Top Candidates Emerge for Celtics Head Coaching Vacancy

With Brad Stevens filling Danny Ainge’s role as the Celtics new President of Basketball Operations, the search for a new head coach is on. Media and fans alike have spent the last 12 hours hurling the names of candidate after candidate out there, some with merit and others without, but the two favorites who have emerged should be somewhat familiar to Celtics fans.

Sam Cassell and Chauncey Billups have opened up as the favorites for the vacant head coaching position, per Sportsline. Cassell and Billups are listed at +300 and +400, respectively, with Celtics current assistant Jay Larranaga and Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd trailing closely behind.

Both former players, Cassell and Billups each spent limited time with the Celtics, the former ending his career with Boston and the latter starting his there. Cassell played in 17 regular season games for the Celtics and 21 playoff games after signing with the team in March of 2008 following his buyout agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers.

After winning a championship alongside old friend Kevin Garnett, having played together in both Boston and Minnesota, Cassell retired and moved into coaching. He’s spent a total of 12 seasons as an assistant. He started his coaching career with the Wizards in 2009 under Flip Saunders and remained with the team after Saunders was replaced by Randy Wittman in 2012. Cassell then went to join the staff of his former coach, Doc Rivers, in 2015 with his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Cassell has remained an assistant under Rivers ever since, following him to Philadelphia after their departure from Los Angeles last offseason.

Billups’ time with the Celtics was almost just as short, playing 51 games as a rookie before being shipped to Toronto in a deal that brought back guard Kenny Anderson. Boston grew to regret the move and fans were left to wonder about what Billups and Pierce could’ve done together had the move not been made. Nevertheless, everyone who had a hand in that decision is gone and it’s hard to imagine Billups holds a grudge against the city for a move made by a man as hated in town as Rick Pitino.

Billups only recently got into coaching, joining Ty Lue’s staff with the Clippers back in November. ‪ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz came out with his annual list of the top young coaching candidates in the league and Billups was named the top candidate.‬ Billups is a former ESPN employee, so there’s a potential conflict of interest there, but Billups has garnered a lot of interest from NBA teams for varying roles in the past and many would appear to agree with his status as one of the up-and-comers in the coaching realm.

If the odds are any inclination, it appears the Celtics are going to hire a coach much different from Brad Stevens. Finding a former player who can connect with the current players on the roster seems to be of some importance, and perhaps the top priority in any candidate. It’s worked this season with the Suns, Hawks and 76ers who all improved after naming Rivers, Monty Williams, and Nate McMillan (interim) to their roles leading their respective teams.

Billups and Cassell are both intriguing names as Boston prepares to name their 18th head coach in franchise history in the hopes that whoever occupies that position will help bring them their 18th championship banner.

Photo: (Chris Elise – NBAE via Getty Images / Chris Szagola – AP Photo)

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