I’ve been looking into potential coaches recently. I don’t claim to know what the Jazz plan to do with Corbin this offseason, but if they decide to go in a different direction, I wanted to get an idea of who may be coming to SLC.
I’ve broken my list down into three categories: NBA coaches, international coaches, and college coaches. This post will just detail some candidates who are currently coaching college teams (plus one assistant coach whose name comes up regularly). I also want to point out that I don't follow college basketball, so I've highlighted these coaches because I've heard good things about them. If there are any other college coaches you want me to look at, tell me about them in the comments.
Mark Few (Gonzaga)
Age: 51; Experience: 15 years; Tournament Appearances: 15 (4x Sweet 16)
Style: On offense, Gonzaga uses a simplified version of the Flex. Few also isn't shy about getting into transition, and doesn't mind the transition 3. His teams are often highly ranked in FG%, and they take a good number of free throws. Defensively, he's been adapting the last few years, including starting to run his opponents off the three point line. His teams have generally been very good at defending the shot. They don't get a lot of blocks, implying that Few doesn't rely on athletic rim protection in his schemes.
Personality: I haven't been able to find too much on his personality. He has a reputation for being loyal, evidenced by his dedication to the midmajor Gonzaga (he's supposedly had offers to coach at larger schools). He has done an exceptional job in recruiting, which implies that he's a solid communicator and can be convincing, but his players haven't found much success in the NBA. (It's only been one partial season, but Kelly Olynyk may already be the most successful Zag coached by Few. Ronny Turiaf is probably #2)
My Take: I'm not sure we'd be able to get Few since he's under contract with Gonzaga through 2015 and hasn't expressed any desire to leave, but even if a buyout is possible I'm not sure I'd want him. His main strength seems to be recruiting, which isn't as important at the NBA level. While he's turned Gonzaga into a respectable team, I don't think he'd do well in the NBA... at least not yet.
Tom Crean (Indiana)
Age: 47; Experience: 15 years; Tournament Appearances: 7 (1x Final Four)
Style: Crean recently implemented a high pace offense to the Hoosiers, and some of those teams were top 5 nationally in scoring efficiency. Transition scoring is important, and he's fantastic at teaching players to finish at the rim. Despite the efficient scoring his teams seem to possess, they don't have a well established half-court game which causes them problems if they allow their opponent to slow down the pace. He likes players who can defend multiple positions, but I couldn't find much else on his defensive schemes. On both sides of the court he likes to see athleticism and effort, often at the expense of sound fundamentals.
Personality: He loves hard workers and competitors. He expects all of his players to give everything they have at all times, so he tries to make practices as game-like as possible. He also has a reputation for being one of the hardest working coaches around. He does tend to be rather closed off to the media, but his communication with players appears to have never been an issue.
My Take: Crean would be an interesting choice (especially in the Jazz draft Vonleh). I think we have the type of team that could play really well under Crean, since we're young and athletic. The problem is that his reliance on athleticism would limit our ceiling. He does a nice job of making sure his players are physically prepared for every game, and they stay in great condition. For me, I see him as a better fit for an assistant than as a head coach.
Bill Self (Kansas)
Age: 51; Experience: 21 years; Tournament Appearances:15 (2x Finals, 1x Champion)
Style: He's had at least 9 teams rank top ten in defensive efficiency over the past decade, so he obviously knows what he's doing on that side of the ball. He plays a relentless defense, though he doesn't like to press too often as it can lead to easy shots for his opponents if they break the press. On offense he likes to attack the basket, and he considers long jump shots to be 'soft.' He doesn't seem like he's averse to the 3-pointer, but I haven't found anything that says it's a focus of his offense.
Personality: He's stubborn and forceful, but in a good way. He has high expectations for each of his players, and expects them to meet those expectations. He has a reputation for treating all of his players equally, and holding each accountable in their role, no matter what that role may be. He's an excellent communicator, and likes to use the word 'convince,' rather than 'teach.' He's also relentless at this. He won't stop harassing players until they buy into his system.
My Take: I'd like Self to come coach the Jazz, but I think it would take quite a bit to get him here. Self was recently voted the most likely college coach to be a head coach in the NBA by GMs, so if Lindsay wants him there will be some competition. That said, I'm not sure that Self want to leave the college game right now. He seems to really like his job, and he's well compensated, so I'm not sure if the NBA has that much appeal.
