The Cleveland Cavaliers have an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving and a player full of potential in shooting guard Dion Waiters, but the Cavaliers find themselves without a coach. Let’s look at the top candidates to replace Byron Scott as head coach.
Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant fired Scott on Thursday, April 18, after the Cavaliers finished the 2012-13 season with a 24-58 record and had the third-worst record in the NBA. The Cavaliers lost 16 of their final 18 games, spelling the end of Scott’s three-year tenure in Cleveland.
1. Brian Shaw
Brian Shaw was an assistant coach under Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and is currently the top assistant coach under Frank Vogel for the Indiana Pacers. One of the knocks against Shaw was that he was a one-dimensional coach due to his experience under Jackson and the triangle offense. However, this season in Indiana, Shaw has helped Paul George become an All-Star this season after small forward Danny Granger struggled with injuries throughout the season and appeared in only five game. He showcased the ability to develop players, which is paramount on the young Cavaliers roster. The Pacers do not use the triangle offense, which shows that Shaw is not stuck in one style of offense. Shaw’s experience as a point guard could also improve the development of Irving.
2. Stan Van Gundy
Stan Van Gundy is the best coach available not named Phil Jackson. However, Van Gundy would most likely look at higher profile jobs like the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. However, there is not a more balanced coach offensively and defensively in the NBA. Whether with the Orlando Magic or Miami Heat, Van Gundy adapted his offensive and defensive scheme on the personnel he was given, instead of forcing a system onto the players. In Miami, Van Gundy played aggressive perimeter defense designed to keep teams out of the paint. His offense utilized the athleticism of guard Dwayne Wade and post presence of Shaquille O’Neal, but was No. 16 in the NBA in 3-point shot attempts. In Orlando, the defense was focused on funneling the action toward Dwight Howard and preventing the 3-point shot. The offense was focused on the post presence of Howard and featured extensive use of the 3-point line and the Magic were in the top five in 3-point field goals made in each of his five seasons in Orlando. Van Gundy will be a great fit on any team, but is Cleveland the right fit for Van Gundy?
3. Mike Budenholzer
Mike Budenholzer has spent the last 18 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. The last five seasons have been as the No. 1 assistant under Gregg Popovich. There is no better person to coach under than Popovich and having the opportunity to do so for 18 seasons is invaluable experience. Budenholzer has the capability of turning around one of the worst defenses in the NBA. The Cavaliers were No. 25 in the NBA in opponents points per game, allowing 1o1.2 points per game.
4. Alvin Gentry
It all fell apart this season for the Phoenix Suns beginning with the Steve Nash trade to the Los Angeles Lakers on July 5 (it became official on July 11) and the subsequent decision to sign Michael Beasley to a free-agent contract. Beasley struggled throughout the season and Phoenix finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. Gentry can bring his high tempo offense to Cleveland, which can allow young athletes like Irving, Waiters and small forward Alonzo Gee to flourish. Cleveland may struggle defensively, but something has to fix an offense that finished No. 19 in the NBA, only scoring 96.5 points per game.
Nate McMillan was one of the best defensive coaching minds in the NBA as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. From the 2008-09 through 2010-11, the Trail Blazers finished in the top 10 in opponents points per game. Part of what derailed McMillan’s coaching tenure in Portland were the devastating knee injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. The one potential downside is the deliberate pace that McMillan’s teams play with, which may not be conducive to athleticism of Irving and Waiters. The offense could help the young Cavaliers develop a controlled offense that is can better help orchestrate scoring opportunities and make each possession count. Cleveland would be the perfect opportunity for McMillan to get back into coaching.