NBA coaching carousel: With six vacancies, Becky Hammon and Chauncey Billups could get new jobs

·6 min read

In Portland, there is an opportunity to coach Damian Lillard. In Boston, there is a head coach job open with one of the NBA's premier franchises. In Indiana, the Pacers need a new coach to lead a team featuring Domantas Sabonis. In Orlando, the Magic seek a coach to energize their rebuild around promising young talent.

In Washington, the Wizards want a coach to lead Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, and in New Orleans, the Pelicans have an intriguing opportunity to coach Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

Six NBA head coaching vacancies with six different circumstances.

It’s possible there are one or two more openings, and all indications point to Atlanta removing the interim tag from Nate McMillan’s title and making him the head coach based on the job he did after taking over the Hawks in March.

Last offseason and in-season, there were 10 NBA head coaching changes, including four (Atlanta’s McMillan, Brooklyn’s Steve Nash, Los Angeles Clippers’ Ty Lue and Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers) whose teams are still in the playoffs.

Noteworthy plots exist within these coaching searches. Will this be the year an NBA team hires the first female head coach?

Will a team add to their diversity by hiring another Black head coach? There are seven Black head coaches, the same number the league had at the start of the 2019-20 season.

We take a look at the six openings and possible candidates:

Portland Trail Blazers

Let’s start with Portland, an attractive job. The Trail Blazers and Terry Stotts didn’t come to terms on an extension so the two sides parted ways. General manager Neil Olshey said he planned to put together a list of 20-25 candidates for owner Jody Allen, the sister of Paul Allen who died in 2018. The list will be winnowed to a manageable size for interviews.

Chauncey Billups watches from the sideline during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver.
Chauncey Billups watches from the sideline during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver.

Lillard, a six-time All-Star and face of the franchise, may not have the final say in who is chosen. But it's prudent for Olshey to get his input as the Blazers make an important hire as Lillard enters the first year of his four-year extension in 2021-22.

Allen wanted the list to include women candidates, and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon will interview for the job, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about candidates. The Blazers also received permission to speak with South Carolina women’s coach Dawn Staley.

The Blazers also plan to interview or have interviewed Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach and former NBA champion Chauncey Billups and Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni. Olshey could also pull a surprise with a men’s college basketball coach.

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There is the belief among insiders that Billups, who played point guard, is an early favorite.

“He’s really locked into drawing up plays, what plays to run, knowing the system, knowing the play calls, and he’s done a tremendous job,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “And now just seeing him on the floor coaching a five-on-five game, steadily improved and he’s done a great job. Just his poise, he’s able to hold guys accountable."

Boston Celtics

Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley
Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley

The Celtics didn’t have the season they wanted – the seventh seed and a first-round playoff exit – and it resulted in changes. Danny Ainge stepped aside as president of basketball operations and Brad Stevens moved from coaching into Ainge’s job.

Stevens’ first major decision: hiring someone to replace him and coach a team led by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Stevens interviewed Celtics assistants Jay Larranaga, Scott Morrison and Jerome Allen and plans to broaden the search to include Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham and Billups, a person with knowledge of the process told USA TODAY Sports. ESPN reported the Celtics wanted to interview Nets assistant Ime Udoka, Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley and Bucks assistant Charles Lee. Coaching insiders indicate the Celtics will hire externally rather than promoting from within.

With Tatum and Brown and it being the Celtics, there will be huge expectations in an ever-improving Eastern Conference. The Celtics have played in the conference finals in three of the past five seasons, and ownership made it clear earlier this month that championship No. 18 remains the top priority.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers dismissed Nate Bjorkgren after one ill-fated season in which Bjorkgren alienated players and staff with his demeanor.

Indiana went through this process a year ago, and finalists included Ham, Udoka, Philadelphia assistant Dave Joerger – the former head coach in Memphis and Sacramento – and Miami assistant Dan Craig.

The Pacers, who also interviewed Hammon last year, have done initial due diligence on Stotts.

One thing is certain: Indiana needs a coach who relates well to players after the Bjorkgren debacle.

Orlando Magic

The Magic are in the early stages of their process, but Hammon is on their list of people to interview.

Orlando parted ways with Steve Clifford in one of the rare cases of it actually being a mutual agreement. The Magic are headed for a rebuild – they trade Nik Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier at the trade deadline – and the playoffs are not an immediate goal.

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is a strong candidate for the Magic coaching job.
Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is a strong candidate for the Magic coaching job.

This opportunity gives a coach a chance to develop and build with some promising young talent in Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke, Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton, Wendell Carter Jr., and multiple first-round picks in 2021, 2023 and 2025.

Player development is key for whoever gets this job. This job could be tailor-made for a first-time head coach willing to put their stamp on the team, the same way Quin Snyder did in Utah.

Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans

These two jobs just opened up, so both teams are early in the process. Any good person in charge of basketball operations has a working list of potential candidates.

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard faces an important decision as he looks for a coach who can mesh with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.

The Pelicans just went through a coaching search last year before hiring Stan Van Gundy, who lasted just one season.

Houston assistant Will Weaver, Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley, and now-Los Angeles Clippers coach Ty Lue and were among the finalists for the job last year. Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson also received consideration.

Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin plans to expand his search that is expected to include Pelicans assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

Other names worth watching

  • Denver associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr.

  • Former Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry

  • Former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce

  • Warriors associate coach Mike Brown

  • Former Golden State assistant coach Jarron Collins

  • Former Blazers and Timberwolves assistant Dave Vanterpool

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA coaching rumors: Will Chauncey Billups, Becky Hammon land jobs?