Buzz Williams (Marquette)
Age: 41; Experience: 7 years; Tournament Appearances:5 (1x Elite Eight)
Style: Williams has outlined his philosophy pretty clearly:
less than 13 points allowed in transition, at least 72 percent of offensive possessions resulting in the ball getting into the paint, at least 19 free throws made, more free throws made than the opponent has attempted, less than 10 turnovers, at least 13 forced turnovers, at least a plus-3.5 rebounding advantage and an opponents’ field goal percentage worse than than 39 percent
He pays attention to every possession and expects maximum effort on both sides of the court. His offense tends to be very balanced, and relies heavily on fundamentals and planning.
Personality: He's relentless, high-strung, and expressive. (He has a reputation for dancing on the sidelines after a great play.) He genuinely loves his players and is fiercely loyal. He's also ambitious and will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He loves to communicate, but has a tendency to ramble to the media.
My Take: I think Williams would have a rough transition to the NBA. He really relies on scouting and game-planning in his schemes, and I think the long and tight schedule of the NBA would really get to him at first. That said, if he was given the time I think he would become a phenomenal NBA coach. I'm not sure if the Jazz would be willing to invest several more years in an unproven coach that may struggle, but if he had the right people around him I would be happy for the Jazz to bring him in.
Billy Donovan (Florida)
Age: 48; Experience: 20 years; Tournament Appearances:14 (3x Finals, 2x Champion)
Style: Donovan prefers to run an early offense in transition. He likes to move fast and stay in the secondary break. If possible, he likes the ball to get to the post before the defense has set. If he can't get solid post position, then he moves to the spread pick and roll. On defense, Donovan has been up and down. Within the past few years, however, he's embraced advanced analytics and shown his players how to be more effective on that side of the court, giving them the goal of keeping their opponents under 0.90 points per possession. His teams now have 3 primary objectives on defense: prevent easy shots (layups, dunks, etc.), prevent the 3, and force turnovers. While he's been very successful at protecting the rim, his teams have often allowed an above average number of 3-pointers, this has been mitigated by their ability to keep opponents 3-point percentage low.
Personality: Like Self, Donovn convinces his players to buy into his system. He's a fantastic teacher, and likes consistency. He likes his players to stick around, so he either avoids recruits who are obviously one-and-dones, or he convinces them to stay longer. His love of consistency makes him very loyal, which may have played a part in his refusal to leave Florida University to coach the Orlando Magic. He is very family oriented and is rumored to have turned down several coaching jobs in order to avoid having to move his family.
My Take: I'm a fan of Billy Donovan, but I don't think the Jazz will be able to pry him away from Florida. His initial contract with the Magic was for about $5M per year, and I would expect it would take a similar number to bring him to the NBA now. (For comparison, that's about the salary range of Tom Thibodeau, Rick Carlisle, and Greg Popovich.) I don't see the Jazz being willing to spend that kind of money for a first time NBA coach. Combine that with his desire to keep his family in Florida and I don't see him coming here, despite how well he may fit.
Mike Longabardi (Suns Asst.)
Age: 41; Experience: 7 years assistant coach
Style: Jeff Hornacek brought him in as a defensive specialist, so that's where he really shines. (He worked under Doc Rivers with Tom Thibodeau, as well as with Jeff Van Gundy.) His schemes are fairly straightforward and center around protecting the paint and preventing the 3, and doing so without fouling. He understands the connection between offense and defense and preaches that good defensive effort will result in better offensive opportunities. I haven't found much on his offensive philosophy, but he has stated that personnel has an impact on style of play.
Personality: He's very committed to his family, and loves to spend time with them. He's well-spoken and articulate, and looks to explain clearly to his players what the his expectations are and how they will be held accountable. He's generally patient and understands that processes have to be put in place and followed.
My Take: Sometimes I think some Jazz fans want to steal Longabardi from Phoenix just because they stole Hornacek from us. I'd be okay with that. He's probably the most prepared candidate on this list and I think his credentials match up with what Lindsay is trying to do. I'm guessing that he'll be courted by several teams this summer, but I'm not convinced he'll leave Phoenix after spending only a single year there, especially if it means moving his family again.