The Portland Trail Blazers once again suffered a frustrating early-round playoff exit in the Damian Lillard era, just like they have five of the last eight seasons. This time, someone had to pay, and it was coach Terry Stotts.
Stotts owns a 402-318 record with the Blazers and never guided the team past the Western Conference Finals. It makes sense that, with Lillard cresting 30, it was time to make a change.
The change seemed to be Jason Kidd but, even after Lillard endorsed him, the former Brooklyn (New Jersey) Nets and Milwaukee Bucks head coach preemptively turned down the job. So who will the next coach be?
Here are the four most likely candidates in order from worst idea to best.
Mike D’Antoni – Brooklyn Nets assistant
An all offense, no-defense team with some superstars who can score and run the floor? Sounds familiar. D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” Blazers would be super fun to watch, but we all know how this story ends.
The team puts up tons of points and thrills NBA fans, but they never quite get the job done in the playoffs. This is what got Stotts fired as well, so hiring D’Antoni would simply be more of the same and a big mistake.
Jeff Van Gundy – ABC announcer
Van Gundy has been out of the league for 14 seasons, but he’s been watching and closely observing from the broadcast table for a long time now. Could he take a little from every coach and player he’s interviewed in the last decade and tweak his coaching style for the modern NBA?
If John Gruden in the NFL or his brother, Stan Van Gundy, taught us anything, it is that the answer is probably, no. Listening to JVG kvetch his way through national broadcasts like an older man telling kids to get off his lawn probably bodes poorly for his head coaching future.
Juwan Howard – University of Michigan head coach
The former Fab Five member has done a great job in two years at his alma mater. He navigated the team through two tumultuous years, and this year, he got a number one seed and made the Elite Eight without his best player.
An outside-the-box move like hiring Howard, who also played 22 years in the NBA, would be great for the Blazers. They need a motivator like Howard to shake them out of their malaise. He’s still very inexperienced, though, so it will be a hard call to make.
Chauncey Billups – LA Clippers assistant
Like Howard, Billups was a brilliant player who played for two decades in the pros. Now an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers, Billups’ name will be on everyone’s shortlist. He was a championship-level leader as a player and is proving his chops as a coach, helping LA come back from two down to beat the Dallas Mavericks.
Billups was a floor general and a great two-way player. Maybe he can instill some of that toughness and defensive proves into Lillard and CJ McCollum and make them better on both sides of the court; if he can do this, maybe the Blazers can finally get over the hump.