Marty Burns
Friday May 25th, 2007

Call it the Avery Johnson Effect.

Every NBA team with a coaching vacancy (outside of Houston, at least) seems interested in hiring a young former player who can relate to today's Gen X stars. It's a by-product in part of the performance of Johnson, who has enjoyed unprecedented success (at least in terms of regular-season victories) in his first two seasons with the Mavericks after making the leap from assistant to head coach.

It doesn't hurt, either, that these assistants usually come cheap.

The Bobcats are the latest example of the Avery Johnson Effect. Charlotte is expected to announce Friday that it has hired Mavs assistant Sam Vincent as its next coach. Never mind that Vincent, 44, has only one year of NBA experience on the bench; he fits the profile more than anybody because he was right alongside Johnson all season.

That's why we're hearing of so many relatively inexperienced young former players being mentioned for some of the league's five open coaching positions (Seattle, Sacramento, Indiana, Memphis and Orlando). Every team is intrigued by the idea of another Little General. But if you're a casual NBA fan, you've probably heard some of the names mentioned and wondered, Why are these guys getting the opportunities?

Here's a look at seven "next Avery Johnson" candidates (i.e., those without any previous NBA head-coaching experience) who are in the mix for jobs around the league:

Marc Iavaroni

Not exactly an unknown anymore, since his name has been getting tossed around like Larry Brown's for openings the past two years. Still, most fans wouldn't be able to pick this Suns assistant out of a lineup, unless they happened to recognize him from his marching up and down the sideline behind Mike D'Antoni the past few seasons. Iavaroni actually was a former star for the Sixers, helping them win the 1983 title, and has been a longtime assistant with the Cavs, Heat and Suns. He has worked under Pat Riley and Mike Fratello, as well as D'Antoni, so he certainly has had great mentors. Iavaroni has been mentioned most prominently in connection with Memphis, but he could end up just about anywhere.

Mario Elie

This former Rockets and Spurs guard, who sat out last season after two years as a Warriors assistant, was Avery Johnson before Avery Johnson. Two years ago he was considered a hot candidate because of his status as a young former player who could relate to today's stars, but it never panned out. He looked to be in line for the job in Golden State, where he served under Mike Montgomery, but he didn't remain on staff after the Warriors hired Don Nelson. Elie is back in the mix now: He interviewed in Charlotte and could be a candidate in Orlando. More likely, he will return as an assistant next season, either in Houston (under his former coach, Rick Adelman) or in Dallas (with former teammate Johnson).

Brian Shaw

The former Lakers guard has spent the past two seasons on Phil Jackson's staff in L.A., and is considered another up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. He has championship rings from his "Shaw-Shaq Redemption" days with the Lakers, and at age 41 he is still young enough to relate to today's players. He interviewed for openings in Indiana and Sacramento. He also could get a call from Orlando, where he spent three of his 14 seasons as a player.

Chuck Person

The Rifleman has emerged as a possible dark-horse candidate in Indiana, where he is popular from his playing days. As an assistant to Rick Carlisle the past two seasons, he knows the personnel. Prior to that, he worked with players as an administrator. The Pacers are said to be seeking a coach who can instill discipline and make players accountable, so Person's relationships there could give him an edge. The Kings reportedly have interest as well.

Jim Boylan

Though not a former NBA player, Scott Skiles' lead assistant in Chicago fits most of the other criteria. The 14-year assistant with the Suns, Hawks and Bulls is credited with helping Skiles develop a young, unselfish Chicago team that plays hard each night. Boylan also has some legitimate college playing experience, having been a key member of Marquette's 1977 NCAA title team. He recently interviewed with the Pacers.

Tom Thibodeau

Jeff Van Gundy's right-hand man in New York and Houston, he is currently out of a job after the Rockets' recent coaching change. But the longtime assistant is well-regarded for his work, especially in the areas of game preparation and player development. Though he too never played in the NBA, he has worked his way up the coaching ladder over 17 seasons with the T'wolves, Sonics, Spurs, 76ers, Knicks and Rockets. Thibodeau recently interviewed with the Kings.

Scott Brooks

The former point guard, who won a ring with the '94 Rockets, has moved up fast in the coaching ranks, serving three years as a Nuggets assistant and then last year as part of Eric Musselman's staff in Sacramento. Prior to joining Denver, he served one year as head coach of the Southern California Surf of the ABA. He has interviewed for the Kings' job, but it is unclear if any other teams are interested.

Will any of these assistants get jobs for next season? Look for Iavaroni to land somewhere as he seems anxious to make the jump. The others might have to wait a year or two. Of course, anybody who doesn't get the call now will have to keep his fingers crossed. After all, who knows how long it will be before the Avery Johnson Effect fades and the NBA trends back toward hiring big-name retreads or college coaches?

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