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Shaun Powell

Despite a lack of coaching experience at any level, Mark Jackson was chosen to lead the Warriors.
Despite a lack of coaching experience at any level, Mark Jackson was chosen to lead the Warriors.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Taking a closer look at the Western Conference coaches


Posted Aug 16 2011 11:41AM

You know, Phil Jackson is available. And the Timberwolves haven't filled their coaching vacancy. Do you think ... nah, didn't think so either.

So we trudge on, taking an offseason look at the West coaches without Jackson and also without a mention of the Wolves until they find their man, whenever that may be. Actually, since there may not be any basketball for a while, why is there a rush to hire someone who will mostly just sit and stare at his office walls? Maybe Wolves GM David Kahn is smarter than you think.

Anyway, here's an update on the coaching situation of the other 14 teams and where they stand.

Mark Jackson, Warriors: See what happens when you refuse to pay your dues via serving as an assistant coach and instead spend the last few years talking a good game on TV? You get one of only 30 jobs and your boss ignores your lack of coaching experience on any level. Somewhere, Bay Area native Brian Shaw is kicking himself for wasting his time sitting next to Jackson for almost a decade.

Mike Brown, Lakers: Whether or not he was the first choice of the franchise player is the least of Brown's problems. He's walking into the most demanding job in the NBA, his roster is getting old and the dynamics of ownership are changing. Oh, and did we mention he's following Phil? Lucky guy.

Alvin Gentry, Suns: His timing is terrible. After reaching the conference finals two years ago, the Suns are now embarking on (as best we can tell) a rebuilding stretch where their aging two-time MVP point guard will either be traded or stay and perish slowly. Neither are good options for a coach in need of a star. Add the prospect of owner Robert Sarver keeping a close eye on the bottom line, and the immediate future doesn't seem too tantalizing.

Rick Carlisle, Mavericks: The good thing about winning a title is that it comes with a degree of tenure, which means Carlisle can loosen his collar. Coming off a brilliant postseason, especially in the NBA Finals, Carlisle is sitting pretty after a rather so-so profile much of his career. He's a no-frills coach who finally found the right owner and players. His former employers (Pacers, Pistons) never got better when he left.

Scott Brooks, Thunder: How does he deal with expectations? That surely will be worth watching for Brooks, who was largely credited with the emergence of the Thunder as a contender but, as coaches know, will receive some blame in the event of any significant slippage. Loved the way Brooks handled OKC in the postseason when he wasn't afraid to sit certain players down if they weren't producing.

Monty Williams, Hornets: He fulfilled the high hopes many heaped on him when he became a first-time head coach and won 46 games. By all accounts, the Hornets got themselves a good one with Williams, a quick study at 39. Of course, his job will become a bit tougher if the franchise point guard decides to take his talents to Broadway in the summer of 2012.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs: The plans of San Antonio's big man should give us an indication of how much longer Pop wants to coach. Maybe a few more seasons, because really, what's left for Pop to prove after four championships? The Spurs aren't exactly a team that spends heavily, so once rebuilding starts, it might hurt a while. That's a job for a younger coach with a lot more patience.

George Karl, Nuggets: He beat cancer and a mid-season trade of the Nuggets' franchise player, evidence that Karl is a fighter on multiple levels. He also loves to coach, which is why he refuses to stop and smell the Rocky Mountains, even though he likely has no need for money or slaps on the back. It has been one amazing transformation for Karl, a hot-head as a young coach who's now filled with wisdom and patience.

Nate McMillan, Blazers: He rowed the choppy waters of the Blazers' sharky corporate climate which devoured a pair of general managers in two years. He's averaged 51 wins the last three seasons in the competitive West but is still looking to make a big playoff breakthrough. McMillan seems equipped to coach a title contender; he just needs some luck with injuries and a supportive ownership.

Lionel Hollins, Grizzlies: Slowly but surely, Hollins has taken a comfortable mix of veterans and up-and-comers and molded them into contenders. It all reflects well on Hollins, a tough guy with a soft side who may wind up the best coach in Grizzlies' history. Something that, admittedly, isn't all that tough to do.

Paul Westphal, Kings: He was rumored to be on the chopping block, although people forget: Westphal works cheap, and therefore was is no danger of getting the ax after the coupon-clipping Kings endured their fifth straight losing and non-playoff season. Besides, the Kings' problems go deeper than the coach. Biggest issue with Westphal is how he deals with some of the Kings' young and immature players, who need to have their egos lowered and their confidence inflated.

Tyrone Corbin, Jazz: Times might get worse before they get better for Corbin, a lifetime assistant, and the Jazz as they try to find another John Stockton and/or Karl Malone. The good news: Judging on Utah's history, the franchise doesn't stay down for long -- when Corbin finished up for Jerry Sloan last season, it was only Utah's second losing season since 1983-84. The bad news: There's no proven star or franchise savior on the roster.

Vinny Del Negro, Clippers: He has the reigning Rookie of the Year and some intriguing talent on the roster, so there should be no excuse if Del Negro fails, as he did in Chicago.

Kevin McHale, Rockets: Friends advised McHale to wait for a better gig, but the urge to leave TV and return to the bench was too strong for McHale, who looks to build on his brief coaching experience from Minnesota.

View coaching situations in Eastern Conference

Shaun Powell is a veteran NBA writer and columnist. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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