The coaching carousel started spinning a bit faster on Wednesday, when Toronto announced that Jay Triano would not be returning.
It's rare that firings come as such a surprise, but Triano -- who went 87-142 in nearly three full seasons and was 22-60 without Miami-bound forward Chris Bosh this season -- was widely considered to be safe as long as team president and general manager Bryan Colangelo was still on board.
Colangelo was given a two-year extension in mid-May, but he made the move on Triano anyway in order to land a more defensive-minded coach. Triano was retained as a consultant.
"For our team ... we need somewhat of a pedigree or résumé," Colangelo told reporters in a conference call, "someone who has somewhat of a defensive-minded presence [and] a flow to the offense."
Dallas assistant Dwane Casey and Boston assistant Lawrence Frank were almost immediately linked to the job as likely candidates, in part because both have previous head-coaching experience (Casey in Minnesota, Frank in New Jersey) but also because of their defensive reputations.
And once again, the coaching waters were muddied with the Raptors' revelations.
Casey and Frank have both been in the running for the vacant Golden State position, but the Warriors appear to be shortening their list. According to sources close to the process, candidates have been told that only "two or three" coaches will interview with owner Joe Lacob as finalists. ESPN/ABC analyst Mark Jackson is believed to be the only candidate to have had two interviews, including one with Lacob.
Sources have previously confirmed meetings between Warriors front-office officials and Mike Brown (now the Lakers' coach), Casey, Lakers assistants Brian Shaw and Chuck Person and New Orleans assistant Mike Malone (who is also in discussions to join Brown with the Lakers). According to a source close to the situation, Malone is expected to meet with Lacob next week as well. Frank and former Houston coach Rick Adelman are also reportedly candidates, although a source close to Adelman said on Wednesday that he was not aware of any discussions between him and the Warriors.
"Look at the coaches who really produce coaches in this league: Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and also Larry Brown," West said at his introductory news conference. "They produce more coaches in this league, and so they have to have something unique in terms of how they teach, how they interact with the players."
While it's unclear which candidates have fallen out of the running, a source close to the process said Person is still receiving consideration and that he has West's support. The same can be said for Jackson, and it's unclear how much of a factor that will be as Lacob will be making the final call. Casey is coaching in the Finals, and it is believed that he is still being considered, too.
Person was with then-Pacers coach Rick Carlisle in Indiana before heading to Sacramento. He was fired along with Reggie Theus in December 2008 before joining the Lakers as a special assistant in 2009. He was added to Phil Jackson's bench the following season, took over the Lakers' defense midway through the 2010-11 campaign and was credited with a significant turnaround on that end. It remains possible that he returns to the Lakers as part of Brown's staff as well.
Mark Jackson is consistently questioned because of his lack of experience as an assistant, but he has no shortage of supporters within the league. His innate leadership skills and institutional knowledge from 17 seasons as an elite-level point guard are routinely touted by those who know him best, and his national television platform has allowed him to share his insights with all who tune in.
With investor Tom Gores' purchase of the team becoming official on Wednesday, the clock is ticking louder than ever for coach John Kuester.
Sources have said since the season's end that Kuester was likely to be fired once the sale went through, and that chorus continues. As reported by ESPN.com, former Atlanta coach Mike Woodson is expected to receive consideration for the likely vacancy. Two other possible candidates are Mark Jackson and Malone, as well as usual suspects like Casey and Frank. As if going 57-107 in two seasons with the Pistons wasn't trying enough for Kuester, his case was seriously hurt by his frequent battles with players this season.
Kurt Rambis remains in limbo. General manager David Kahn has been mulling his coach's future since season's end and there are no indications when the final call will come. A source close to Rambis said recently that he was "cautiously optimistic" that he would be retained, although it's believed he would be told to make changes to his staff if that was the case. Rambis has two years remaining on his contract, and his buyout is for a reported $4 million should the team decide to fire him.
Kahn certainly has other matters to tend to at the moment. He reportedly finalized an agreement with Ricky Rubio on Tuesday to play in Minnesota next season, this after the Spanish point guard was taken fifth overall in the 2009 draft only to return overseas. There's the matter of the team's current draft selection as well. Minnesota is widely known to be dangling its No. 2 pick to any team willing to discuss a package that includes high-level veteran(s) in return.
While a source close to the situation has said interim coach Frank Vogel is likely to return on a one-year deal, it appears he'll have to make some concessions for that to occur.
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The Pacers were 20-18 under Vogel, the 37-year-old who took over for Jim O'Brien midseason and was praised for the way his team competed in the five-game, first-round loss to Chicago in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Should the Pacers part ways with Vogel, Adelman and Casey are reportedly candidates.