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12 Cavs coaching candidates who could be in the race to succeed JB Bickerstaff

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavs made their first big offseason move Thursday, firing coach JB Bickerstaff after more than four years.

“JB is a highly respected NBA coach and an incredible human being,” said President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman. “Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively pushed players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back and remember where the rebuild of this franchise began under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to advance a franchise and ultimately compete for championships.”

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Last season, Cleveland won 48 games, finished fourth in the Eastern Conference and advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time without LeBron James in more than three decades. That still wasn’t enough. It’s about the future. There are other franchise-altering decisions ahead.

But it all starts with finding the right coach. Altman and general manager Mike Gansey are expected to take some time to relax over the weekend. They will soon begin compiling a list of potential replacements, a search that is expected to include names with previous head coaching experience as well as potential rookies.

So where could the Cavs turn?

Here’s a look at some candidates to watch, in alphabetical order:

Denver Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman.

David Adelman

Adelman is the Nuggets’ top assistant and has become a popular name following Denver’s title run last season. In his seventh season with the Nuggets, he is also one of many candidates to replace the fired Darvin Ham in Los Angeles.

Kenny Atkinson, Warriors assistant coach.

Kenny Atkinson

A rival executive rated Atkinson, currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, as the early favorite, although that seems premature.

Atkinson, a former college point guard, began his NBA coaching career as an assistant to Mike D’Antoni in New York about 15 years ago. He got his first (and only) head coaching opportunity eight years later, guiding the Brooklyn Nets through a rebuild and reaching the playoffs in his third season before resigning amid an ownership change and sweeping changes to the team. squad that included the arrivals of Kyrie Irving and Kevin. Durant.

Atkinson is known as a great player development coach with an affinity for analysis, two things Cleveland’s front office highly values.

James Borrego, interim head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

James Borrego

Currently an assistant for the New Orleans Pelicans and a candidate for the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy, Borrego has 331 games of head coaching experience and no playoff appearances. Mentored by Gregg Popovich, Borrego is known for his effective strategies and detailed X’s and O’s. He is considered the driving force behind the Pelicans’ offensive improvement, ranking just outside the top 10 after being ranked 20th before his arrival.

Johnnie Bryant.

Johnnie Bryant

The Cavs don’t need someone with ties to star guard Donovan Mitchell so he can sign a long-term extension. Mitchell is happy in Cleveland. He has said it numerous times. He believes in the direction of the organization.

That could be enough.

But no one has meant more to Mitchell’s career than Bryant: a friend, mentor and former developmental coach. Bryant does not have any head coaching experience. But he has been Tom Thibodeau’s associate coach in New York for the past four years, expanding his role and preparing for a bigger job.

Could it be your time?

Sam Cassell, assistant coach of the Boston Celtics.

Samuel Cassell

Cassell, currently an assistant for the Boston Celtics, will soon get a job as someone’s head coach. Cassell, a three-time NBA champion, considered highly respected by players and praised for his developmental skills, recently reunited with the Lakers. He received 7% of the preseason votes for best assistant in the league. He has also been on the staff of the Wizards, Clippers and 76ers.

Alex Jensen.

Alex Jensen

Sometimes coaching hires are about relationships. Just look at the Cavs’ pursuit five years ago. He ended up with John Beilein, who coached Gansey in college, was extremely close to Altman and had Gilbert’s eye on Michigan for years. The trifecta. Next came Bickerstaff as Beilein’s right-hand man, an obvious line that could be drawn to his father, Bernie, who was already in the organization at the time and had a years-long connection to Altman.

Enter Jensen, who landed his initial pro job with the Charge, as the first head coach of Cleveland’s G League affiliate. After a brief period there, Jensen moved to Utah, where he became one of Quin Snyder’s top assistants and spent years alongside Mitchell.

Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Dave Joerger (right).

David Joerger

Joerger not only has a couple of head coaching stints on his resume (Memphis and Sacramento) but he spent a brief stint with the Cavs as a coaching consultant to Bickerstaff before joining Doc Rivers in Milwaukee midseason. Some thought that made him the obvious choice to replace Bickerstaff if a layoff occurred during the season. Joerger has intimate knowledge of Cleveland’s situation and its roster. The Cavs clearly like him.

Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori.

Mica Nori

Have you been watching the NBA playoffs? Nori is the Timberwolves assistant who stepped up to replace injured head coach Chris Finch. While he’s knee-deep in the conference finals, with a Minnesota team that has title aspirations, there’s a widespread belief that the Cavs would at least like to have a conversation with him, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to him. get an interview. at some point in this process. An Ohio native, Nori has also been an assistant in Toronto, Sacramento, Denver and Detroit.

Former NBA player JJ Redick (left).

Redick, the popular podcaster and ESPN analyst who has been on the NBA’s radar for years, is rumored to be a leading candidate for the Lakers’ head coaching job.

But what if you determine it’s not the right fit?

Redick, a polarizing candidate due to his lack of coaching experience at any level, has a deep understanding of the game and its modern principles. He would help infuse new ideas and bring a different voice. He is also highly respected in the league and has connections to numerous players and organizations.

Terry Stotts.

Terry Stotts

With extensive head coaching experience (the Portland Trail Blazers’ bench boss for parts of nine seasons and stints in both Atlanta and Milwaukee), Stotts fits the ready-made profile. He also has experience maximizing a dynamic defensive zone (Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum), turning the Blazers into a top-10 offense in six of nine years.

Stotts was created to be an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks, but resigned in October of last year.

Before this season, NBA general managers were asked to identify the best assistant coach in the league, and Stotts finished second behind Jordi Fernandez, the new Brooklyn Nets coach in whom the Cavs would have been interested.

Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Sean Sweeney (right).

Sean Sweeney

Teams often try to select assistants from successful organizations. With the Mavericks in the West finals, Sweeney could be one of those under-the-radar names to watch. Not only do the Cavs have a former Dallas executive on their front office, but Sweeney is considered a defensive czar, helping the Mavericks rise to near the top of the playoff standings in that category, an obvious choice for a Cavs team that prioritizes defense.

Frank Vogel.

Frank Vogel

Vogel is the only realistic candidate (unless Tyronn Lue leaves Los Angeles this summer) with an NBA title as a head coach. He won it in “The Bubble” with LeBron James. He also led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014. Despite a strong resume and previous success, the Suns fired Vogel in favor of Mike Budenholzer after just one season filled with expectations that didn’t go as planned. planned. He is also considered an elite defensive mastermind.

Others to see: Portland assistant Scott Brooks, Miami Heat assistant Chris Quinn, former Lakers assistant Phil Handy, former Villanova coach Jay Wright.

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