Jordan on the spot as Bobcats look for new coach after dreadful season
Make that two clocks that are ticking loudly now for the embattled Michael Jordan.
The Bobcats and their ineffective -- some say incapable -- owner announced Monday that Paul Silas would not be returning for a third season, leaving vacant a job that Jordan hopes will eventually come with a specialized title: Anthony Davis' coach. Even before Jordan was faced with this decision, one of the many colleagues who will never let him live down the selections of Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison was joking about his next big chance to choose: the upcoming draft, where the Bobcats are in the best position get the first pick and land the dynamic big man from Kentucky.
"I hope Jordan doesn't [screw] that up," one general manager told me recently.
Now he has a real choice on his hands, a move that won't be nearly as much of a no-brainer as drafting Davis but could be as important. Jordan, who has denied reports that he wants to sell the team but is clearly being cautious financially, has loads of salary-cap space and the potential No. 1 pick with which to entice some of the best coaching names in the game. But it remains to be seen if he'll spend top dollar to find the right fit.
Will he pay up for the likes of Raleigh native Nate McMillan, the jettisoned Trail Blazers coach who still has a strong reputation, or former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni? Or might his Error-ness be looking at a worthy up-and-comer, someone like Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, Warriors assistant Michael Malone or Silas' son, Stephen, who carried a heavy load as an assistant both on his father's Bobcats staff and with Golden State under Don Nelson?
Former Warriors and Kings coach Eric Musselman could be worthy of another look, too. He was named NBA Development League Coach of the Year last week for leading the Los Angeles D-Fenders to a league-record 38 wins and the Western Conference title in his first season. His recent résumé is heavy on player development, with Nets small forward Gerald Green among the six D-Fenders players who were called up on his watch. Musselman also coached Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin for 20 games with the D-League's Reno Big Horns last season.
Jordan recently broke his trend of hiring lifelong friends when he brought on general manager Rich Cho, a widely respected executive from the league's new-age department of roster building. Cho was hired a month after being unfairly fired last May in Portland, where he worked with McMillan, and you'll struggle to find anyone in the NBA who criticizes that assignment by Jordan. It was a sound and smart move, the rare exception to his rule that needs to continue.
As such, the phone of Magic assistant and Jordan's good friend Patrick Ewing shouldn't be ringing from the 704 area code anytime soon. But odds are that it will, especially because Jordan and Ewing talked about the job before Silas replaced Larry Brown in December 2010 and it was speculated then that Ewing would come on board as head coach eventually.
A second Magic assistant, Steve Clifford, is another name to remember as someone who could receive an interview. And if Ewing did, in fact, wind up getting his first shot as a head coach, Clifford could even come with him as a package deal of sorts.
Silas, who hadn't coached since his days helping raise LeBron James in Cleveland from 2003-05, was never long for the job. He told me as much in the summer of 2010, saying he would consider a return to the NBA only if it was as the Bobcats' coach. He lived in the area and was willing to work for "one or two years" at a position that he characterized as "for young people." Regardless of his team's record-setting futility (7-59 record and NBA-worst .106 winning percentage) and his reported locker-room tiff with power forward Tyrus Thomas late in the season, the 68-year-old was a place holder.
The next guy is likely to hold that place a while longer. If Jordan gets lucky, his new coach will be overseeing the early stages of Davis' promise-filled career and -- depending on the owner's every move -- the future of this struggling franchise.