Does it matter who coaches Sixers?

Posted: May 09, 2013

There are two seasons under way in the NBA. There is the playoff season and the coaching search season. The majority of teams in the league were involved in either one or the other this year, which is nothing new in an impatient win-or-change league.

Brooklyn hit the exacta by taking part in the postseason and then jumping immediately into a coach search by firing interim P.J. Carlesimo, who got them into the playoffs after Avery Johnson was let go. Carlesimo was asked what might have saved his job and he thought about it and said, "Maybe winning a championship."

Or maybe not. Atlanta is also expected to perform the playoff and coach- search double. Coach Larry Drew had the Hawks over .500 and in the postseason each of his three years, but the last two ended with first-round elimination, so he's probably out. I mean, it couldn't be because of the players he has, right?

At the moment, only four head coaches in the league have been at the same job longer than five full seasons, and, once all the current openings are filled, there will be close to 20 coaches hired since 2011. That's some serious turnover, and the 76ers once again find themselves among those in the spin cycle this offseason.

If the candidates who have emerged as possible replacements for Doug Collins seem a little underwhelming, that's probably because the available coaches view the Sixers' job the same way. Among the current openings, only Charlotte's represents a clearly worse situation than taking over the jumbled mess of a reclamation process in Philadelphia.

The reality is that it's a lot easier to win in the NBA with a good roster and an average coach than the other way around. So, does it really matter which of the available names is the one they select? It isn't as if hiring Jeff Hornacek, one of the rumored candidates, will burn up the phone lines in the ticket sales office.

The Detroit Pistons have taken the unusual step of contracting with Phil Jackson to assist general manager Joe Dumars with their coaching search. It is particularly unusual because Jackson is himself a candidate for the Nets job, at least according to the Nets. Jackson hasn't said much about it, waiting to consult his mah-jongg tiles or gray wolf droppings or whatever he's into these days.

The Nets, because they must operate in a market that requires at least artificial excitement - and contains another NBA team - have the flashiest of rumors at the moment. Along with Jackson, the Nets have been mentioned as considering a run at former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan and former everyone (including Nets) coach Larry Brown, although that probably means Larry is the only one mentioning it.

On the long list of candidates being considered by various organizations are Nate McMillan, Houston assistant Kelvin Sampson, Knicks assistant Darrell Walker, Indiana assistant Brian Shaw, Boston assistant Ryan McDonough, Milwaukee assistant San Antonio assistant Mike Budenholzer, Golden State assistant Mike Malone, Utah assistant Hornacek, interim Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter, and, if he loses the Atlanta gig, Drew. Jeff Van Gundy and Stan Van Gundy are out there, too, as are Carlesimo and a few more guys, none of whom would either surprise or excite you as possibilities.

The Sixers seem likely to hire someone's assistant coach, which isn't necessarily a bad move. It would be a realistic and cost-effective way to approach the rebuilding that must take place, and the last nine months have put ownership on a first-name basis with reality.

If hedge fund billionaire Josh Harris is completely clear-eyed about the situation, he will also recognize the need to revamp his front office, which is losing Rod Thorn to retirement and, regardless of his consultant's title, is losing the everyday input of Collins, too.

To reach that conclusion, Harris will have to fight the impulse to think that either he or any member of his ownership group knows anything at all about the NBA, and he will have to be willing to spend a lot of his money to hire a player personnel executive who will slowly salvage the team. Unfortunately, given where they are, the emphasis will be on slowly.

In all likelihood, the process will be so slow that the coach hired to begin the journey will not be around to see its completion. So, is there a real difference if the Sixers get Brian Shaw or Kelvin Sampson or Jeff Hornacek this time around? Probably not.

The coaching wheel has to keep turning, after all, and every head coach knows that if he isn't involved in the real NBA postseason, pretty soon he'll be involved in the other one.


Contact Bob Ford at bford@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @bobfordsports.

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