Who would you like to see become the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans?
Jason Albert: Fred Vinson
I would love to discuss the possibility of New Orleans landing a long-time, successful head coach such as a Terry Stotts or a recently available Rick Carlisle. Or, perhaps even kicking the tires on a more up-and-coming option such as Becky Hammon. However, I simply do not believe that this franchise will appeal enough to one of these more attractive coaching options, especially in an off-season where names are few and far between.
So, if I could pick anyone to be the new Pelicans head coach, I would choose Carlisle, Hammon, and then Stotts in that order. However, from the more realistic list of options, I would suspect that Fred Vinson could grab the reins.
Upon examining the short list of names linked to New Orleans, I was not blown away with any of them. However, the reasons that I believe Vinson could land the job are:
- He’s familiar with the organization and knows what the front office seeks.
- He has been deeply praised by both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram for his assistance with their outside shooting — an area where rising superstar Zion Williamson would benefit from some development.
Though Vinson’s name is not as sexy, attractive, or even the best look for the organization, he should prove a benefit to the roster. However, I do believe that this particular move could wind up being too safe and ultimately waste another year of Zion — and a currently valued assistant coach.
Kevin Barrios: Jerry Stackhouse, Chauncey Billups or Sam Cassell
I would like to hire a time machine, because I believe we are in a very tough position to navigate currently due to a prior massive mistake.
David Griffin’s first order of business was not only to announce that Alvin Gentry would be retained but that his team option would be picked up. While my disapproval of Gentry had softened over the years, I knew keeping him around was a problem. The roster was about to be completely turned over, an influx of youth was coming in, and with Griffin’s talk of family and culture building, he was basically letting your uncle that got you into heavy metal and taught you how to roll your first joint run the household.
That point in time was better suited to hire a person developer, like my favorite candidate, David Vanterpool, or chase a Teresa Weatherspoon — someone who would help mold these young men. Not only do basketball skills and knowledge need improvement but also shaping real human beings. That’s how you build a strong family and culture.
Despite two years having passed, I still feel like this is probably the best route for the Pelicans to follow. Shape this young team, build up their skills with a coach that will grow with them, and then if needed, hire that game managing expert and x’s and o’s tactician to take the next step. However, the front office may have waited too long to hire that more patience requiring developer.
New Orleans has two All-Stars — one looking every bit of a future (maybe current) face of the league superstar. Can you sell them, the ownership and this fan base on a more patient approach, which may pay off greatly in the long run? We may be past that point. Therefore, I believe Griffin and Trajan Langdon have to somehow bridge the gap between player development and strategist — say the bridge between a Weatherspoon and a Mike D’Antoni.
I believe this front office has to look at the Brooklyn Nets as an archetype.
Outside of some consulting work, Steve Nash had no prior coaching experience, but he is a former player that his players respect and buy into. The Nets surrounded Nash with a stellar supporting staff whose expertise was filtered through a very approachable Nash, reaching the players in a way that was nonabrasive and engaging.
I’m not saying the Pels should hire an ex-player with no experience, but I do believe the next person at the helm should be a former player that they all watched growing up who can connect with them in a way that SVG could not. Therefore, I would love to see Jerry Stackhouse, Chauncey Billups or Sam Cassell get their well deserved opportunity with some bench support in the form of more seasoned coaches.
Chris Conner: Ime Udoka or Teresa Weatherspoon
I’m tired of answering this question every year, and yet, here we are again.
Now more than ever, New Orleans needs a head coach who knows how to speak in various tones to all the different roles and personalities on a roster. A coach may not matter as much as the players, though, if there’s a person in charge who they deeply believe in and are motivated by. You’d like that person to garner respect the minute they get the job, someone young and relatable across the board.
Ime Udoka feels like a good match, not only checking all of those boxes per his reputation, but his environments are unparalleled between his playing and coaching career. He’s been around championship teams and Hall of Fame personnel, and has been a part of multiple winning organizations that have done nothing but praise him.
Teresa Weatherspoon would also check a majority of those boxes and her hire would be groundbreaking. Her familiarity with the previous staff and players could quickly remove some of the sting in another new head coach, the third of David Griffin’s short tenure. An amazing leader and trailblazer as a player, Weatherspoon is where my heart hopes the position lands. Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t enough positive vibes from Griffin’s press conference to truly view her as a serious candidate yet.
Either way, I though Stan Van Gundy was a good hire last year, so what do I know? Fix the roster, hire somebody who isn’t close to AARP eligibility, and let the rest play out from there.
Jamile Dunn: Jerry Stackhouse
I’m not sure how interested Stackhouse would be in the New Orleans vacancy, but the current Vanderbilt men’s basketball coach would be a nice fit for this young roster.
It’s become clear in today’s NBA that teams need a head coach who can connect with players and motivate them to do the little things needed to win at a high level. Above all else, the Pelicans need a culture builder.
