There are very few jobs in the world with the lack of job security that NBA coaches face. In the NBA, coaches are shuffled in and out of teams like cards at a poker table.
Need a scapegoat? Fire the coach. Grumblings from your star player? Fire the coach. Didn’t live up to the high standards set the season before, largely due to said coach? Fire the coach.
A great season roaming the sidelines only earns you one year of good graces and leeway. And sometimes not even that: twice in the last decade a coach has been dismissed in the same week that they were revealed as the Coach of the Year.
Need more signs of the fickle nature? Five of the last seven coaches of the year have already lost their jobs (one twice!). Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is the only coach of the last five to win championships who still has his job. We’re less than two years removed from an NBA Finals matchup featuring two coaches who were just fired.
Kerr has stuck around by stringing good year after good year together, making the playoffs in seven of his nine years, the Finals six times, and putting four rings on Joe Lacob’s hand. And by being loved by the stars of the organization, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
But other coaches have not been so lucky, and are now potentially looking for new opportunities. In fact, since the All-Star break, six very well-respected coaches have been fired ... one in-season, and five since the year ended (a seventh, Dwayne Casey, is not being included since he’s already moved to a different role in the Detroit Pistons organization).
Might those players find a seat next to Kerr on the Warriors bench? The Dubs coach has made a habit of surrounding himself with experienced NBA coaches — give credit to his desire to not be the smartest man in the room, a trait the team’s previous coach sorely lacked. Mike Brown, Alvin Gentry, and Kenny Atkinson — three men with plenty of NBA head coaching experience — have spent a combined nine seasons next to Kerr.
So you know he’s always looking to add respected and established basketball minds to his bench, especially if Atkinson ends up taking one of the many jobs that he’s been linked to.
So let’s look at the six recently-canned coaches, in order of least likely to most likely to join Golden State’s bench.
This would be a funny hiring, since Warriors fans primarily associate Rivers with coaching the ultra-talented and ultra-disappointing Lob City Clippers teams.
“Cool story, Glenn” jokes aside, Rivers would be a great fit on the Warriors. He may have his flaws as a head coach, but he’s a great basketball mind who is respected around the league. He presumably has a good relationship with Curry, seeing as how he’s Steph’s brother’s father-in-law.
But I really don’t see any world in which Rivers accepts a role as an assistant coach.
Ready for a crazy fact? Doc Rivers has been an NBA head coach for 24 consecutive seasons. 24!!
When the Orlando Magic hired Rivers to be their head coach on June 8, 1999, Monet Poole was still 11 days away from giving birth to her son, Jordan. Rivers has been a coach in every single NBA season since, with the closest thing to a break being when the Magic fired him early in the 2003-04 season, and he waited until the end of the year to take a new job.
Not only has Rivers been a head coach for 24 straight years, but he’s never been an assistant coach. He finish playing in the NBA in 1996, took a few years off, and returned to the scene in a suit and tie in 1999, as the boss.
I would assume someone offers Rivers a head coaching gig but even if not, I’m sure he’d much rather chill at his Malibu home DoorDashing Nobu than take a role as an assistant.
Coach Bud is in a slightly different position than Rivers, as he spent a whopping 17 seasons earning his stripes as an assistant coach before getting his first head coaching opportunity.
But when he got it, it stuck. Budenholzer has coached two teams, but he’s spent each of the last 10 seasons prowling the sidelines as a head coach. That’s a long time to go as the man in charge, and he seems unlikely to want to take a step backwards.
Plus, Bud will almost surely be offered another job. He has a great track record, which features winning the 2021 championship and maintaining a strong relationship with his superstar player, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
I would love for the Warriors to hire Nurse, who beat them in the 2019 NBA Finals. He has some flaws, but in a tailored role as an assistant coach his creativity could do wonders for Golden State’s coaching staff.
But I would be very surprised if Nurse isn’t a head coach for someone next year.
If you could guarantee that all of these coaches would be available, Nurse might be the most likely to join Kerr’s staff. I just doubt he’s available.
Williams is in pretty much the same boat as Nurse. I’d be surprised if the Warriors don’t have an open invitation for him to join their bench, and I’d be even more surprised if he doesn’t get a job offer to be a head coach.
So why is Williams ranked ahead of Nurse, as more likely? Because I’m less convinced that he’s determined to be a head coach next year. He might be happy with a little hiatus where he can free himself of drama and learn some things.
Williams’ stint with the Phoenix Suns was tumultuous, through little fault of his own. The team was embroiled in a controversy that led to owner Robert Sarver selling the team after the league fined and suspended him due to sexual harassment and other forms of workplace misconduct. He had to coach an old star in Chris Paul and a young one in Devin Booker. He clashed heads with the team’s No. 1 pick, Deandre Ayton. He was tasked with working in Kevin Durant, who has gotten more than one coach fired in the past, on the fly.
Maybe he’d like a reset. He’s done it before: Williams was an assistant coach for five years, then a head coach for five more years. After getting fired by the New Orleans Pelicans, he spent two years as an assistant coach (for two different teams) before taking the Phoenix job.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he goes that route again, and given that he’s one of the most beloved coaches in the league by players (and by fellow coaches), he’d be a logical fit.
This one just makes sense on so many levels. Silas just wrapped up three years at the helm of the Houston Rockets, his first career head coaching gig.
Before that? 19 years as an assistant coach. That includes parts of five years with the Warriors, including Curry’s rookie year and part of his second season. He and Curry still have a strong relationship to this day.
Silas is respected enough that he’ll probably get head coaching interviews if he wants them, but he wouldn’t be considered a frontrunner. If he wants to remain in the NBA next season, the Warriors bench would probably be a landing spot that’s great for both sides.
Leading the way in this exercise is the one coach who was fired before the season ended. McMillan has already spent 19 years as an NBA head coach, but he’s also rebuilt himself as an assistant between stints twice, including as recently as the 2020-21 season. He’s a basketball lifer who clearly has no aversion to sharpening his tools as an assistant.
He’s also very well respected by NBA players (Trae Young excluded), and a very strong defensive coach, which the Warriors have been missing since Brown left and Ron Adams took a step back.
The Warriors would be a great landing spot for McMillan, too. The two knocks on his coaching have been his struggles adapting to the fast, space-oriented modern game, and his ability to manage star talents. What better place to sharpen those skills than on the Warriors?
We’ll see in the coming days if more coaches become available, or if any are linked to the Warriors.
Is there anyone you’d like to see sitting on Golden State’s bench next year?