Will the Hornets Hire an Assistant to be Head Coach? Should They?

There's something to be said for coaches with prior experience. Especially for us, sitting at our computers, with no real way to relate, interact, or know any of the candidates outside of their former teams' statistics, head coaches with long resumes are infinitely easier to analyze. But the Hornets seem to be intent on thoroughly interviewing assistant coaches around the league, and it'd be lame for us to not give them a cursory look, at minimum. 

Over the next couple days, I'll take a look at the assistants in more detail. Monty Williams of Portland, Tyrone Corbin of Portland, and Dwane Casey will all have head coaching jobs in the NBA in the next five years, I'm sure. They all relate to players extremely well and have studied under some of the game's elite coaches.

But before getting into them, let's examine the likelihood of the Hornets opting for the assistant route at all. There have been a couple leaked rumors that New Orleans is strongly considering candidates with prior head coaching experience. Exacerbating matters is the fact that aside from Tom Thibodeau, most of the candidates are new to assistant roles. Low odds right?

A quick perusal of the current head coaching landscape suggests otherwise.

The following table shows the coaches of the 2010 postseason and their head coaching and assistant coaching experience prior to being hired by their current teams.

Coach (Team)

Head Coaching Experience

Assistant Coaching Experience

Gregg Popovich (SAS)

None

5 years

Phil Jackson (LAL)

9 years

2 years

Stan Van Gundy (ORL)

2 years

9 years

Mike Brown (CLE)

None

5 years

Erik Spoelstra (MIA)

None

9 years

Rick Carlisle (DAL)

6 years

11 years

Mike Woodson (ATL)

None

8 years

Vinny Del Negro (CHI)

None

None

Scott Brooks (OKC)

None

4 years

Alvin Gentry (PHO)

6 years

14 years

Nate McMillan (POR)

5 years

2 years

Larry Brown (CHA)

24 years

None

Doc Rivers (BOS)

4 years

None

Scott Skiles (MIL)

8 years

1 year

Jerry Sloan (UTA)

3 years

3 years

George Karl (DEN)

16 years

3 years

Considering the fact that Stan Van Gundy would likely still be Miami's coach today if Pat Riley hadn't driven him out, almost half of this postseason's coaches are on their first head coaching assignment. 

The overall ratio is surprising indeed. It indicates a couple things. While the NBA coaching landscape is indeed driven heavily by connections and a who-do-you-know mentality, coaching turnover is a lot lower than I anticipated. And secondly, many of the coaches we consider great or elite today earned those reputations on their first teams. Not too many coaches shuttled around from city to city, building their reputations, to get the jobs they have right now. Teams have hired assistants they felt good about- Chicago with Phil Jackson, San Antonio with Popovich, Miami with SVG- and reaped the benefits.

Maybe this doesn't mean anything at all. Maybe it has no implications for the Hornets' hire whatsoever. Most probably, an analysis of failed assistant to head coach promotions should be done to paint a fuller picture. But the fact that some of the most successful coaches our game has today were identified as assistant coaches and then retained long-term is interesting. It adds further nuance to the Thibodeau/Johnson debate in my mind, and it gives guys like Monty, Corbin, and Casey ammunition their resumes can't provide. 

Visions of a new, dynamic coach leading the Hornets to prominence are simply more quixotic, more idyllic than the alternative. I like the idea of a fresh coach coming in, no baggage, no past firings to explain, no previous post-season failures to justify. A completely new face could aid the Hornets in refreshing their image, washing away the bitter aftermath of poor signings, 58 point losses, and countless injuries.

Does that ultimately make Thibodeau the best of both worlds, and thus, the better hire over Avery?

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