Headhunting season on coaches closed with a flurry Monday: the Suns hired Terry Porter (no surprise), the Pistons hired Michael Curry (mild surprise - he was being groomed for a promotion, but a title hopeful putting a rookie in charge on the sideline is still a very gutsy move) and the Bulls reportedly decided on Vinny Del Negro (big surprise).
That leaves zero openings and one big reality check for Avery Johnson, who might have understood being passed over for Mike D'Antoni in New York but now has to consider the statement in getting little or no interest from Phoenix, Detroit or Chicago, teams that need to win now and still mostly preferred the unknown. Porter at least had two seasons with the Bucks, but that was a good 2003-04 (41-41) and a bad 2004-05 with a mass of injuries (30-52), hardly a resume that allows him to step into a Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/ Shaquille O'Neal locker room with instant juice.
Atlanta may still have a vacancy. Mike Woodson would ordinarily be riding the wave of the Hawks getting to the playoffs for a change and the scaring the Celtics in the first round, except new GM Rick Sund, hired May 28, has been noncommittal about standing by Woodson.
For now, though, all the jobs are finally filled. And a very interesting list of candidates remains for when the blood letting starts next season, updated with the latest in the annual summer shuffling.
The Big Names
Doug Collins. Only changed his mind on the Bulls twice in the last few weeks, so the latest statement that he is out of the coaching game comes with wiggle room. At the very least, he waffled enough to offer hope to the next potential employer. And if he is a permanent broadcaster, it's a win for viewers.
Flip Saunders. The marquee candidate if Collins stays retired.
Jeff Van Gundy.
The Next Wave
Elston Turner. Even with the disappointment of missing out on the Suns job, he started to generate the public recognition that will attract other possibilities. Few assistants had better offseasons. On an ever-shifting list - Scott Brooks went from popular young gun in the summer of '07 to mostly being on the outside this time - Turner moved to the forefront.
Tom Thibodeau. Getting a lot of credit for his work with the Celtics defense.
Chuck Person. Current Kings assistant.
Mike Budenzholzer. Next off the Spurs assembly line.
Keith Smart. Don Nelson continues to try and position Smart as his successor in Golden State. He can try all he wants. With Nellie saying 2008-09 might be his final season, or that it might not, the Warriors will wisely hold off on a commitment. Their future roster could attract a big name.
The Wild Cards
Phil Johnson. The automatic successor when Jerry Sloan retires in Utah. But it's getting late.
Rudy Tomjanovich. Continues to say he doesn't want to get back on the carousel.
John Calipari. Hard to believe the siren NBA won't call to him again.
The top assistants/prospects list is longer than usual because so few moved into No. 1 jobs, victims of bad timing as Sam Vincent got blown out after one season with the Bobcats, Larry Krystkowiak lasted one full season with the Bucks and Marc Iavaroni teetered in his first season with the Grizzlies before being brought back. But there will be more opportunity in the future, just as certain as the list will continue to shift. It always does.