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Archive for Monday, March 19, 2007

Commentary: It’s tough to pinpoint Jordan’s coach candidates

March 19, 2007

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— So who do you want as the new Charlotte Bobcats coach?

Michael Jordan, who'll have as big a say as anyone, sounds wide open, after confirming Tuesday that Bernie Bickerstaff wouldn't be back on the bench next season.

Jordan said he wanted "great teaching skills, patience and a vocal leader." Of course he does: That's like saying we all want peace, love and understanding.

I'm not knocking Jordan's answer: Those are good criteria on which to make a hire. But it doesn't put much meat on the bones as far as anticipating candidates.

So here's my best shot at some coaches who could or maybe should warrant an interview:

Larry Brown: It's never boring wherever Brown coaches. I often say Brown makes you better, makes you crazy, then makes his exit. He's an excellent teacher and a demanding, precise bench coach. His Knicks experience aside, the guy generally makes any team better for his presence.

However, he wears on his players until they lose their patience with his needling. Also, he'd be very expensive. If the player payroll is going to rise significantly, does primary owner Bob Johnson also want to double or triple what he's paying his head coach?

Paul Silas: There's an obvious marketing connection here because Silas was popular as the Hornets' last coach in Charlotte. He still lives here; in fact, he's building a dream home on Lake Norman.

There's a connection to Jordan, too: When Jordan was negotiating to buy a piece of the Hornets (the deal fell through over control), Jordan had conversations with Silas about working together. Silas felt those talks went well, so I assume Jordan feels similarly.

Silas' greatest strength is relationship-building. He manages people well because of his consistency and integrity. I think he's better suited to a veteran team, but those people skills fit well in any situation.

Derek Anderson: Absolutely he's a long shot because he's never coached. In fact, he might not be done playing. But listen to what Jordan volunteered about finding the next Avery Johnson:

"It doesn't have to be an existing coach; it can be some young start-up coach. Avery Johnson is a good example. He studied the game, never coached and cultivated (the Mavericks) into a very successful program. He's an example of the type of coach I would love to find."

Anderson is the smartest basketball player I've covered, and he articulates the game beautifully. The Bobcats asked him to play mentor and teacher here, and he's done that so well he's their most cost-effective player.

Whether it's as head coach or lead assistant, Anderson would be as asset on that bench.

Marc Iavaroni: This Suns' assistant and former NBA big man is the hottest name you hear among NBA assistants. He fits the classic profile of an NBA overachiever who knows the game well enough to teach it to more gifted athletes.

Iavaroni, a former Virginia star, has worked under Pat Riley and Mike D'Antoni, so he's witnessed two strikingly different styles of basketball. He's certainly worth an interview, and you might catch that star-on-the-rise before someone else does.

Darrell Walker: He's an assistant coach with the New Orleans Hornets. He's had two fill-in stints as a head coach, in Toronto and Washington (yes, under Jordan). He is 56-113 in those stints, which is no endorsement.

But don't dismiss his chances.

In his time running the Washington Wizards, Jordan displayed two traits-a tendency to value close associates and a preference for those who won't rock the boat. Walker (like Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing) is tight with Jordan.

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