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Vince Thomas

From The Floor

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Lakers point guard Derek Fisher is respected and admired by his teammates -- and opponents.
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These players could move seamlessly into coaching

By Vince Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted Sep 8 2009 7:45PM

So Mark Jackson still doesn't have a coaching gig in the league, huh? That kinda miffs me. His Pacers teammate, Reggie Miller, was visibly and vocally annoyed last summer when Indiana passed on Jackson for Jim O'Brien. I thought he might have copped his dream job -- for an NYC dude -- when the Knicks were looking last summer, but they went with Mike D'Antoni (much easier to swallow than O'Brien, I assume).

This summer Jackson was up for the Minnesota gig, which eventually went to Kurt Rambis. I guess it ain't easy getting from the booth to the bench, even if Jackson was one of the best leaders and smartest players of his era and holds cache/cred with today's hoopers. It almost seems like Jackson might have to spend a couple years as an assistant before he gets a look as a head coach. Not that we should shed any tears for the dude -- that's the normal route for most players.

But it doesn't/shouldn't have to be the route for every ex-player. I mean, if Vinny Del Negro can get the Bulls gig without any prior coaching experience, then, my goodness, Jackson should be able to eventually do the same. After all, he was basically a coach for his 16-year playing career -- a proverbial coach on the floor.

So Jackson's plight has me thinking about some current players that I see coaching in the future. Guys that can go directly from playing to coaching. Guys that have the brains to X-n-O it up and the stature to garner respect from a squad, to be leaders of men.

There are plenty of 11th and 12th men on NBA benches, right now, that will retire and work their way through teams' scouting, development and coaching ranks. I'm not necessarily thinking about those players. And I'm also not sold on cats like, say, Kevin Garnett (virtually a peerless leader as a player, but, perhaps too high-strung for the bench) or Kobe Bryant (yeah, he did a lot of coaching on "Kobe Doin' Work," but who can realistically see Kobe, in a suit, calling a fourth quarter timeout to stop a run?).

There's a certain personality profile that lends itself to coaching, especially the kind of quick transition that I'm talking about. Of the few players that immediately struck me, most were point guards, which didn't surprise me, since point guards, entrusted with running the offense, typically take on the type of leadership roles that would make for an easier transition to coaching. But, point guard or not, I'm sure each of these players' current coaches would say that they rely on these guys to do a lot of coaching on the floor; that they are, as George Karl said of Chauncey Billups, "extensions" of the coaches themselves.

So, if they so choose, these are the players that I think could be excellent coaches the second their retirement press conference ends. GMs, take note...

Derek Fisher: When the Lakers were on Jimmy Kimmel to show off their championship trophy, Kimmel asked the guys who was the coach's pet. Within a nanosecond, they all pointed at Fisher. The Lakers are scared and in awe of Kobe. They respect and admire Fisher. He'll coach some squad to a championship, if he decides he doesn't want to be a U.S. Senator or team president.

Chauncey Billups: When I started thinking about the player-to-coach transition, Billups and Fisher entered my head at about the same time. I thought Billups should have won Coach Of The Year this past season for the job he did with the Nuggets. He's probably the most paternal star in the league and a natural for the transition.

Andre Miller: Stoic, smart and stately. The Sixers had a ridiculously young rotation for the past couple seasons and there's a reason they remained competitive and in the playoffs -- the 33-year-old point guard. We'll see what they do this season, now that Dre moved west to Portland.

Tayshaun Prince: One of my favorite sub-stories from the Redeem Team's gold medal run was watching Prince kneel in front of Dwight Howard to teach him something or saddle up beside Howard to teach him some more. Howard would get lost on a few pick-n-rolls, take a seat on the bench and Coach K would dispatch Tay to go teach.

Jameer Nelson: Jameer is a Young Fisher, just with more game. He is the leader of that Magic team. It almost seems laughable that, just a couple years ago, he was in a fight with Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling for playing time.

Rajon Rondo: Despite some of the reports out of Boston that Rondo has a bit of a petulant-streak, I think the kid is born to be a coach. Any youngster that can assert himself as confidently as he has on a team with KG, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen (three of the preeminent vets in the league), can be a great coach. Watch Rondo this season and check the way he barks orders and directs traffic. I see a lot of Avery Johnson in him.

Carlos Boozer: Booz has that even-keeled personality that has "coach" graffitied all over it. The three years at Duke helped, too.

Shane Battier: And speaking of Duke ... you knew this one was coming, right?

Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. His "From The Floor" column appears weekly on NBA.com. Vince invites you to email him at vincethomas79@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/VinceCAThomas.

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