Currently, New Orleans seems to have no real identity or philosophy, which they can operate from and fall back on during hard times. Stackhouse has been a culture builder everywhere he’s been. If Griffin truly wants to build a consistent winner, he needs to add a coach who can set the standard and the players elect to follow.
The only catch with my favorite choice is that a coach like Stackhouse will probably not be in favor of any meddling from the front office. This may go for any highly sought-after candidate too, but Griffin may have to learn to curb his ego some if he hopes to attract a top talent to what remains a very appealing roster for any candidate.
David Fisher: Wes Unseld Jr.
This Pelicans team still isn’t good defensively. They need a coach that can convince Zion and Ingram to give full effort on that end. Unseld checks the defensive box for me.
Denver does not have a player who screams defensive stalwart in their starting lineup (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr.), and yet the Nuggets have been league average or better in each of the last three seasons. I’ll let current head coach Mike Malone finish it off.
“Wes Unseld should be a head coach,” Malone said after the Nuggets convincing Game 7 win over the Clippers last season. “Our defense in the last three games has been phenomenal. To hold that team to 33 points in the second half? I think last game they scored 35 in the second half. Against the highest-rated offense in the first round of the playoffs? That’s unheard of.”
David Grubb: ???
These are always my least favorite types of questions to answer. I think we’ll all see our lists of usual candidates being named over the next couple of weeks, but it seems to me that the head coach of the Pelicans is David Griffin — until proven otherwise.
I don’t know which coaches, who are not desperate to get a head coaching position, will be able to overlook that. That’s a big work around coming into a highly-pressurized situation. If Griffin is looking for someone to share his vision, then he needs to be able to articulate that clearly to whomever becomes the next head coach.
Oleh Kosel: Charles Lee or Ime Udoka
Yeah, yeah, I know Griff said a few days ago that talk of T-Spoon ascending to the head coaching chair is premature right now, but there’s players on this roster — and sometimes the team as a whole — who showed they often need a fire lit under their rear ends.
“Understand who you are, understand your value, understand your worth. You can not allow one person to tell you who you are and who you can not become...”— Ashley Amoss (@AshleyAmoss) May 10, 2021
A little #MotivationalMonday from the great @Finisher_11 this beautiful morning. @PelicansNBA pic.twitter.com/BnOntTkLGr
There’s no way Eric Bledsoe or anyone else in the NBA who could claim they made a mistake after not paying attention to T-Spoon during a timeout.
Weatherspoon’s words would ring loudest from the top spot on the bench, and for her deficiencies, a strong group of assistants should alleviate most issues. Asides Kevin’s example of Steve Nash, don’t forget how much success the Warriors immediately enjoyed with Steve Kerr relying on Alvin Gentry, Ron Adams and Luke Walton.
But if the T-Spoon option truly needs more time marinating in an assistant’s role first, then either Charles Lee and Ime Udoka gets my vote. Incidentally, both men were in consideration to join Stan Van Gundy’s bench last October — so there’s little doubt how the Pelicans front office already views these two candidates.
David Grubb took an in-depth look at Udoka nearly a year ago, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Here’s a snippet:
Ime Udoka’s calling card has been defense, another area in which New Orleans has, shall we say, been incredibly deficient with a lack of adherence and execution of basic defensive principles including but not limited too:
- Man-ball awareness
- Bumping the cutter
- Going over/under screens
- Closing out on shooters
- Limiting penetration
- Defending the corner 3
- Stopping the ball in transition
- Help and recovery
As for Lee, don’t be fooled by his tender age of 36. He played the game professionally overseas, has been an equity trader on Wall Street and has served under Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee. He understands all walks of life that one is sure to encounter from a head coaching perspective.
Having closely watched Giannis Antetokounmpo for the last three years, that experience would serve him well transitioning to Zion Williamson. In addition, Lee is credited with helping elevate Khris Middleton to a multiple-time All-Star. Fun to ponder what he could potentially do for Brandon Ingram, right?
In theory, Stan Van Gundy sounded like a good choice. Accountability and defense were enormous priorities, but he failed to connect with a much younger generation. Lee nor Udoka will encounter the same problem.
Justin Vlosich: Ime Udoka or Teresa Weatherspoon
I’ll say Udoka is probably my favorite, besides Weatherspoon, for the Pelicans head coaching job. Many have voiced their support for T-Spoon, but that idea seemed to be quickly shut down by Griffin a few days ago.
With Udoka, he is a guy that can garner the respect of a locker room. He has coached for a winning organization, has played in the league, and has experience with player development.
The Pels need a head coach that can right the ship, and I think experience is the key. If Detroit is not willing to part ways with the former coach of the year in Dwayne Casey, a respected assistant across the league could prove to the players and fans that the organization is committed to winning.
There are a few options that I see as good potential hires, but all of them have 2+ years of experience in coaching, and many have playing experience. Hiring someone who hasn’t coached before or who has not coached in a long time is a risk the team should avoid.