With all due respect to Marc Gasol and Greg Monroe, this summer’s most coveted free agent might not be a player at all. And he might not even get to free agency.
The relationship between Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls’ front office has deteriorated to the point where it’s widely expected, almost assumed, that he won’t coach another game for Chicago. But there’s been no public word on that front. Here’s K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune on Thibs and the Bulls:
But this delay isn’t some leverage ploy or negotiating tactic. If the Bulls, whose second-round pick coincidentally is headed to the Magic, wanted a second-round pick, they would buy one. This is, after all, a franchise that ponied up $3 million to move up and acquire Luol Deng’s draft rights in 2004 and paid an undisclosed amount to do the same for Nikola Mirotic in 2011.
No, this decision is way above getting, say, a second-round pick from the Pelicans or Magic. Especially because sources indicate the Magic’s interest in Thibodeau has been way overstated, if not nonexistent to this point. And Yahoo Sports reported the Pelicans’ interest in Thibodeau lies more with team President Mickey Loomis than general manager Dell Demps, who, the website reported, fired strong-willed coach Monty Williams in part over internal battles.
The Pelicans have interviewed Warriors’ assistant coach Alvin Gentry and ESPN.com reported Friday night they also are considering Jeff Van Gundy.
General manager Gar Forman has said consistently he and top basketball executive John Paxson make all decisions based on what’s best for the franchise and the players. Forman has applied this even for unpopular decisions, like not renewing assistant coach Ron Adams’ contract in 2013.
That’s the same premise underlying the decision on Thibodeau, whose outside options appear to be drying up.
Thibodeau is far from the only big name publicly tied to the vacant New Orleans job, which has to be a pretty plum position: where else can a coach take over a playoff team that young, without any stars’ contracts about to expire, and with a player as good as Anthony Davis? There’s been no shortage of great coaching opportunities coming open recently, with Steve Kerr and Billy Donovan landing some pretty nice gigs with the Warriors and Thunder, but the Pelicans’ job has to be on the same level. Why else would it attract Jeff Van Gundy, who’s been out of coaching for years and publicly removed himself from consideration for every job that has been even so much as rumored to be interested in him?
Jeff Van Gundy has emerged as a candidate for the New Orleans Pelicans’ head-coaching position, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN.com this week that the ESPN analyst has expressed interest in the opening and is under consideration for the job, which opened when the Pelicans dismissed Monty Williams earlier this month.
Van Gundy joins Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry and Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau as confirmed candidates for the position, according to NBA coaching sources.
Gentry is the only candidate known to have formally interviewed for the post, with sources saying the uncertainty surrounding Thibodeau’s contractual situation with the Bulls has prevented the Pelicans and Orlando Magic from formally requesting to interview him. ESPN.com reported Monday that the Pelicans had been granted permission to interview Gentry before the Warriors began play in the Western Conference finals.
On an ESPN media call earlier this week, Van Gundy declined to discuss the prospect of pursuing the Pelicans’ post.
Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks, sources said, has so far declined to interview for the Pelicans’ job, with Yahoo! Sports reporting this week that Brooks is considering sitting out a year to focus on family and perhaps sample TV work, despite interest from all three teams with openings: New Orleans, Orlando and Denver.
The other team that’s been linked to Thibodeau is the Orlando Magic. While not as exciting as the prospect of coaching Anthony Davis, the Magic have quietly assembled a solid young roster, though they’ll pick in the high lottery again this year, and the roster kind of seems like it’s full of nice complementary players without a true star. Still, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, and Nik Vucevic are all pretty talented players, and if most of them stay in Orlando and the team adds a genuine star, they could be cooking with gas.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports updates us on the Orlando coaching search:
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has discussed the opening with several possible candidates, but Skiles has clearly separated himself in the process, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Although Orlando has thus far shown no inclination to rush into a hiring, discussions could soon advance into contract negotiations, league sources said.
Skiles, 51, has been the preferred choice of Orlando ownership, which has been fond of him since his playing days with the Magic in the 1990s. Skiles fits the candidate profile that Hennigan privately outlined for the coaching search: a successful head-coaching résumé that includes strong emphasis on upgrading Orlando’s defense and accountability.
In head-coaching stops in Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee, Skiles developed a reputation for turning bad teams into competitive ones, and tightening porous defensive units. Nevertheless, Skiles also built a reputation for burning out teams and wearing out a path to his exit.
Orlando had interest in discussing its opening with Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, but the Magic haven’t wanted to offer draft compensation for the chance to acquire him, league sources said.
The other team with a vacancy right now is the Denver Nuggets, who, while they were successful just a few years ago, aren’t seeming to attract the type of candidates that the Pelicans, Magic, and, earlier, Thunder vacancies have.
“It’s beneficial for us on some level to be patient,” Kroenke said. “I think more candidates have opened up since the end of the season. Based on different organizations wanting to go different directions with different guys, I think there was never a time when we wanted to rush into anything.
“Until you have that guy that you know is the one that you want, I think it really benefits you to talk to as many people as you can. Because also during the course of these interviews you’re getting to pick some of the best basketball minds that are out there. That’s an incredible benefit to the process.”
The Nuggets finished the season with Melvin Hunt as their interim head coach. He’s in the mix for the job along with others such as Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry. The Nuggets have talked to other candidates as well.
“We have a list of traits that we have identified that are incredibly important to us going forward,” Kroenke said. “And we’ve had several conversations with people already to kind of identify if those guys have the traits that we’re looking for.”