I had a real “been-around-the-block” moment when Jason Kidd got hired as the Brooklyn Nets head coach. This was a guy who I remembered rising as a Phoenix Sun (I had to, I just had to) player, admitting he pummeled his wife Joumana, taking my New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals, winning one with the Dallas Mavericks and, finally, getting a DUI in Southampton, NY. This was the guy who instilled a false hope in me that I didn’t need any physical gifts to hold my own on the court.
There were a few other players-turned-coaches who I’d watched play and then pick up the clipboard, but none whose NBA life cycle I’d known on such intimate terms. With Kidd and Rasheed Wallace (Detroit Pistons) getting coaching positions, I couldn’t help but scour Basketball Reference to figure out who would be next. Here’s what I found.
Of the twenty-nine coaches in today’s league, fifteen were former NBA players. The greatest common denominator among these coaches was that 12 of the 15 played for two or more, of what I consider, legendary coaches – coaches with 500 or more wins. Nine were point guards, nine were never NBA All-Stars, and seven had won NBA championships. Compared to the average NBA player, the ones who became coaches were more likely to be champion point guards who had played for multiple legendary coaches.
With these important credentials and my own preferences and biases in mind, I came up with the following list of good candidates to be head coaches.
REALLY LIKELY, PRETTY SOON
Jason Terry, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Terry has a few things going for him with the biggest one being that he has played for four legendary coaches in Lenny Wilkens (Atlanta Hawks), Don Nelson, Rick Carlisle (both for the Dallas Mavericks) and Doc Rivers (Boston Celtics). Though he isn’t a pure point guard, he handles the ball often and is always orchestrating things on the court and from the bench. Like seven of the NBA’s current coaches, he has a championship ring on his finger. Also, he coached his daughter Jasionna’s AAU team, the Lady Jets. Yes, Jason named both his daughter and his daughter’s AAU team after himself.
Shane Battier, SF, Miami Heat
Shane’s a no-brainer. Like Kidd, he’s not an elite physical specimen, but has used his smarts to jedi mind trick the best of the best on defense. Despite never making the All-Star team, he has represented the U.S. in international hoops twice. He’s had a chance to learn from two legendary coaches – Rick Adelman (Houston Rockets), Hubie Brown and Mike Fratello (Memphis Grizzlies). Also, dude’s got heavy fingers. To go along with his wedding ring and 2001 Duke NCAA championship ring, Battier now has two NBA title rings to pad his coaching resume.
Derek Fisher, PG, Free agent
Fisher has met all the credentials a player usually meets before becoming a head coach. And then some. Legendary coaches? Phil Jackson (Los Angeles Lakers) and Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz). Point Guard? Yup. Rings? Five. Never an NBA All-Star? Never. Also, he’s ridiculously crafty and unselfish.
Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson, Matt Bonner/PG, SG, PF, SF, C, San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich’s Spurs are becoming a head coaching farm of Belichickian proportions. Head coaches Mike Brown, P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams, Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro and Jacque Vaughn all played for or coached alongside Popovich. Popovich continues to seek out smart, disciplined players, so don’t expect the wave of Popovich coaching prodigies to end anytime soon.
SHOULD, BUT WON’T
Four of the highest basketball IQs in the game. Each has been an NBA All-Star. None will coach.
Steve Nash, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Nash already owns a fitness club and a movie production company, he co-directed an ESPN 30 For 30 documentary (“Into the Wind“) and has his own charity. Seems he’s turning his attention away from the league.
Pau Gasol, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Pau spent most of his life believing he’d become a doctor. Both of his parents were. Since his arrival in Los Angeles, he has befriended the medical staff at St. Jude Children’s Hospital and even sat in on a scoliosis surgery. There are definitely more important things than basketball on his mind.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe’s recent quote in an interview with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin is about as specific as he’s gotten regarding his post-retirement plans: “It’s about finding what that next challenge is going to be and then being able to go for it.” I’ve got a hunch he’ll do something to spread the NBA across the world and continue to make millions, but something tells me it won’t be coaching.
Chauncey Billups, PG, Detroit Pistons
Billups has all the credentials and would probably make one hell of a coach, but has told the press he hopes to land a front office position upon retiring.
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