13 of the NBA’s teams will start the 2013-14 season with a new head coach. That has become a pretty standard story line in professional sports, which is a results business. Of those 13 new coaches, nine of them will be coaching in the NBA for the very first time. It’s time to introduce Michael Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Brett Brown, David Joerger, Brian Shaw, Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Brad Stevens and Jason Kidd to the world of NBA head coaching.
Michael Malone – Sacramento Kings
Malone has never served as a head coach even at college level. He served as an assistant between 1994 and 2001 with Oakland, Providence and Manhatten before getting an opportunity as an associate with the New York Knicks. He served with the Knicks until 2005 before working with the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers from 2005 until 2010. His most recent claim to fame came over the last two seasons serving on Mark Jackson’s coaching staff with the upstart Golden State Warriors. The NBA’s General Managers named Malone as the league’s top assistant in 2012.
His task in Sacramento is extremely difficult. He joins an organization fighting for its future, and one that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2006. His biggest challenge is finding some way to focus DeMarcus Cousins and help his young potential star on the front court to find his game.
Jeff Hornacek – Phoenix Suns
Hornacek joins his former team after limited coaching experience, but plenty of professional basketball pedigree. He was a part of the trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that brought Charles Barkley to Phoenix, but he was also a good player in his own right averaging more than 14 points and nearly five assists per game in an NBA career that spanned 1,077 games. He was involved with coaching in his post-playing career, but only took on a full time assistant coach role with the Utah Jazz in 2011.
His immediate task with the Suns is to develop young talent while ensuring that Phoenix stays in contention to finish badly enough to pick Andrew Wiggins first overall in the 2014 NBA draft. Plenty can be learned about a head coach even on a very bad team though.
Brett Brown – Philadelphia 76ers
Brown served as a head coach in Australian basketball for nine years bringing success both to the North Melbourne Giants and Sydney Kings in the NBL. He impressed enough in Australia to earn a place with one of the league’s top franchises in the San Antonio Spurs. He served as a bench assistant for Gregg Popovich from 2007 until 2013 and that can only bode well for the 76ers.
Philadelphia are pretty similar to Phoenix right now. The best case scenario is a very high draft pick. Brown’s first serious task is working with some decent young pieces in Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Michael Carter-Williams.
David Joerger – Memphis Grizzlies
Joerger is perhaps the most intriguing of the brand new head coaches. He spent several years working as a head coach in semi-professional leagues and also in the D-League with the Dakota Wizards. He stepped up as an assistant coach with Memphis in 2007 and held that post until he was chosen to replace the very successful Lionel Hollins after last season.
Joerger is apparently more on-board with the Grizzlies’ ownership than Hollins was in terms of his coaching approach. He has a stable roster and he is familiar with the line-up. In that sense he has a significant advantage over some of his fellow rookie coaches. He inherits a Memphis team that should be very competitive even in a tough Western conference. However, he must find a way to fill in for a very popular coach who led this franchise to its first ever conference finals appearance. Joerger definitely faces a tough task to replicate an impressive 2012-13 season while coming to terms with life as an NBA head coach.
Brian Shaw – Denver Nuggets
Shaw is perhaps the most hyped of all the rookie head coaches after he was generally considered Kobe Bryant’s preferred option for the LA Lakers position last Fall. He worked as an assistant in LA between 2005 and 2011 before spending the past two seasons with Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers. Shaw is considered to be a protege of Phil Jackson and has been tabbed as a potential head coach for some time now.
He takes on the Nuggets’ job. Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson are the backbone of a team that is still talented, but lost depth and Andre Iguodala during the offseason. Shaw has a serious task with high expectations in 2013-14.
Steve Clifford – Charlotte Bobcats
Clifford is the latest man to step into the hell that is calling Michael Jordan boss. He has been a long-time assistant in the NBA serving with the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and most recently on last season’s Lakers staff. Clifford has a reputation as something of a defensive expert largely built on a successful stint under the Van Gundy brothers in Houston with Jeff, and then with Stan in Orlando.
His task in Charlotte should be simple. Improvements from Kemba Walker and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist combined with the additions of draft pick Cody Zeller and free agent Al Jefferson should be enough to improve this franchise’s record. However, Jordan is known for his impatience. Can Clifford impress him enough?
Mike Budenholzer – Atlanta Hawks
Few NBA head coaches have had a better tuition than Budenholzer. He has spent the last 17 years as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs, and he has been working as Gregg Popovich’s right-hand man over the past six seasons. Budenholzer will know exactly what it takes to be successful and the length of his tenure can only be a good sign for an Atlanta franchise that is attempting to build from the bottom once again.
Budenholzer’s first task is to keep the Hawks competitive and hope that he can start building something that is attractive for big free agents next offseason. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford should provide enough to get this team into the playoffs, but good coaching will be critical.
Brad Stevens – Boston Celtics
Stevens comes into a major coaching role taking charge of the most successful franchise in NBA history after getting used to capturing headlines at college basketball level. His ascent to an NBA coaching role has followed a relatively simple trajectory. After serving as an assistant with the Butler Bulldogs from 2001 until 2007, he was appointed as the head coach and led Butler to improbable back-to-back national championship appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Stevens signed a long-term contract with Celtics’ General Manager Danny Ainge making it clear that it is the coach’s job to re-build in this case. It won’t be easy though and it will be interesting to see how Stevens deals with professional basketball players, in particular Rajon Rondo who even Doc Rivers reportedly has some problems with.
Jason Kidd – Brooklyn Nets
For many Kidd is the most intriguing of all the head coaches. His playing career ended after the 2013 NBA playoffs and he is headed right onto the sidelines as a head coach. He spent some of the best years of his career as a player with the Nets, but there are serious questions surrounding the ease with which he will be able to make the transition.
Kidd won’t be able to stave off the pressure either. Brooklyn’s management have made it clear that they believe the window for winning an NBA championship is probably only a year or two for what is an ageing roster. Kidd better find his NBA coaching feet very quickly.