With the news that New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson has been fired and Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has retired, there are two important coaching vacancies. Those vacancies come with some important issues — superstars who could be on the move. Should the franchises let Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony choose their next coaches in order to keep them with their respective teams?
The situation in Minnesota isn’t as bad as it may look on the outside. Sure, the state of Minnesota isn’t exactly a hotbed for free agents, but they’ve got a very solid core in place with Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic. Even if Love decided to opt-out of his contract after the 2014-15 season, it’s still attractive to play with a pass-first point guard like Rubio and a banger like Pekovic in the paint.
Still, Love is their star and the murmurs of his impending opt-out have been swirling for quite some time. If they give Love the final say in the coaching search, it could sway his decision to opt-in. Don’t forget — Love would still become a free agent after the 2015-16 season, he’d just be giving it one more season in Minnesota. From Love’s standpoint, he could choose his coach (and playing style), then give it two years and he’d still control his destiny as an unrestricted free agent.
If I were the owner, I’d give Love whatever he wanted. I’d accept responsibility for not giving him the kind of contract he deserved and I’d allow him to hand pick his next coach. With Love in the fold, a healthy Wolves team should make the playoffs in the Western Conference in 2014-15. Picking a coach that Love didn’t approve of would be as good as telling him to make sure the door doesn’t hit him in the arse on the way out.
NEW YORK’S SITUATION
The Knicks’ situation is a bit more dire, with Anthony’s free agency coming up this summer. He’s already noted that he wants to see what’s out there, although he’s also played it safe by saying he’d like to return to New York. The problem is — New York is not the place for someone who wants to be a contender next season. Their cap situation is dire and they don’t have a whole lot of draft picks to reload that way.
There’s a lot more danger to letting Anthony choose his next coach, because there’s no guarantee he’ll ever play for him. Where Love is definitely (barring a trade) going to be in Minnesota for another season, the Knicks are going to be bringing in a coach before they agree to terms with Anthony.
Imagine a situation where Anthony picks his next coach, then decides he’d much rather go to Chicago or Houston to play next season. This kind of chicanery has happened before in the NBA, most notably with Dwight Howard and his attempting to get Stan Van Gundy fired, then hugging up with him at a press conference as if it never happened.
If Phil Jackson believes in Anthony and allows him to choose his next coach, he had better keep a contingency plan in mind. Bringing in a great basketball mind like Steve Kerr might be a good decision for the long haul, but the Knicks won’t have much of a future without Anthony.
SHOULD THEY GIVE THE PLAYER THE DECISION?
In the end, the NBA is a team sport, but it’s dominated by superstars. You don’t see teams succeed without superstars in this day and age and those stars don’t come along very often. The Knicks are a desirable team to play for, so even if Anthony turned his back on New York, they’d be fine. Minnesota is a completely different situation. They need a star and they’re not getting one in free agency.
Bottom line — if you want a competitive team, you need a superstar. If you have a superstar and want him to produce, you have to make/keep him happy. If choosing his next coach is going to do that, by all means, let him do it. Love and Anthony should have the final say on who the next coach should be, for better or for worse.