Shiny & New Theme Week

Nine coaching changes mark start of 2018-19 season

Dan McCarney,

As NBA history has shown, roster changes are commonplace in the offseason. That doesn’t just apply to the players, though, as coaches and teams often part ways or join up once the offseason begins, too. The summer of 2018 was no different. Eight teams found new coaches … and one team gave its interim coach the full-time gig. Here’s a quick look at the new faces holding clipboards in 2018-19:

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Atlanta Hawks

In: Lloyd Pierce

Out: Mike Budenholzer

The Hawks have declined in each of the past three seasons, falling from 60 wins and an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals to last year’s 24-win showing. Enter Pierce, who immediately staked his claim on the defensive end. “That’s who I am,” he said. Second-year GM Travis Schlenk puts even more value on his experience with the Sixers’ grueling rebuild, which will be put to good use as the Hawks begin their own renovation in earnest.

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Charlotte Hornets

In: James Borrego

Out: Steve Clifford

The architect of multiple championship teams with the Lakers, new GM Mitch Kupchak chose a fellow title winner to man the sidelines in Borrego, a Spurs assistant from 2003-10 and again from 2015-18. He’s lauded for his player-development skills, and he’ll need them with a Hornets team that has been treading water for years.

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Detroit Pistons

In: Dwane Casey

Out: Stan Van Gundy

The Pistons were only too happy to pounce on Casey after his surprise firing in Toronto. While the Raptors could never scale the mountain that was the LeBron James-led Cavaliers, they still enjoyed the best stretch in franchise history on his watch. But the standards are higher in Detroit, where three championship banners hang, and the widely-respected Casey says he’s ready to chase it: “We want to win right now.”

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Memphis Grizzlies

In: J.B. Bickerstaff

Out: David Fizdale

Bickerstaff’s interim record in replacement of Fizdale wasn’t good (15-48). But the Grizzlies were still impressed with his performance, particularly his ability to connect with players and foster a positive atmosphere despite Memphis’ worst finish in a decade. Aiding Bickerstaff’s task will be the return of veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr. following season-ending surgery and the addition of promising rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr.

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Milwaukee Bucks

In: Mike Budenholzer

Out: Jason Kidd, Joe Prunty

Budenholzer’s job is simple: Forging a contender around the immense abilities of franchise star Giannis Antetokoumpo. His emphasis on ball and player movement, keys to his early success with the Hawks before the roster fell apart, should help the Bucks improve on their mediocre 3-point shooting. In his own words, however, the bigger task will be “unlocking” their defensive potential after finishing 19th in points per 100 possessions.

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New York Knicks

In: David Fizdale

Out: Jeff Hornacek

The Knicks’ perpetual rebuilding job now falls to Fizdale, who reportedly turned down an offer from the Suns in the hopes of landing in Gotham. While the Knicks have won a grand total of one playoff series since their last Finals appearance in 1999, it’s not hard to see why. All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis is one of the NBA’s best young players (when healthy) and there should be enough cap space to make waves next summer.

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Orlando Magic

In: Steve Clifford

Out: Frank Vogel

Clifford’s results in Charlotte — two playoff appearances in five seasons, a .478 win percentage — were generally uninspiring. Clifford remains respected, however, primarily for his defensive acumen. But the Hornets finished in the top 10 in offensive efficiency just once under his stewardship, and that could be a problem for a Magic team that was no better than mediocre in most stats season.

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Phoenix Suns

In: Igor Kokoskov

Out: Earl Watson, Jay Triano

The Suns made history by hiring Kokoskov, who became the first NBA coach born and raised outside the U.S. He’s a rookie in name only, though. The Serbian native has been an NBA assistant since 2000, including a lengthy stint with the Suns from 2008-13. “I don’t consider myself a European coach,” he said. “I’m an NBA coach.” This much seems certain: He’s got great timing, returning to Phoenix just as No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton arrives.

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Toronto Raptors

In: Nick Nurse

Out: Dwane Casey

Casey wasn’t the first coach to ever be sacked after a string of disappointing playoff results. He is, however, only the fourth Coach of the Year to not return the following season thanks to his dismissal after a sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers. Nurse, who takes over after five seasons as a Raptors assistant, already has two advantages over his predecessor: Kawhi Leonard is in uniform, and LeBron James is off to the Western Conference.

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