- Sportsbooks are beginning to post betting markets on possible candidates for NBA coaching vacancies.
- Boston, Orlando, Indiana and Portland all have open head coaching jobs.
- The biggest issue for most teams is finding a viable head coach with so few in the market with previous NBA coaching experience.
This could be an extremely busy year for NBA head coaching changes, at least if what we’ve seen so far is any indication. There are already four teams with coaching vacancies and there’s reason to expect some additional moves following the NBA playoffs. BetOnline.ag has posted futures betting odds for the next head coach of the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Portland Trailblazers. In our previous posts we looked at the situation in Boston and the top candidates to replace former head coach–and new President of Basketball Operations–Brad Stevens and the future of the Orlando Magic’s head coaching search. In this article, we’ll head west and check out the Portland Trail Blazers as they look for a replacement for former head coach Terry Stotts.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Being a head coach in any professional sport is a brutal job and that dynamic is clearly evident in Portland. The NBA Portland Trail Blazers fired head coach Terry Stotts after a first round playoff exit. The move was ‘officially’ termed as a ‘mutual decision to part ways’ but that was just a generous face saving gesture from the team. The writing was on the wall–or, more appropriately in the media that Stotts’ days were numbered if the Blazers didn’t make a deep run into the Western Conference playoffs. On May 5, reports began to swirl that this was the case and that should Stotts be sent packing that the Blazers would seek a ‘big name, high dollar coach’ to replace him.
The late ‘Dr. Jack’ Jack Ramsey was the head coach of the Portland Trailblazers from 1976 to 1986 and led the team to the franchise’s only NBA Championship in 1977. He’s considered among the best NBA coaches in history and became a highly respected analyst following his head coaching career. He’s a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and his nickname was no joke–he was a legit PhD. Ramsay was respected everywhere but revered as a god in Portland where one of the streets in front of the Moda Center Arena is named in his honor.
Ramsay is an icon who deserves the reverence of the Rose City faithful. That being said, when Terry Stotts left the employ of the Portland Trailblazers he had a better regular season winning percentage than the legendary ‘Dr. Jack’. Stott had a .556 winning percentage with the Blazers, Ramsey .552. The playoffs are a different matter–though Ramsey wasn’t a great postseason coach despite the championship win–and Stotts has been horrible in the playoffs. Then again, the Blazers have only one head coach in history with a winning record in the playoffs–Rick Adelman (who also has the highest regular season winning percentage at .654) finished up with a .552 postseason winning percentage in Portland. Adelman never got the love he deserved in Portland where he was perceived as a merely adequate coach with a brutally talented team led by Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter. He would go on to reprise his success in Sacramento and Houston while Portland would go through six head coaches before hiring Stotts.
The Portland job is sneaky demanding and management has drawn the proverbial ‘line in the sand’–they’re looking for some serious playoff success. They also want upgraded defense, something that was never a Stotts strong suit. They also want to make superstar guard Damian Lillard happy–he name dropped Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups as potential new coaches in Portland.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS NEXT HEAD COACH
Chauncey Billups +200 Sam Cassell +450 Dave Joerger +600 Mike D'Antoni +600 Juwan Howard +700 Kenny Atkinson +750 David Vanterpool +900 Becky Hammon +1200 Jeff Van Gundy +1200 Johnnie Bryant +1400
Immediately after Stotts’ firing Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard made clear that he wanted Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups to be the next head coach. Since he’s reportedly got a lot of influence in the hiring decision that is significant. Kidd quickly withdrew his name from consideration for the job. Chauncey Billups is highly regarded around the league and has a good, pre-existing relationship with Portland GM Neil Olshey. Billups has the ‘inside track’ for the job but there are some reservations over his lack of NBA head coaching experience and minimal assistant coaching experience (one year). Billups apparently wants the Blazers’ job and longtime NBA head coach Mike D’Antoni has also been lobbying for the gig. D’Antoni is a good defensive coach and has a huge edge in NBA head coaching experience with time in Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles and Houston and was twice named NBA Coach of the Year.
Working for Billups is the support of franchise superstar Lillard. Working against it is the potential backlash it could have in Portland:
However, since Billups’ name has been brought up as a candidate for this round of coaching openings, a 1997 civil lawsuit saying that Billups and then-Celtics teammate Ron Mercer raped a woman at the home of teammate Antoine Walker began recirculating on social media. The suit was settled out of court in 2000.
Given the immediate, widespread backlash to Kidd’s candidacy in light of his 2001 conviction for spousal abuse, expect a similar response in Portland if Billups is ultimately the choice. From a basketball and relationships standpoint, he checks all the boxes, but the hire may be a tough sell to fans given the past allegations.
There’s definitely some precedent for this–the Portland fans have typically been passionate in their support for the Blazers but the community turned its back on team during the ‘JailBlazers’ era of the early to mid 2000s. It took a committed effort from Blazers management to re-emphasize character to get the Portland community to buy in again. Finding a coach that a) will get the imprimatur of Lillard and b) be embraced by the Portland community won’t be easy. Both are essential and should GM Olshey try to make Lillard happy in a way that upsets the fanbase and Portland community it could be the start of another ugly era in Blazers’ basketball. Having spent considerable time in the Portland area I’m thinking that Billups’ baggage will make his hiring a non-starter. D’Antoni could end up getting the job as something of a ‘compromise candidate’.