First, I'm not assuming that Maurice Cheeks will be fired, so he's listed as one candidate. George Karl is obviously off the market, and assuming that Cheeks is fired, you really can't expect Portland to go with another former-player or college coach with no NBA experience. That said, here's our list, in no particular order:
- Jeff Van Gundy. With Houston's struggles this year, and Yao and T-Mac not playing as well together as they'd hoped, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see Van Gundy let go. Van Gundy's fascination with a pass-first point guard, low-post offense, and tough D might be a good fit for the personnel Portland will have next season.
- Phil Jackson. Very unlikely, but you can't talk about an NBA coaching vacancy without mentioning his name. It seems to me that Jackson would only take a job with a team that he could immediately win a championship with, and Portland is probably 2 years away from being a serious contender.
- Jeff Bzdelik. He had some real success with Denver's younger players during his first season; but lost the team this year and they stumbled out of the gate with very lazy and lacsidaisical play. He's available, and has proven he can get a team to overachieve. Perhaps he's learned something from the Denver experience? The guy deserves another chance at some point.
- Eric Musselman. Much like Bzdelik, another young guy who has had success getting players to overachieve. Unlike Bzdelik, he hadn't lost his team when he was erroneously fired after two successful seasons. A panic-move by a terrible franchise. What else would you expect from the Warriors? I'd put Musselman as probably the most likely of anyone on this list.
- Rick Adelman. He's in the same boat as Jeff Van Gundy -- not meeting expectations, be they fair or not. If you ask me, Adelman has done a nice job, considering that Sacramento is currently a top-4 seed. They've been hit hard by injuries to Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson, and have no bench. Tough to see Portland bringing in someone they fired 10 years ago, but you never know.
And finally ...
- Mo Cheeks. I don't think there's a very good chance that Mo is back. Nonetheless, he is the current coach and the possibility does exist that he won't get fired this offseson. With the level of conservativeness that the front office has shown this year, would it really surprise you? There are a couple of reasons why we might see another year of Mo Mo the Clown. First and foremost, we don't know who is calling the shots in terms of playing time. Ruben Patterson alluded to as much back in early December prior to Mo changing the starting lineup, when he said something along the lines of "Mo knows who needs to play. He just needs to get the okay from headquarters upstairs before he can put us into the game." If Patterson and Nash are telling Mo who to play, that alleviates some semblance of Mo's responsibility for the team's results, and there's a chance they could recognize that. Secondly, some of the younger players -- Miles, Telfair, and Pryzbilla -- have made some serious strides this season. How much of this is due to Mo is very speculative, but you could argue that he's due some credit for that. Personally, I'd like to see Cheeks fired the day after Portland's season ends, but you never know.
Those were the quick ones we came up with. Email us any ideas you have and we'll post them here.