The Golden State Warriors need a new head coach. That much is obvious after the team decided to part ways with Mark Jackson this week, ending his three-year tenure with the team in the wake of its ouster in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite winning 51 games during the regular season, Jackson couldn't get Golden State into title contention as ownership expected. After rumors swirled of dysfunction surrounding the team, the Warriors decided to go in a different direction. The question, of course, is what direction that will be.
Over the past few days, we've heard numerous names connected to Golden State, ranging from TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr to former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. There are other possibilities beyond those two big names, though, so let's take a look at how the candidates might fit in the Bay Area.
Kerr has never actually been a coach before. At 48 years old, he's spent the past few years doing commentary for TNT and the NBA 2K video game franchise. Prior to that, he was the president and GM of the Phoenix Suns from 2007-10.
As a sharpshooting guard, Kerr won five NBA titles during the 1990s and early 2000s with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, earning a reputation as a clutch player and veteran leader. While it's unclear how he might actually handle the X's and O's of running the Warriors given his lack of track record, he's highly respected in basketball circles. Inexperience likely isn't an issue considering this team hired Jackson, who had never coached before.
However, the Knicks are also chasing Kerr. Would Kerr prefer to go to a better team, or is he more comfortable working under longtime mentor Phil Jackson?
Stan Van Gundy
The candidate with the most impressive track record, Van Gundy should be a hot name until he finally pops up with a new team. Since leaving the Magic in 2012, he's taken time off from the game, but according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, the team has already spoken with him in addition to Kerr.
During his five years in Orlando, Van Gundy led the Magic to the postseason each year, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009. In seven-plus years with the Magic and Heat, he's posted an overall record of 371-208. That winning percentage ranks ninth all-time among coaches with 200-plus games on the docket.
After running an offense that spread shooters around Dwight Howard in Orlando, Van Gundy could likely work some serious magic with the talent in Golden State. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could seriously go wild.
It's probably a pipe dream, but the Warriors will also reportedly try to reach out to speak to the Chicago Bulls' head coach. Thibodeau probably isn't a realistic option, though, because the Bulls would need to give Golden State permission to interview him since he is under contract in Chicago. Thibodeau signed a four-year extension with Chicago in 2012 that runs through the 2016-17 season. Unless the Bulls don't want him, he's theirs to keep.
Photo credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The former NBA coaches
Four former NBA coaches with impressive experience also stand as possibilities for Golden State. According to Simmons, the team is "believed to be considering the merits of former NBA head coaches Lionel Hollins, Mike D'Antoni, George Karl and Jerry Sloan."
Each of those candidates brings pretty different characteristics to the table, but also presents an intriguing option for Golden State. They've all got track records as successful NBA head coaches (to varying degrees) and could potentially be lured by the quality of the Warriors' roster. After all, none of these guys has ever won an NBA title, although Sloan and Karl have reached the Finals.
The college coaches
A college coach might seem an unlikely option for the Warriors, but this is the same team that gambled on Jackson three years ago. The results of that experiment might lead to a more traditional choice this time around, but Simmons says UConn's Kevin Ollie and Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg could be possibilities.
A pair of former journeyman NBA point guards, Ollie and Hoiberg have led their programs to major success in fairly short order. Ollie's run with the Huskies to the 2014 NCAA Championship has made him a huge name in basketball coaching circles, and a jump to the NBA soon seems possible if he's ready for another challenge.
It's unclear how much interest Golden State has in taking the risk on a college coach, but Ollie and Hoiberg are interesting cases that deserve consideration.
The assistants (two of whom are also former NBA head coaches)
Rounding out a rather long list, Simmons also says three current NBA assistants -- Miami's David Fizdale, Indiana's Nate McMillan and the Clippers' Alvin Gentry -- might interest Golden State. The latter two have NBA head coaching experience, too, which could give them a minor leg up.
Gentry seems like an intriguing possibility given the fast tempo he used when coaching the Phoenix Suns a few years back, while a return to head coaching always felt possible for McMillan after some success with Seattle and Portland. Fitzdale is a longtime NBA assistant who started his NBA coaching career with the Warriors back in 2003.
Considering none of the other available coaching gigs has the appeal of Golden State, the Warriors should be able to pick their new coach without much problem. Owner Joe Lacob told Simmons that could take "anywhere from one day to two months," but that's more a matter of making the right choice than being limited in options.
Kerr and Van Gundy appear to be the front-runners for the job. Kerr's lack of experience might seem like a red flag to some, but remember that this is the same team that hired Jackson three years ago. At that time, we had pretty much no idea what kind of coach he would be. So the Warriors are seemingly fine with taking some risks, and Kerr seems like the obvious bet.
Otherwise, there's an impressive group of alternatives out there for Golden State to look at. I'd love to see what Van Gundy could do with this roster, but regardless, things are about to get interesting in the Bay Area.