The Hawks had loads of causes to fireplace Nate McMillan. Back-to-back disappointing seasons. A poor observe document of participant improvement. An old-school offense that feels utterly misplaced within the fashionable NBA. The Hawks had been justified in altering coaches purely primarily based on what occurred on the court docket, and but, it is exhausting to miss what occurred off of it as a potential motivator for McMillan’s ouster.
In December, Trae Young missed sat out of a recreation towards the Denver Nuggets. The Athletic later reported that his absence was resulting from a disagreement with McMillan. Young, coping with a shoulder damage on the time, missed that morning’s shootaround to obtain therapy. McMillan reportedly gave him two selections: come off of the bench towards the Nuggets, or sit out the sport totally. Young apparently selected the latter, and didn’t attend the loss to Denver.
There is not any larger teaching sin within the fashionable NBA than angering a star. Coaches are replaceable. Star gamers aren’t. So as we take into account potential replacements for McMillan, we not solely want to contemplate how these coaches would possibly work with Young on the court docket, however how snug they’d be with Young off of it. Relationship-building is a very powerful power a coach can have in 2023. With that in thoughts, listed here are the most effective candidates to switch McMillan in Atlanta:
1. Quin Snyder
Quin Snyder tops this checklist as a result of Quin Snyder goes to prime each teaching candidates checklist this cycle. That’s what occurs if you win almost 59 p.c of your video games for the small-market Utah Jazz. Snyder has constructed winners round a number of perimeter ball-handlers in Utah, and his pick-and-roll heavy system is a match made in heaven for Young. If the Hawks can land Snyder, they most likely ought to.
But competitors for him goes to be fierce. It’s unclear which jobs are going to open up this offseason, however on the very least, there are going to be groups within the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes which are on the lookout for a brand new head coach, and people groups are going to enchantment to each Snyder and Wembanyama, given Snyder’s expertise with fellow french large man Rudy Gobert. Snyder simply spent a decade making an attempt to compete for a championship and not using a championship-caliber roster in Utah. If the Hawks are going to persuade him to attempt once more, they will need to promote him on a roster that, proper now, is struggling simply to achieve .500.
2. Mike D’Antoni
D’Antoni carries a lot of the identical enchantment as Snyder: a observe document of regular-season success and offensive mastery, however he is not going to draw almost as a lot consideration after being out of the NBA for the previous two seasons. At 71 years outdated, it is unclear how for much longer D’Antoni goes to need to coach, but when Atlanta is open to a shorter-term rent, D’Antoni checks loads of bins for the Hawks.
He’s uniquely certified to teach a two-point guard offense having achieved so in Houston with James Harden and each Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. He coached new Hawks basic supervisor Landry Fields after they had been with the Knicks. He’s about as player-friendly as any coach within the NBA, and given his observe document of manufacturing MVPs, he’d seemingly enchantment to Young fairly a bit. He would not clear up the defensive points which have plagued Young’s groups for his complete profession, however D’Antoni’s groups have achieved fairly a bit on their offenses alone.
3. Ime Udoka
Ime Udoka is seemingly obtainable now that the Celtics have elevated Joe Mazzulla to everlasting head coach, and in contrast to D’Antoni, he is about as protected a defensive wager as you will discover on the present teaching market. Boston ranked thirteenth in protection in Brad Stevens’ ultimate yr on the helm. Last season, Udoka had them ranked first. In the second half of the season, it wasn’t even shut. From Jan. 20 on, the 4.5-point per 100 possession hole between No. 1 Boston and No. 2 Phoenix defensively was greater than the hole between Phoenix and No. 18 Charlotte.
The greater query right here is how Udoka — who was suspended by Boston for having an inappropriate relationship with a employees member — would mesh with Young. Last season, Udoka wasn’t shy about criticizing his gamers in public. Yet when he misplaced his job, various them got here out in his assist. That’s a really tough tightrope to stroll, however the reality is that Young is the form of participant who usually must be criticized. If Udoka can achieve this with out dropping him totally, he’ll be an excellent slot in Atlanta.
4. Kenny Atkinson
Kenny Atkinson made his title as an assistant in Atlanta below Mike Budenholzer. He thrived in a low-pressure surroundings for the rebuilding Nets. But when the Nets landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving? Atkinson did not final a full season. It’s unclear the place precisely issues went fallacious, however Atkinson has been choosy since then. He accepted the Hornets job final offseason earlier than finally deciding towards shifting to Charlotte. Could the Hawks persuade him to return?
That’s unclear, however Atkinson’s observe document of creating younger gamers would certainly enchantment to a Hawks staff that is working with fewer commerce belongings than its opponents. He coached a stellar pick-and-roll-centric offense in Brooklyn as nicely contemplating the expertise he needed to work with. The basketball match is right here. The solely query is whether or not or not Young and Atkinson make sense as a pairing.
5. Charles Lee
Lee is one other Budenholzer disciple, and he is nonetheless working together with his mentor in Milwaukee. Unlike our first 4 candidates, he has no head-coaching document to fall again on. That will not be the case for lengthy. Lee has been among the many most extremely regarded assistants in basketball for a number of years now, and whether or not it is Atlanta or any person else, he’s going to get a head-coaching job quickly.
A primary-time head coach may be each a blessing and a curse. Udoka’s season in Boston is an ideal instance of that. He wanted a number of months to regulate to the highest job, however as soon as he did, he had no dangerous habits or outdated biases to fall again on. Does Atlanta need to look ahead to a first-timer to determine it out? The Hawks won’t have time for that. Dejounte Murray is a free agent in 2024, and due to the present CBA, he’s nearly unextendable. If the Hawks do not determine issues out rapidly, they may lose him for nothing subsequent summer season. That’s going to make this job much more tough for whoever lands it. That coach will not simply need to appease Young, however Murray as nicely.
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