Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

December 15, 2008
The rundown of possible replacements, again

This is not an exact replica of the list of candidates to replace Reggie Theus that appeared in the Nov. 19 post, a few weeks premature but relevant because Theus was pretty far out on the ledge. It's a close copy, though.

What changed in the interim is the NBA doing its part to drive up the unemployment rate. A year after Chicago's Scott Skiles was the only in-season firing of 2007-08, six coaches flooded have the market the first seven weeks of this campaign, some of whom will realistically come up in the Kings' search.

More credible, experienced names are now available -- Eddie Jordan, Maurice Cheeks, Sam Mitchell -- and the Kings desperately need credible and experienced. It will cost the Maloofs, but the risk may have just become too great to try another promising first-timer like Celtics assistant Mike Thibodeau. Four coaches in as many seasons -- Adelman, Musselman, Theus, Natt, since serving as interim coach for 58 games isn't very interim -- makes it so.

The new rankings:

1. Flip Saunders. He has been successful developing young talent and winning deep into the playoffs with veteran squads. But he'll cost you a lot. And it seems unlikely he'll jump at anything. Flip has the standing to wait for the job he wants, not take what becomes available.

2. Eddie Jordan. Not as strange as it seems considering Geoff Petrie fired Jordan in 1998. That was on orders from then-owner Jim Thomas and against Petrie's wishes, when the personnel boss didn't have the hammer he does now. EJ in Sacramento again after being fired by the Wizards would only appear to be going back to something that didn't work before.

3. Avery Johnson. He had a bad breakup in Dallas, but even people with the Mavericks speak highly of him. Johnson became famous for shutting out advice -- assistant coaches, the front office, veteran players. If that becomes his lesson learned from a rushed ascension to head coach, he could impress people.

4. Maurice Cheeks. Good enough that he's going to get a lot of interviews in the summer, and maybe before given the number of openings around the league. Including the job that used to be his in Philadelphia.

5. Tom Thibodeau. One of the bright assistant coaches, especially after getting a lot of the credit for the defense that drove the Celtics to the championship. Teams have liked him for a while. It would certainly be a money-saving move and the Kings are paying Theus and Eric Musselman at the same time now, plus Natt's salary bump.

The unlikely choices among the name candidates, in no particular order since I don't think any will get very far here:

*Doug Collins. Won't get far because he won't want to.

*Jeff Van Gundy. Would definitely bring the emphasis on defense the Kings lack. But a grinding personality behind the scenes. Not a bad guy, just wears out everyone around him. That gets you knocked down about 27 spots with this front office.

*Sam Mitchell. The personality thing.

I didn't drop John Whisenant in there and will end up regretting it if history is an indication. His name always comes up, prominent enough that he reportedly was in line as the interim once Theus got it. But the Maloofs signing off on their WNBA general manager after this run of coaching turnover would be their gamble of a lifetime.

That's a list with the caveat, if not the guarantee, that it will change. Some good team will get eliminated from the playoffs early and another A-lister may become unexpectedly available. Happens every year.

Plus, maybe Kenny Natt wows them. He's a real long shot now, but anything is possible. Don't the Kings know it.

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