Grading Every New NBA Coaching Hire

Brooklyn, Steve Nash: B+

Steve Nash is a legend. He was the best point guard of his era so it’s not surprising he takes a shot at head coaching. The hire itself gets a B+ purely on his personal resume alone. However, looking at the team is the reason why it doesn’t get an A. His two stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are ball dominant players. Nash was a pass first player. His two stars like to speak out and can be a bit to handle, which may be too much for a first time head coach. Irving recently said on a podcast that at any given time the team could have any different head coach. This would be a huge mistake. There needs to be one definitive leader in the locker room. Conversely, Nash may fit perfectly because of him being the perfect player coach. This will definitely be an experiment to keep an eye on once the season starts.

New Orleans, Stan Van Gundy: B+

The Pelicans made a great hire with Van Gundy. There is criticism that he might be a little too old to reach the young talent they have but Van Gundy is a pro. If he could deal with dwight howard he’ll have no trouble here. Steve has an impressive resume and great experience. The best thing he has going for him, other than Zion Williamson, is his front office GM David Griffin. Griffin knows what he’s doing and will empower this staff to succeed. In Detroit Van Gundy was gm and coach, something that can’t be done by 1 person. Now that he can just focus on coaching he can put 100% of his effort into what he’s best at. Van gundy will bring core values to help develop this very talented young roster. He is a strong, defensive minded guy and will get this team to buy in. Expect Brandon Ingram and Zion be in his corner early. This is an exciting young team and it will be intriguing to watch them grow.

New York, Tom Thibodeau: C+

This grade comes more from the organization rather than my perception of Thibodeau as a coach. I actually really like Tom Thibodeau. He has some outdated techniques, but overall he is a smart, effective, defensive minded coach. I give this grade a C+ because it’s the NY Knicks. I feel like they got Thibodeau because he was the best available at the time. Had they waited, there might have been a bigger market for other experienced coaches. Again, not saying he’s a bad coach, but them being the knicks, they rushed. Looking at this knicks team I think they should have gone after an assistant looking for their first head coach job and let the team grow together. But we all know that would never happen. The knicks always have a win now mentality regardless of how bad they really are. I wish Thibs success and I’m glad he has a job but I’m pessimistic as long as owner James Dolan is involved. 

Los Angeles Clippers, Ty Lue: A

Ty lue’s hire gets an A because this was the best hire they could have made. Lue is a Championship winning coach that knows how to manage superstars. He was an assistant with the Clippers last year and can implement the changes necessary to boost this team past its short fallings of last playoffs. After their second round exit to the Nuggets, it was clear this team lacked a certain leadership. Lue is a coach that has proven he isn’t afraid of anyone and can ask for better performances when he knows his guys aren’t giving it to him. He sees the potential and talent around him and is confident he can get this team to the Finals.

Chicago, Billy Donovan: B

Billy Donovan chose to leave OKC because if he was going to do a rebuild he wanted a long term deal; Chicago gave him that. The Bulls saw his success coaching young guys at Florida and are confident he can implement a good system. His performance last season, aided by Chris Paul, proved what he can accomplish when there is nothing but low expectations. The previous coach, Jim Boylen, was an interesting experiment, and worth the try, but Donovan will take the Bulls development to where it needs to be. His respect for his players, and his players’ respect for him will go a long way. I don’t expect a playoff run from this team but I do expect the culture to grow and the win column to improve. 

Philadelphia, Doc Rivers: B

I gave Philly a B because they have a lot of good pieces but I genuinely don’t know what to expect. Personally, I think Doc Rivers is a great coach but this Sixers team poses a lot of questions. Doc is a players coach and played point guard himself, will that be enough to unlock what is needed from Ben Simmons? Will he be able to finally penetrate the skull of Joel Embiid, and get him to stop taking ridiculous threes? What will he be able to do with Tobias Harris of the ball? What will he do with Al Horford? Again, I think Doc is a great coach and it think he has a lot of answers to these questions, otherwise he wouldn’t take the job. But looking into the future I’m rather uncertain as to what that all will look like how it all works on the hardwood. 

Houston, Stephen Silas: B

Houston hired long time assistant Stephen Silas from the Dallas Mavericks. Silas is the son of long time player and coach Paul Silas. This is an important hire for several reasons. Firstly it’s important to give assistants a chance. Some assistants sit on the bench for years (in this case 20 years) and never get a chance to prove themselves. Many assistants are very qualified but teams are nervous to give a new name a chance. The main reason reason this hiring is a big deal is because Silas is black. There are a not nearly enough black head coaches in the NBA, a black dominated league.

On the court Silas is also very interesting. He clearly has a project with this Rockets roster, especially with potential trades on the rise, but he’s up for the challenge. He was a major contributor to Dallas’s historic offense last season. Luka Doncic was particularly fond of him and is sad to see him leave. Hopefully the Rocket’s front office will tweak the roster so he can have a little more to work with but overall Silas can run an offense and is in great position to start his head coaching career. 

Indiana, Nate Bjorkgren: B+

This is a pretty optimistic B+ mainly because I don’t really know much about Nate other than he’s another good assistant. That being said, I have a pretty good feeling about his style. Basically he’s Nick Nurse’s Nick Nurse. Nurse was a G-League coach turned assistant, turned head coach, and that’s exactly what Nate is. He’s a creative guy on defense and won’t be afraid to try new things. He likes the talent Indiana shows and thinks he can get a lot out of those guys. The question is how he fits in as a leader. Can he get his players to buy in? Some coaches are great assistants and not great head coaches, and that’s OK. I think it’s great that he got a shot to prove himself and am excited to see what he’ll do. 

Oklahoma City, Mark Daigneault, B-

OKC promoting assistant Mark Daigneault from within isn’t surprising, mainly because there was no one else left to hire. This one nearly gets a C but it gets a B- because of a couple reasons. Firstly is timeline. This being his first head coach job it matches with the development of their young players. This team is clearly about to go through a rebuild and it’s worth taking a swing with a first time head coach to grow with them. Next is his resume. He worked with Billy Donovan at Florida and has had decent G-league success. Working in the G-League for five years takes patience and persistence. At only 35 years old Daigneault rose to this position quickly. He has his work cut out for him with training camp starting December 1st and the season only a few weeks after that.

(Photo: Rick Scuteri/AP)

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