Pelicans

4 Potential Candidates to Fill New Orleans’ Head Coaching Vacancy

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New Orleans’ season ended in an abysmal bubble showcase. The Pelicans had loft ambitions, but a lack of urgency and desperation nailed them to a 2-6 record. An expected change was made shortly after their exit– that being Alvin Gentry’s release from head-coaching duties.

Gentry’s tenure was disappointing. One postseason appearance and playoff series win was never going to be enough to survive the regime change that occurred last offseason. Initially, former GM Dell Demps brought Gentry in to take the Pelicans to the upper echelon of the West. Injuries and depth were an issue for the majority of his time there, but Gentry could not bring the best out of Anthony Davis, nor a young, energetic Pelicans team.

The search is now on for the best young coaching job in the NBA. Ty Lue and Jason Kidd were recently mentioned as top options, but there is a bounty of credible coaches who are more than capable of stepping up to the plate.

 

1. Ty Lue

There is no denying the history Griffin and Lue have. Lue’s ability as a coach is somewhat underrated (as most coaches coaching LeBron are). The greatest asset Lue possessed was bringing stars together to buy-in to his style. His pedigree and experience could serve wonders for Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Lue understands what it takes to survive in this league as a player and coach. His understanding and relatability will allow him to adapt and transform the team, molding it to his vision.

The question mark surrounding Lue is his lack of coaching without LeBron, as he was fired just six games without one of the all-time’s best. He has learned a lot as Rivers’ lead assistant, but a young team like New Orleans needs guidance and tutelage from their head coach.

2. Jason Kidd

Kidd’s two stops in Brooklyn and Milwaukee were a mixed bag. Three postseason appearances in five years seem encouraging on paper, but Kidd’s downfall in Milwaukee highlighted a significant problem that should raise question marks for New Orleans. The Bucks were another young, talented team with Kidd.

Unfortunately, Kidd was unable to take them from an average East team to a title contender (which Mike Budenholzer has done). While the Bucks improved drastically, Kidd failed to adapt his hyper-aggressive defensive scheme to playoff basketball. He will have the same questions from the Pelicans front office, and given his coaching and playing mentality, it is unlikely to see him wavering from his philosophies.

3. Chris Finch

Pelicans’ assistant coach Chris Finch is a name fans are familiar with. The former G-League coach of the year was hired in 2017 to assist Gentry with the offense. New Orleans’ offense is never in question. Their high-octane, pass-heavy scheme has been one of the best in the league under Gentry and Finch. Finch’s work has not gone unnoticed in the league either, with Minnesota interviewing him for their head coaching role before hiring Ryan Saunders.

Having not coached a top-tier team in his career, there are questions if he is ready to step up to the challenge. As we have seen with former G-League coaches like Nick Nurse and Quin Snyder, however, the transition into the NBA role can be seamless for some.

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4. Kenny Atkinson

Kenny Atkinson revolutionized the Nets in his three full seasons as head coach. His up-tempo style and love for the game invigorated players like Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell to have career years. His fourth season was marred with the introduction of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Atkinson is a big believer in creating a team identity where everyone is as important as each other. Obviously, Irving struggled with this culture, and with tension starting to brew, the Nets and Atkinson mutually parted ways 62 games into year four.

Atkinson’s culture setting is one the Pelicans need. Their locker room is not broken by any means, but having a coach that prides himself on a positive attitude and bringing everyone together uniformly is the perfect situation for New Orleans.

Overall, New Orleans will have ample and qualified candidates for the role. NBA analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy will feature as potential suitors as well. Nonetheless, Griffin has an important decision to make. The Pelicans’ future head coach will have NBA Finals ambitions as a base of what the team should achieve.

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About Vance Abreu

An Australian trying to make it big in Toronto, Canada. Weekly articles about the Pelicans journey to a NBA championship

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