The search for a new head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers seems to be heating up. The first face-to-face interview occurred Monday, and several others are scheduled for this week. This accelearated level of activity seems to fit well with the original time frame, to have a coach in place in time for the June 27th NBA draft. That's just two weeks from Thursday, and one presumes that the new coach would want to be around more than a day or two in advance. If you figure that they'll want a coach at least a week before the draft, then you can see that next week is decision time.
The search, which so far has included more or less every name one might hope it would, seems to have zeroed in on five primary candidates. Four of the candidates, Indiana assistant Brian Shaw, former Nets/Hornets/Cavs head man Byron Scott, former Sonics/Blazers coach Nate McMillan, and recently let go Grizzles coach Lionel Hollins have been scheduled for interviews this week (Shaw's took place on Monday, Scott is up today). The fifth, George Karl who was fired by the Nuggets last week, is viewed as a favorite for the job by many, though he has not yet been scheduled for an interview and precious little has been said about his interest in the job.
This has been unlike any coach search in franchise history for one simple reason -- this is a really good job. Even in 2010, with stars-in-waiting Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon as a carrot for coaching candidates, the search focused on assistants and relatively inexperienced head men like Vinny Del Negro, Dwane Casey, Elston Turner, Kelvin Sampson and the like. That was the offseason Chicago hired Tom Thibodeau, by the way, a hire that was made before the Clippers even seemed to get serious about their search. This season any coach who reasonably believes he could have a shot at the LA job would likely wait until the Clippers make their decision before accepting another position. This is, after all, the only 56 win team with two All-NBA players in their prime currently looking for a head coach. And in stark contrast to the 2010 search in which I can't think of a single serious candidate who had ever won a playoff series at the time, the list this time around contains multiple former Coaches of the Year and five guys who have coached in the NBA Finals.
If indeed there are five candidates, there's a nice sort of symmetry developing here. Four interviews are scheduled for this week; if Karl is slotted into Friday (pure speculation on my part) then this becomes "Interview Week" allowing next week to be "Decision Week" perhaps involving some follow up interview with two or three finalists.
Shaw and Scott seem to have a great interest in the job. One presumes the same is true of McMillan and Hollins. But beyond one reference to Karl's agent (Warren LeGarie, who represents almost all of these candidates and also represented Mike Dunleavy Sr) getting in contact with the Clippers, we really have no idea whether Karl likes the idea of coaching the Clippers. Maybe he wants to take a year off. Maybe it would be better for his health if he slowed down a bit. We just don't know.
We do know, or at least it has been rumored, that Donald T. Sterling likes the idea of hiring the reigning Coach of the Year. This is very significant, because Karl, with a career winning percentage of .599 will certainly not come cheap. Among active NBA coaches, Karl is among the most successful and most respected. Honestly, other than Gregg Popovich, there is no bigger name in the current ranks. If Sterling is willing to pay what it takes to hire Karl (and for a Clipper ship that will soon be sailing very close to luxury tax waters, the coach's salary might turn out to be a great investment compared to player salary) then that is a major hurdle cleared. The next hurdle may well be determining if Karl even wants the job.
Rumors of course abound. Depending on who you believe, the "finalists" for the job are either Hollins and Shaw, or Shaw and Scott, or Shaw and Karl (Shaw certainly seems to be a theme here, but that could be just because he got the first interview). And Alvin Gentry continues to lurk in the shadows. What we know is that four men have interviewed or are scheduled for interviews -- and that Karl would be a great get.