During the last few weeks, several teams filled their vacant coaching positions and entered a new phase of their franchise's futures.
There was longtime Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer accepting the post in Atlanta. Warriors assistant coach Michael Malone jumped to the Kings to head the new era in Sacramento. Larry Drew left Atlanta to take on the charge in Milwaukee. Even Masai Ujiri left Denver to take on the challenge in Toronto.
The NBA is seeing plenty of turnover as the Finals are getting set to start and the NBA Draft comes up after that. The 2014 season is right around the corner.
For the guys taking over new teams and, sometimes, getting their first shot at manning a team, they will have to solve the very same problems that have plagued their predecessors. In reality, their tenures will be about solving the problems their predecessors could not solve. There will not be a whole ton of turnover in many of these situations or, if there is, the same problem plaguing the franchise.
What problems await Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, Larry Drew in Milwaukee, Steve Clifford in Charlotte and Michael Malone in Sacramento? Let's examine:
MIke Budenholzer, Hawks
Long-time Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer will take over charge for the Hawks once the NBA Finals begin and he takes over a franchise very much in transition. As things stand, Atlanta is set to have a bit less than $22.5 million committed for next season with Josh Smith set to hit free agency, most notably. The Hawks have $26 million and are expected to make a run at one, if not two, major free agents this summer (tampering allegations aside).
The Hawks have long been a respectable franchise in the middle of the Eastern Conference, but are largely ignored nationally and never were a championship contender. Even after trading away leading scorer Joe Johnson, and knowing Josh Smith would probably walk in free agency this summer (still a very distinct possibility), the Hawks finished sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Talk about being stuck in the middle.
Budenholzer will bring some changes, but what he can do with the Hawks will depend on what Danny Ferry does with the roster.
In all likelihood, Atlanta will spend some of that cap space the team has and lose Josh Smith. And so with a core of Jeff Teague, Al Horford and a free agent to be named later, it sure feels like the Hawks are not going anywhere closer to a championship fast (unless that free agent is a big free agent such as Dwight Howard or Chris Paul). Budenholzer's hands might be tied a bit with his first coaching job.
Larry Drew, Bucks
Much like Budenholzer, Drew's biggest challenge with Milwaukee will not quite be known until the roster gets settled a bit. The Bucks have a big decision upcoming abut whether to match whatever restricted free agent offer Brandon Jennings will receive and/or re-sign Monta Ellis to a long-term contract. Not to mention J.J. Redick's free agency this summer after acquiring the sharpshooter mid-season.
Throughout the year, it was assumed the Bucks would match any offer given to Jennings and he would remain the centerpiece. However, now there are reports that the Bucks are leaning more toward signing Ellis and letting Jennings walk.
Either way, it seems the Bucks are no closer to solving their guard dilemma this summer with any of their three guards. Is Drew the right guy to reign this team in and get them to the next level? Like Scott Skiles, Drew is a defensive-minded coach. His offense favored the isolation sets that made Joe Johnson successful. Or maybe that was just th epersonnel he had in Atlanta and the continuity that came from hiring a guy off of the former coach Mike Woodson's staff.
This will really be Drew's first chance stepping out on his own as a head coach. This Bucks team will be how he st opportunity to strike out on his own and create his coaching identity. Or maybe we know exactly what Drew is as a coach -- and that probably does not make Milwaukee fans too excited.
The question Michael Malone, the long-time assistant coach finally getting his first head coaching job, is the same question that has plagued Kings coaches from Keith Smart to Paul Westphal. It is not good for a young player when he has had two coaches in three years.
The inability to get a grip on DeMarcus Cousins -- and to some extent Tyreke Evans -- has left the Kings at the bottom of the standings perpetually and locked away some really talented players from reaching their full potential. Sacramento is hoping that Malone is the guy to resurrect the Kings.
Now that the team's future is a bit more settled and new ownership is coming in, maybe that will open up the pocket books some. Sacramento will also be getting a new general manager. This should all help improve the roster. But player development still falls on the coach. And so far, no coach has really gotten through to Cousins or helped Evans recapture his rookie year brilliance.
Steve Clifford, Bobcats
Ah, the Bobcats.
Unless Patrick Ewing is joining the staff to play and hops in a time machine before that, there might not be a lot Clifford can do in his new head coaching gig. Charlotte has plummeted to the bottom of the NBA with no clear way up.
This new coach has his work cut out for him.
The first step is to get some real, discernible, reliable talent in there. Charlotte just does not have anyone they can build around. No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was an extreme disappointment and the Bobcats this year were the only team among the worst three in the league to get knocked out of the top three picks. Picking fourth may not help much in this Draft either.
And so, you have to wonder if Clifford will be able to connect with the players and get a longer leach than Mike Dunlap did. Dunlap had an improved team but still got fired after just one year. It is hard to tell which way the Bobcats want to go.
Clifford should not be the taskmaster that Dunlap was, so he should fare better. But we all know there is only thing Michael Jordan cares about in the end.
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