The NBA playoffs are in full swing and so is the NBA coaching carousel. As the Conference Finals come to a close, teams that have been eliminated are busy making moves to get back to the NBA’s promised land. The Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and Indiana Pacers have hired new head coaches to lead them next season. It seems the Portland Trail Blazers have their sights set on a new coach as well.
The NBA Coaching Carousel
Boston Celtics – Ime Udoka
Ime Udoka was named the Celtics head coach earlier this week. Stepping in for now-President of Basketball operations Brad Stevens, Udoka set himself apart from the other candidates early on. The former Brooklyn Nets assistant played in the league for seven seasons before retiring. Udoka coached under Gregg Popovich for another seven years as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He also spent a year working with Brett Brown on the Philadelphia 76ers staff. Udoka’s connection to coach Popovich may have been the biggest factor in his hiring.
Popovich has coached Team USA since 2015. Udoka joined the team as an assistant coach for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. During this tournament, Udoka got to work directly with Celtics’ core players, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. According to reports, the coach has a great rapport with these young players, which had to have a positive impact on his stock during the hiring process. Despite being a Popovich disciple, Udoka is his own man, well-liked around the league. Udoka was a defensive specialist during his playing days. Celtics fans can expect an emphasis on defense and effort from their new coach. Regardless of any future success, coach Udoka has already made NBA history. The 43-year-old is the first NBA head coach to be born in Nigeria.
Dallas Mavericks – Jason Kidd
When former coach Rick Carlisle stepped down in Dallas, he said that he hoped Jason Kidd would be his successor. While it is unprecedented for an organization to take the advice of a coach on his way out, the Mavericks did just that, hiring their former point guard to take over the franchise. Dallas hired former stars, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Finley as consultants. It came as no surprise to many that they recommended their former teammate. The Hall-of-Famer was a hot commodity this year, with rumors that Damian Lillard wanted him to be the next coach of the Trail Blazers. It is also known that LeBron James was interested in having Kidd as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach, where he would eventually assist on Frank Vogel’s staff.
Kidd saw mixed results while coaching the Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. He had success in Brooklyn, leading the team to the playoffs in his first season. However, an alleged power struggle in the front office led to Kidd moving on to coach the Bucks. In Milwaukee, Kidd did not see the same results on the court. He finished over .500 only once in his three and a half seasons there. He is credited with the individual success of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The All-Star was upset over Kidd’s firing and benefited from the coach’s focus on player development. This is what Mark Cuban and the rest of the Mavericks front office are looking for. It is believed that franchise player Luka Doncic did not get along with Carlisle. Dallas is hoping that Kidd can help Doncic continue to blossom and take this franchise back to the NBA Finals.
Many around the league question this decision, wondering aloud if Kidd can improve on his losing career record. There are also those that believe in this move of course. Who better to work with a star guard and lead the Mavericks to a championship than the last star guard to win one with the team?
Indiana Pacers – Rick Carlisle
When the Pacers moved on from Nate Bjorkgren, they decided to bring back a familiar face. Carlisle got his start with the Pacers as an assistant coach to Larry Bird in the late nineties. He went on to coach the team from 2003-07, making the playoffs in three of those four seasons. Carlisle left Indiana to coach the Mavericks in 2008. His 13-year stint as the Mavericks head coach made him the third longest-tenured in the league prior to stepping down. Only Popovich and the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra have spent more time on the same bench during Carlisle’s career. The most memorable part of the coach’s successful run in Dallas is of course the 2010-11 season that ended with an NBA Championship.
Rumors swirled around Carlisle’s interest in heading to Milwaukee had they lost their second-round matchup. Coach Mike Budenholzer was on the hot seat at the time and may find himself back there if the Bucks can’t beat the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers should be good for Carlisle. Their roster includes talented offensive players and they can continue to build around All-Star Domantas Sabonis. Carlisle fits well for Indiana. He has a successful history with this franchise and could very well have them back in the playoffs next season. After botching the decision to fire Nate McMillan, the Pacers needed to find a good coach that is invested in staying long-term. With Carlisle, they were lucky to find both.
Portland Trail Blazers – Chauncy Billups
At long last, it appears Chauncy Billups will have a head coaching job in the NBA. The 17-year veteran is currently an assistant coach for Ty Lue and the Los Angeles Clippers. The history of the league has shown us that former point guards often make good head coaches. A great point guard is often another coach on the floor. People close to the Clippers state that Billups has been valuable in the improvements of Terance Mann and Luke Kennard this season.
Billups will be a great mentor to Blazers star Lilliard and can help develop some of the younger talent on this roster. It is likely that Portland will make some offseason moves to improve their supporting cast, so what the new coach would have available remains to be seen. Billups is of course busy getting his team ready for their next game against the Phoenix Suns, but he looks to be a good fit for the Blazers once he is officially available.