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Taking stock of Denver's ongoing coaching search

Harrison Wind Avatar
May 22, 2015

 

With one NBA head coaching vacancy in Oklahoma City already filled, the pursuit to find a permanent head coach in Denver is heating up.

After Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week that ex-Thunder head coach Scott Brooks is “likely to sit out next season,”  Three names jumped to the front of Denver’s wish list.

Melvin Hunt, Denver’s interim head coach last season, Mike D’Antoni, who most recently coached the Lakers in 2014, and Alvin Gentry, who currently holds the title of Associate Head Coach on Steve Kerr’s staff in Golden State, have been mentioned by the Denver Post’s Chris Dempsey as the three candidates, besides Brook’s who have a legitimate shot at the opening.

I broke down those four rumored candidates here.

The next domino to fall may be Gentry after it was reported Thursday afternoon that the Golden State assistant did in fact interview with New Orleans for their opening earlier in the week. The Pelicans are also rumored to have interest in Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, who’s run with the Bulls appears to be coming to a close.

If given the choice between coaching a Pelicans team with perhaps the league’s number one franchise building block in Anthony Davis and the Nuggets job, Gentry’s decision may be an easy one.

It may not have been exactly how President Josh Kroenke and General Manager Tim Connelly wanted to conduct an extensive and thorough coaching search, but by default just Hunt and D’Antoni remain on that short list of candidates unless a dark horse who has not been mentioned or reported somehow emerges.

In Kroenke’s first publicly known comments since the coaching search presumably began after the conclusion of the Nuggets final regular season game on April 15th, he explained to Dempsey that Denver’s search is going according to schedule.

“It’s exactly how we thought it would go,” Kroenke said. “We’ve had several conversations with a lot of people. I think that it benefits us to talk to as many people as we can. We have some people in the back of our mind that we think would be great fits. I’ve talked to enough people, and going through the process before, your coaching hire is probably going to be your hardest hire because there’s so much that goes into that role in today’s sporting industry.”

Additionally, Kroenke stressed the importance of hiring a coach who has the qualities and characteristics that the organization is looking for going forward. It’s something Denver may have whiffed on when they hired Brian Shaw on June 24th of 2013, as a lack of communication through all levels of the organization was apparent and well documented throughout last season.

Doing your due-diligence in a coaching search is important. Poking around the league and gauging candidates’ interests and philosophies is crucial to building a foundation and mindset of what management views as their organization’s direction.

It seems as if Kroenke is tackling those tasks seriously.

“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.”

This elongated coaching search is expected to pick up speed in the coming weeks in part because the league-wide candidate pool is slowly but surely drying up and the draft on June 25th is rapidly approaching. However, Kroenke may take his time in determining his next head coach, in hopes of not making the same mistake twice.

“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.

In doesn’t appear Denver has a firm time table of when a final coaching decision will be made, but momentum should start to build as we get closer to next month’s draft.

Out of nine new head coaches, who were hired prior to the start of this past season, six of them were officially on board prior to the draft, as was Brian Shaw when he was hired by Kroenke in 2013.

The exceptions were Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins, who were fired and hired in perhaps one of the most bizarre coaching conundrums in recent memory, which left Byron Scott as the only new coach hired last offseason after the draft had already taken place.

The state of the roster

One major factor that both Hunt, D’Antoni and any other candidate needs to consider when looking at this job is how Kroenke and Connelly view this roster in it’s current form, and making sure they share that same line of thinking.

Kroenke has consistently driven home the point last season and this offseason that the Nuggets have no interest in simply blowing up the current roster and would prefer to “tinker” and “re-tool” it.

That means maybe one or two major trades most likely centering around Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, or Wilson Chandler, the pieces that have been mentioned throughout last season and so far this summer as the most likely to be moved.

Of course a trade of that magnitude would be done with the hopes Denver could either net the superstar Kroenke has long desired, or receive enough picks in return to allow Denver a chance to find one via a fairly deep 2015 draft.

This is not set to be the full on bottoming-out style rebuild that a team like Philadelphia has endured over the course of the past two season, but one designed for a quicker return to relevancy.

Whoever is hired as the Nuggets next head coach will undoubtedly need to share Kroenke’s sentiment.

 

 

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