It appears that nine NBA teams will have new head coaches at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
There were no new coaches when the season started last year, although three coaches were replaced during the season. And all three of those coaches were replaced on the interim basis. Of the three interim coaches, only JB Bickerstaff remains. The Grizzlies posted a 15-48 record after Bickerstaff replaced David Fizdale on Nov. 27. Joe Prunty and Jay Triano were the other two interim coaches a season ago.
Milwaukee and Toronto are the only playoff teams in 2018 that will have a new head coach.
9. Lloyd Pierce, Hawks
This is Pierce’s first head coaching job at any level. The 42-year-old spent the previous five years as an assistant coach with the Sixers. The Sixers, of course, have been going through a major rebuild. They reached the playoffs for the first time since Pierce joined the organization last season with a 52-30 record, which was a 24-game improvement over the previous season.
Pierce has been lauded for being a player development guru as well as a defensive specialist. Which is exactly what the young Hawks will need. Atlanta currently has 10 players under contract or with player options with six of them under the age of 25. The Hawks have three first-round draft picks, including the No. 3 overall selection, along with a second-round choice in the upcoming draft.
Pierce is also considered said to have one of the best minds in the game and a strong work ethic.
Pierce has been in the coaching business since 2002 when he served at his alma mater, Santa Clara, under Dick Davey. After leaving Santa Clara following the 2007 campaign, he moved onto Cleveland where he spent three seasons as assistant coach-player development. The Cavs made three trips to the playoffs including an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals in 2009.
Pierce also spent one season with the Warriors before moving onto Memphis for two years.
Atlanta is miles away from being a contender in the East. But if the Hawks can develop their players, like the Sixers have, and the Hawks are in the playoffs in three years. It will be seen as a successful hire.
8 James Borrego, Hornets
Borrego is in his second stint as a head coach, previously serving as the interim coach with the Magic during the 2014-15 campaign. Orlando went 10-20 under the direction of the 40-year-old, who replaced Jacque Vaughn.
During his brief stint as head coach, Orlando saw improvement in rebounding, particularly on the offensive end. The Magic also improved in defensive shooting percentage and cut down on turnovers.
Borrego has paid his coaching dues and has the respect of the coaches and executives he has been with such as Gregg Popovich, Monty Williams and Brett Brown to name a few. Borrego is also lauded for his work with player development and was considered to be one of the top assistant coaches in the league.
The biggest question that the Hornets need to answer is what exactly are they trying to accomplish? Since 2013, the Hornets have posted a 196-214 record which includes two playoff appearances. Last season, they finished in 10th place — seven games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — with a 36-46 record.
Charlotte currently has 12 players under contract, one with a non-guaranteed contract, and are over the salary cap. Plus, they must make a decision what to do with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb as all three will be unrestricted free agents following the season. The Hornets may also look to trade Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has two-years and $26 million left on his deal.
Borrego started his coaching career at the University of San Diego after his playing days with the Toreros were over. He ends up spending three seasons with the UCSD (2001-03), helping the Torres reach the NCAA Tournament in 2002-03.
Borrego then moved on the San Antonio Spurs as the assistant video coordinator before being promoted to assistant coach. After spending seven seasons with the Spurs, he moved to the Hornets for a pair of seasons and then the Magic for three. Borrego had been with the Spurs prior to getting the call to replace Steve Clifford.
7. JB Bickerstaff, Grizzlies
This is the 39-year old’s first full-time gig as he took over the Griz this past season after he joined the organization as the associate head coach prior to the beginning of the season. Bickerstaff, whose father Bernie was a longtime NBA coach, guided the Rockets to a 37-34 record and a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference as the interim coach in 2015-16. He is 52- 82 as a head coach overall.
Memphis should be able to work its way back up the standings if Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can stay healthy. Conley played in only 12 games while Gasol was available for 73 contests, but was not truly his effective self-last season. Chandler Parson also appeared in just 36 games. The Grizzlies have 11 players under contract though they are over the cap.
