The clumsy, on-again off-again talks between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers have mercifully come to a conclusion, with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers heading to Los Angeles in exchange for an unprotected 2015 first-round draft pick, pending league approval.
With Rivers headed to TinselTown, the Celtics are in need of a new head coach–and fast. The 2013 NBA Draft is on Thursday and, though it’s not necessary for Danny Ainge to hire a coach before then, that would be the ideal scenario.
According to the great Jackie MacMullan of ESPN (at this point, I think the ‘great’ has just become a part of her name), Celtics ownership was hesitant to pay Rivers $7 million to reside over a rebuilding (or, if we’re being optimistic, reloading) effort. Rivers also seemed hesitant to reside over a rebuilding effort–despite the $7 million.
If that’s the case, it can be assumed the Celtics will pay their next coach significantly less money, which would seem to knock some of the more high-profile candidates off Ainge’s wish list. George Karl or Stan Van Gundy might be interested in coaching a team in transition–but probably not without a contract with a lot of commas and a lot of zeroes.
If the Celtics are looking for the best fit, Lionel Hollins and Brian Shaw appear to be good candidates for the job.
Hollins led the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals, but his contract was not renewed at the end of the season. The former Grizzlies coach is similar to Rivers in the sense that he is seen as more of a motivator and team leader than an X-and-O’s genius. Hollins had a strong relationship with his point guard Mike Conley Jr., who lobbied for management to re-sign the 59-year old coach.
Ainge is quite familiar with Hollins, having played against him in their respective NBA careers, and he offered him an assistant job in 2004, according to Ian O’Connor of ESPN New York.
Danny Ainge/Doc Rivers offered Lionel Hollins a 600K wage to be a Celtics assistant in 2004. So Ainge has liked him in past.
— Ian O’Connor (@Ian_OConnor) June 24, 2013
Brian Shaw, on the other hand, has never been a head coach, but he has paid his dues in this league, having been the top assistant for Phil Jackson and, this season, Frank Vogel in Indiana. Shaw has received rave reviews from the likes of Larry Bird and Phil Jackson and has interview for many head coaching gigs without success so far.
Shaw was drafted by the Boston Celtics and spent his first three seasons in the NBA with the team. He was even briefly teammates with Ainge during his rookie season, before Ainge was traded to the Sacramento Kings.
Both Shaw and Hollins, however, are candidates to replace George Karl in Denver, so they may not be available, or their price tag might be too high for Celtics ownership.
In the event that the Celtics are looking for a cheaper alternative, a retread like Lawrence Frank (who was an assistant under Rivers in Boston) or, gulp, Vinny Del Negro might be an option, or a top assistant, like Miami’s David Fizdale.
Frank (Detroit) and Del Negro (Los Angeles Clippers) were recently fired from their respective head coaching gigs. Fizdale, of course, won a championship with the Miami Heat and is seen as a rising star in the coaching ranks.
For a more complete look at potential candidates, our editor emeritus Jay King, has you covered at MassLive.