (Flex, Triangle), they're not wedded to "styles" as much as they are committed to deploying the talent on hand in the best way possible.
3 -- Bring in a coach with pro experience.
This should be an almost ironclad rule by now, but there's a big reason why pro-groomed coaches do better than college-groomed coaches. College coaches rule by the consent of the university. If they want to ruin a player's career, they can. Pro coaches rule by the consent of the players. Players have guaranteed contracts, and so if a coach doesn't treat them like grown men and cooperate with them, even if he's in an authority position, he will be on his way out, soon enough. Pro coaches internalize that, and college coaches tend not to be able to handle that transition.
What do you want to see in the next Bobcats coach?