Memphis has two draft picks in the 2018 draft, at No. 4 and No. 32.
Bickerstaff began his coaching career as an assistant under his father with Charlotte in 2004. He then moved on to the Timberwolves and Rockets for four seasons apiece.
6. Igor Kokoskov, Suns
Kokoskov’s first job will require a major rebuild. The 46-year-old has a wealth of basketball experience at all levels. He became the first European to obtain a full-time assistant coach when Clippers head coach Alvin Gentry hired him in 2000. He is also the first non-American to become an NBA head coach.
Kokoskov is considered to be innovated and a skilled tactician as coach. He also is very good at developing players.
Kokoskov has a lot of work to do to get the Suns back to respectability. Phoenix has not made the playoffs since 2010-11. The Suns have won just 68 combined games in the last three years, where they have not won more than 24 games during this stretch.
The good news is that Phoenix does have some good young talent in Josh Jackson, Devin Booker, Elfrid Payton and TJ Warren. Payton is restricted while Alex Len, who produced his best season of his this past campaign, is an unrestricted free agent.
The Suns are expected to add a franchise changer DeAndre Ayton with the top pick in the 2018 draft. They also are projected to have nearly $20 million in cap space available.
Kokoskov got into coaching in Belgrade and Yugoslavia junior and senior national teams. He was the head coach at OKK Beograd for one season (!995-96). He moved to the US in 1999-2000 when he got an assistant job at Missouri.
Following his stint with the Clippers, Kokoskov moved to Detroit (2003-08), where he won an NBA title in 2004. From there Kokoskov went on to the Suns, Cavs,Magic and Jazz — where he spent the past three years.
Kokoskov has been a senior national head coach with Georgia and Slovenia since 2009. He has a 34-20 record overall, which includes going 15-0 the last two seasons with the Slovaks. Slovenia finished first in EuroBasket qualification in 2016 and EuroBasket in 2017.
5. Nick Nurse, Raptors
Nurse is the ninth head coach in Raptors history. While this is the 50-year old’s first top job, he has a wealth of experience as a head man. Nurse, who joined the Raptors in 2013, had served as the Raptors offensive coordinator under head coach Dwane Casey.
Nurse is an offensive tactician. Under Nurse’s direction, the Raptors saw significant improvement in offensive production due to quality ball movement. The Raptors also attempted more 3-pointers and generated more assists with Nurse as the OC.
Toronto is coming off its best season in franchise history, winning a record 59 games. The Raptors, who have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, have captured four Atlantic Division titles. They also have a good nucleus with star DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry. However, rumors are flying that the Raptors are looking to trade up into the top-10 of the 2018 NBA Draft and no one is off the table.
Nurse began his coaching career at Northern Iowa in 1989. He then moved to England to serve as player-coach in the former BBL for the Derby Storm the very next season. Then the next year, Nurse returned to the States to take the head job at NAIA Grand Valley where he spent three seasons.
Nurse spent 1993-1995 as an assistant coach at South Dakota. He then moved back to the BBL until 2006. He also had two separate stints as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma Storm (USBL) during this time.
From 2007-13, Nurse was a head coach in what is now the G -League with the Iowa Energy and Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nurse was with the Energy from 2007-11, where he posted a 124-76 record including 9-6 in the playoffs. He won a D-League championship in 2011 when he also was named Coach of the Year.
Nurse also won a D-League crown with the Vipers in 2013. Overall, he went 59-41 in his two years at RVG including 6-6 in the playoffs.
4. Steve Clifford, Magic
Clifford was out of work a whole month and a-half. The 56-year-old did a pretty good job with the Hornets in his five seasons there. He posted a 196-214 during his tenure, making the playoffs twice while posting a 3-7 record. Clifford is the Magic’s fifth head coach since 2012.
