The first domino has fallen. The Los Angeles Clippers have officially kicked off what is going to be an offseason characterized by significant changes. As it turns out, the first major step came in the form of L.A. parting ways with Doc Rivers, who himself spent the last seven seasons as the team’s head coach.
This was a surprising development to some extent, but now that the front office has pulled the trigger, it puts things into perspective. The Clippers are still intent on making another run at the title next season with Kawhi Leonard at the helm, as well as Paul George serving as the team’s second superstar. The big question is, who do they choose to lead this team now? Fortunately for the Clippers, they are not short of candidates in their new job opening.
Tyronn Lue appears to be the frontrunner to land the recently opened post right now. For starters, he’s already with the Clippers, having served as an assistant coach to Doc Rivers this past season. This puts him in the driver seat for the head coaching job. All L.A.’s front office would have to do would be to promote him.
Even more importantly, Lue already has a good working relationship with the players on the team. He spent all season long with them, which should allow a potential transition to be more fluid. Lue also seems to get along with team superstars Leonard and George well, and this is a crucial factor for his chances to land the job.
Finally, Lue also led the Cleveland Cavaliers to three consecutive NBA Finals in his first three years as a head coach. He won the championship as a rookie coach too, so you know the credentials are there.
Sam Cassell is probably a notch below Lue in the pecking order. Perhaps his most considerable advantage over Lue is tenure, having been an assistant with the Clippers for six years now. Before that, Cassell was an assistant to Flip Saunders for the Washington Wizards for five years.
While he has zero experience as an NBA head coach, there’s no denying that Cassell has paid his dues, and it due time that he finally gets the nod for a head coaching post. This has been a long time coming, and Cassell was actually one of the rumored front runners for the Brooklyn Nets job before the team shocked the world with their appointment of Steve Nash.
If L.A. doesn’t hand over the reigns to Cassell, then it would not be surprising if he pursues his head coaching dream with another team in the near future.
Jeff Van Gundy
Whenever there’s an opening for a head coaching post, the name of Jeff Van Gundy always seems to be thrown into the mix — and for good reason. The 58-year-old has already found considerable success in the league, serving as a head coach for well over a decade in stints between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets. During that time, he amassed 430 wins against 318 losses, putting up a respectable .575 winning record.
Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the league since 2007, but he has kept himself relevant in the NBA, serving as a color commentator for ESPN. A return to the world of coaching is certainly not beyond him at this point, and the opening in L.A. seems to be a great fit for him.
After parting ways with the Houston Rockets not too long ago, Mike D’Antoni is probably the hottest name in the coaching world right now. He’s already been linked to other teams in the league, with the Philadelphie 76ers emerging as one of the frontrunners to sign the 69-year-old. Needless to say, the Clippers will have a lot of competition should they attempt to make a run for the veteran coach.
However, what L.A. presents to D’Antoni is a championship-caliber team. Other teams like the Sixers also have a capable roster, but simply put, they don’t have Kawhi Leonard. Whether or not D’Antoni’s trademark run-and-gun style of play will fit well with Leonard, George, and the rest of the team remains to be seen. There’s only one way to find out.
Much like D’Antoni, former Sixers head coach Brett Brown shouldn’t remain without a job for very long. L.A. might be his next destination, with the Clippers likely also doing their due diligence on the man who oversaw “The Process” in Philly. While he was not able to see it through, he has to be given a ton of credit in the development of both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — among others.
Brown certainly holds the credentials to take over the high-pressure job in L.A., and if the pieces fall into place, he could be the Clippers’ new head honcho.