As soon as the news that Mike Brown had been fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers became public, names of potential replacements began popping up everywhere. Anybody who had worked in Phoenix with David Griffin was considered a possible candidate, as was seemingly anybody who had been a somewhat-successful coach previously in the NBA or in college.
Among the names that have been floated: Alvin Gentry, Vinny Del Negro, Mark Jackson, Lionel Hollins, George Karl, Scott Skiles, Mike D'Antoni (although Jason Lloyd threw cold water on that), Mark Price, Jay Larranaga, John Calipari, and Fred Hoiberg. I'm probably leaving out at least a couple of names.
There may indeed be some fine choices among that group, or even among people who haven't yet been mentioned. But I believe that there are three candidates who should clearly be above the rest.
Within just a couple of hours of Brown's firing, USA Today's Sam Amick reported that Chicago Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin would be "a top candidate." It's not hard to see why.
Griffin is just 39 years old, and he's been on Tom Thibodeau's staff since 2010. Prior to that, he was an assistant under Skiles in Milwaukee. And prior to that, he played in the NBA for nine seasons.
I don't think that playing experience has to be a prerequisite to be a successful head coach, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Experience as a player can help a coach relate to current players. And the more recently he played in the NBA, the better. Griffin, who played in a total of 477 games for five different teams, was still playing as recently as 2008.
Last month, he told the Sporting News that his long and varied playing career helps him to relate to all different kinds of players:
"I have been on the outside looking in, working my way up, I have been overseas, I was a starter in the league, I was buried on the bench, I have been cut -- everything imaginable in the league, I have been through it. It helps me relate to players. I can tell them how to handle different situations. The NBA is a grind, the 82 games, the travel, the pressure, the expectations, so I call on my experience and past knowledge to build a bond with the players."
That sounds to me like the kind of guy that a young team would respond to.
Also, according to that Sporting News article, Griffin is currently working toward his doctorate in leadership studies. It would be pretty cool to be able to address to the coach of the Cavs as "Dr."
This is probably a longshot, since Ollie has only been the head coach at UConn for two seasons. It's hard to imagine that he'd leave his alma mater so soon.
Then again, maybe two seasons is enough. He already reached the pinnacle of college basketball when his team won the NCAA Tournament in March. Or maybe he would want a raise. Ollie is expected to make a total of $1.3 million next season (he's been in negotiations to potentially change that), and it's not hard to hard to imagine that Dan Gilbert could pay him three or four times that amount.
Like Adrian Griffin, Ollie had a long and varied career in the NBA that only came to an end recently. Unlike Griffin, Ollie has already had success as a head coach. Obviously that success was at the college level, but I think that his playing experience makes him a much more attractive candidate than a typical college coach.
This is another longshot, as indications are that Kerr is close to agreeing to a deal to coach the New York Knicks. Even if he doesn't want to go to New York, the Golden State Warriors are also after him.
But Brian Windhorst threw his name out there because of his connection to David Griffin, so I think he's at least worth discussing here.
Cavs GM David Griffin has strong relationship with Steve Kerr. Cavs have president/coach role open & salary not an issue.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) May 12, 2014
Some have questioned whether or not Kerr is worth all of the hype he's received as a coaching candidate. After all, he's never coached a game in his life, in the NBA or in college.
Maybe he isn't worth the outsized hype, but I'd be willing to bet that he ends up being a successful coach. His pedigree is incredibly unique. He won five championships as a player, under two of the greatest head coaches ever: Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. He also had the experience of running a front office during his three seasons as the General Manager in Phoenix.
As a broadcaster, Kerr has proven to be exceptionally articulate when discussing basketball. That matters. Being a head coach is about so much more than just being able to draw up an inbounds play (though you have to be able to do that too, Mike Brown). It's also about being able to effectively communicate with players and the front office. It's about being the most public face of the organization. Kerr strikes me as a guy who would fit well in that role.
He will definitely experience growing pains when he makes the transition to the sideline. All first-time head coaches do. But if David Griffin can convince Kerr to come to Cleveland, he should not hesitate to do so.