Known as a defensive coach, he is a tireless worker with a plethora of coaching experience. Charlotte finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency — points allowed per possession — in three of his five seasons and never finished worse than 16th per NBA.com.
Orlando has not reached the postseason since 2012-13, topping the 30 victory mark just once during this period. The Magic don’t have a ton of talent and don’t have much cap room. Also, their most promising player in Aaron Gordon is a restricted free agent. They do have the No. 6 pick in this year’s draft.
Clifford was previously with the Magic under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-12.
3. David Fizdale, Knicks
Fizdale is highly regarded as a head coach despite only having coached a total of 101 games. The 44-year-old was fired by the Grizzlies after the team lost eight straight games, to drop their record to 7-12, and a public feud with star Marc Gasol.
Fizdale led Memphis to a playoff berth in his first season as head coach with a 43-39 record. He is considered to have a very bright basketball mind who preaches toughness and old-school basketball, starting with defense. He also is a strong communicator and is considered a players coach. Fizdale won two championships with the Heat as an assistant coach.
New York has been a mess of late, missing the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. The Knicks were particularly disappointing in 2017-18, posting a 29-53 record. The Knicks sorely missed star forward Kristaps Porzingis, who played just 48 games, though Enes Kanter had a monster first campaign with the club.
New York is not in a great financial situation as they are over the cap if Kyle O’Quinn and Kanter opt-in. The Knicks do not have a first-round selection this year.
Fizdale started his coaching career at San Diego, where he played, as an assistant and then moved on to Fresno State before moving onto the NBA. He has been an assistant with the Warriors, Hawks and Heat.
2. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks
Budenholzer did an excellent job with the Hawks after spending over a decade under Gregg Popovich. Budenholzer led Atlanta to the playoffs in four of his five seasons. He was relieved of his duties after the Hawks posted an Eastern Conference worse 24-58 record.
Budenholzer is 213-197 as NBA coach, including 17-22 in the playoffs. The 48-year-old led the Hawks to the conference finals in 2014-15 and to the semifinals the following season. He won four titles as an assistant coach with the Spurs.
Milwaukee has made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and eight times this century. Although the Bucks have not finished above sixth in the Eastern Conference since 2000-01 which was the last time they won a playoff series.
The Bucks, featuring Giannis Antetokounmpo, are pretty set this season with their biggest decision revolving around whether or not to sign Jabari Parker, who is a restricted free agent.
The 2015 NBA Coach of the Year got his start in the coaching industry in Denmark with a pair of youth clubs. He moved on to the Spurs in 1996.
1. Dwane Casey, Pistons
Casey, who will likely win Coach of the Year, was fired by Toronto despite leading the Raptors to its best regular season in franchise history. The 61-year-old had made the Raptors into one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference over the last five seasons. The Raps won at least 48 games each of those seasons, topping the 50 win mark the last three years while winning one or more playoff rounds three straight campaigns.
Casey posted a 320-238 record in seven seasons with Toronto overall. He went just 21-30 during the playoffs, however. Overall, Casey is 373-307 as a head coach as he also in charge of the Timberwolves for two years (2005-07).
Casey is known around the league as a tough defensive coach. He is also very good at getting the most out of his players and developing them to their fullest. In addition, he is an excellent communicator and seen as a players coach.
The Pistons roster seems relatively set as they are over the cap and have 12 of their players under contract. More importantly, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, one of the post power forward/center combos, are signed for the foreseeable future. They do not have a first-round draft pick this year.
Casey got a late start with the NBA. He began his career as an assistant with Kentucky in 1979-80. He left the Wildcats for an assistant job at Western Kentucky after one season. But would return to Kentucky five years later.
In 1989, Casey left the college ranks for a spot on the bench with the Japan national team. Casey also was a head coach with two Japanese club teams during his stint over there. Upon his arrival back to the States, he hooked with the Seattle Supersonics where he spent 1994-2005. He also was an assistant with the Mavericks from 2008-11.