NBA offseason coaching hires could’ve put you to sleep


Mike Dunlap will go from the sidelines of the collegiate court to the NBA after never holding down a NCAA Division I head coaching job. Photo by: Robert Kowal / Flickr

Only a trio of teams were left searching for coaches this offseason in the NBA, but none of the three went after any of the top candidates or popular choices.

Names like Patrick Ewing, Jerry Sloan, Jeff Van Gundy, Nate McMillan and Brian Shaw were all surpassed as hires for the Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic. Instead those teams chose the likes of Terry Stotts (Portland), Jaque Vaughn (Orlando) and Mike Dunlap (Charlotte). Normally, you wouldn’t think these bottom-of-the-barrel teams would sway away from a legend like Sloan or a big name like Patrick Ewing. However, this offseason was different like nothing NBA fans have really seen before.

It’s happened in the past. Fans have sat through offseasons here and there and watched run-in-the-middle sort of assistant coaches finally get their shot at the big time. This offseason just seemed like the most qualified candidates didn’t really get a fair shot, though.

For example, the Bobcats were the worst team in the NBA last season and more than likely would’ve set a league record as the worst team in history. And instead of making a hard push for Sloan or even Ewing, Charlotte’s front office more or less disrespected both Hall of Famers. The Bobcats didn’t feel Ewing was ready I guess, despite his five years of service with the Orlando Magic where he helped guide the team to the NBA Finals in 2009. And in turn, Ewing was dismissed from the coaching search very early on in the process. 

Sloan made it a little farther down the Bobcats’ coaching-search list. However, management took too long and the 70-year-old eventually withdrew his name from candidacy. I suppose his 1,000-plus career wins weren’t good enough for a team that lost an embarrassing 59 games. I couldn’t say that Sloan would get this team to start winning, but he would seem like the most logical choice. Hell, I was majorly surprised that he even considered a team that was so far in the gutter and looks like it won’t be coming out any time soon. Maybe the move had something to do with Michael Jordan. After all, he was Sloan’s nemesis in the 90s when the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz met in back-to-back NBA Finals.

So the Bobcats eventually chose Mike Dunlap, an assistant from St. Johns University. Are you kidding me? The Bobcats passed on several upper-end NBA assistant coaches and a Hall of Fame coach in Sloan for a no namer from the collegiate game, who has never been a head coach of a NCAA Division I team or even spent time in the pros. I don’t know much about Dunlap, but I can guarantee this hire will be yet another epic fail for Michael Jordan as a front office man. Maybe MJ like Dunlap’s style during his only head coaching gigs with Metro State, Cal Lutheran or Australia’s Adelaide 36ers.

While the Bobcats seem to have made the biggest blunder in the NBA coaching carousel, the Trail Blazers’ choice of Stotts was just as unexciting. Stotts comes to Portland after serving as the Dallas Mavericks lead assistant coach to their NBA Finals winning team in 2011. It’s a pretty good chip on a coach’s resume, but Dallas wasn’t even a contender this year. As a head coach, Stotts is 115-168, which shouldn’t have Blazers fans jumping for joy about this move. His head coaching jobs came with the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, so he didn’t have much to work with, but that’s all the more reason that Portland shouldn’t have hired this guy. He simply can’t turn a team around.

The Orlando Magic’s hiring of Jaque Vaughn at least made some basketball sense in comparison to the other two snoozers who were hired. Like Stotts, Vaughn is a former basketball player. Yet there are some major differences between the two when it comes to their time on the hardwood — notice how I said former basketball player instead of NBA player.  While Stotts spent his time in the CBA, Vaughn spent 12 seasons as a point guard and was actually a major player in the Utah Jazz’s success in the 90s. I also won’t be wasting my time to research Dunlap’s playing career. As a coach, Vaughn was on the sidelines with one of the best, San Antonio Spurs head man Greg Popovich. I’m not sure why Vaughn’s name surfaced as a head coach candidate before fellow Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer, who has been Popovich’s right hand man for about two decades, but it probably has something to do with his time as a player in the league.

It’s those former players that make fans excited when their team goes after a new coach. Vaughn isn’t a household name, yet there is a chance you may have heard of him unlike a Stotts or a Dunlap. So I guess we will all have to wait another year for Sloan to return or for Ewing to get a shot. It’s just too bad that those two proven winners couldn’t even get the slightest amount of respect from the likes of the Charlotte Bobcats or Portland Trail Blazers. They truly deserve better than that.


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