The NBA coaching circus hit a climax this offseason with 13 teams finding new head coaches. Even weirder is the sheer number of those 13 new head coaches that are entering their first full-time head coaching gig. Nine NBA teams will have rookie head coaches, all with varying levels of expectations.
Here's a look at the unique situations of all nine of those men:
Joerger has spent the last two years as the lead assistant under Lionel Hollins, and in 2013-14, he will get his chance to be the main man on the bench. Memphis won 56 games last regular season, reached the Western Conference finals and returns all five starters. As a result, Joerger is probably facing the most pressure of any of the rookie coaches.
The Grizzlies improved their bench this smmer with the addition of solid reserve big man Kosta Koufos and veteran shooter Mike Miller. Joerger is going to have to win 50-plus games while getting the most out of Ed Davis, whose minutes should increase with the offseason trade of Darrell Arthur. Once the playoffs start, Joerger will need to be at his best to get Memphis through an increasingly-crowded field of contenders out West.
The Nets, like the Grizzlies, are expecting to make a deep run in the playoffs, regardless of the experience level of their new head coach. However, while Joerger was gaining valuable experience as an assistant, Kidd spent the last two seasons hobbling around shooting three-pointers as a role-playing guard in Dallas and New York.
His first season in Brooklyn will be a transition period. Lucky for him, his veteran-filled team should make it smoother. There will be pressure on lead assistant Lawrence Frank to orchestrate the team's defensive schemes while helping Kidd, who he coached in New Jersey, in his first season as a full-time coach. Every starter on the Nets is set to make more than $10 million this season, so anything less than a trip to the Eastern Conference finals will be a failure.
Brown is a small branch in the long tree that is the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff. He has served as a Popovich assistant since 2007, specializing in player development. In that respect, he's a good fit with the 76ers, a rebuilding franchise worried more about improving their talent base than wins and losses.
Philadelphia doesn't care about wins this year -- the less the better -- but that doesn't give Brown a season-long hall pass. The organization will look closely to see whether Brown consistently puts his players in the best position to win. He will have to make the right in-game substitutions, manage timeouts and draw up plays that get guys open shots. He isn't working with players capable of winning a lot of games, but the hope is that he gets the most out of them.
Jeff Hornacek, Phoenix Suns
Hornacek returns to Phoenix, the team that drafted him in 1986, to take over in his first head coaching gig. He worked as a full-time assistant with the Jazz from 2011 to 2013. In May, he replaced Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. He is in a similar position as Brown, where wins aren't as important as player development.
The Suns need some sort of identity to move forward, and creating that identity will be a challenge for Hornacek. Will the Suns return to the days of running up and down the court, or will they slow the game down, opting for a more controlled pace? Will they play inside-out, or will they run pick-and-rolls out the wazoo? In a best-case scenario, the Suns gain some sort of identity, Eric Bledsoe emerges as the team's point guard of the future and the team lands a Top 3 draft pick.
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Stevens comes from Butler University, where he led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011. He was universally known as one of the best young coaches in the college game, but it was still a huge surprise when he landed the Celtics' gig. College coaches have a history of failing in the NBA, but Stevens, 37, is still young and should be able adapt himself to the professional game.
He is in a similar situation as Brown and Hornacek, but the Celtics roster has better players and should win more games than the Sixers or Suns. No one questions Stevens' ability to coach games, but after learning the game in the Horizon League, his toughest challenge will be managing NBA egos. Stevens needs to establish himself as the unsung leader of the team.
Clifford served as an assistant coach under both Van Gundys, developing a reputation as a defensive mind. He spent the 2012-13 season with the Los Angeles Lakers and got the chance to coach his own team in July when the Bobcats pegged him as their head coach.
Like the other coaches on bad teams, player development is key. It'd be nice to see Kemba Walker make The Leap in his third season, and he should start to mesh with Al Jefferson offensively. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist improving his jumper and working himself more within the flow of the offense is just as important. The Bobcats aren't playoff contenders, but after signing Jefferson to a $41 million contract, they are expecting to win more than 21 games this year.
Malone comes from Golden State, where he worked as an assistant under Mark Jackson, and walks into one of the stickiest coaching situations in Sacramento. Malone needs to bring stability to a franchise that has lacked it for the last half decade. The Kings had an awkwardly-orchestrated roster for years, but are now starting to get some direction under new leadership.
Many questions must be answered. How will he handle the crowded Kings' backcourt with Isaiah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette and newly-acquired Greivis Vasquez? How will he manage DeMarcus Cousins and his new $62 million contract? The good thing for Malone is that his team isn't short of raw talent. The Kings have real potential here, and though fighting for a playoff spot in a jam-packed Western Conference seems unrealistic, it shouldn't be out of sight. Getting all of these mangled jigsaw pieces to fit will be a challenge, but it's better than coaching a team without talent.
Shaw takes over for a team that finished third in the Western Conference last year, but looks completely different. Andre Iguodala is gone. Corey Brewer is gone. Kosta Koufos is gone. Nate Robinson is here. Darrell Arthur is here. J.J. Hickson is here. Andre Miller is still somehow here. Things are weird in Denver; JaVale McGee might be a legitimate go-to offensive threat. The team might not defend the interior.
But, even in a hectic offseason with roster turnover, the Nuggets still have a shot to make the playoffs in the always-changing bottom half of the Western Conference.
This is Shaw's chance, and he's earned it. He was a main contender to take over for Phil Jackson in 2011 before the Lakers hired Mike Brown. He served as associate head coach for the last two seasons with the Pacers. He has been of the most well-respected assistants in the league and now finally gets his shot in Denver. To prove himself, Shaw needs to take the Nuggets back to the playoffs.
Another branch on the Gregg Popovich Coaching Tree, Budenholzer takes over a Hawks team that looks very different with the departure of Josh Smith. He has worked under Popovich for the last 17 years and has earned his chance to coach his own team. He plans to bring that offense and run it through the always underrated Al Horford.
That sounds good -- especially with the addition of Paul Millsap -- but there will still be challenges. Replacing Smith won't be a small task, but it's doable, especially with the pieces in place here. Jeff Teague is a solid point guard, Lou Williams can score off the bench and the team is loaded with shooters who should fit nicely in the Spurs' offensive system. The Hawks should consider making the playoffs and nothing less a success.
The front office should note how he manages in-game situations, as he really hasn't done that before. Watching Popovich work for nearly two decades should work to his advantage, though.