Back when the 49ers were coachless a few months ago, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t get Jim Harbaugh. Optimistic, I know. So I wrote that the 49ers should target Marty Mornhinweg. Why? Partly because of the Kevin Kolb factor, partly because he was an integral part of a coaching staff that did one thing well — run above average NFL offenses — that had been the 49ers’ major weakness for the better part of a decade.
Even more, it was about the kind of coaches I don’t like: college coaches who never played professionally and retread pro coaches. There are no absolutes in life, except perhaps the fact I’ll never be a general manager or own an NBA team. But if I did, I’d feel much more comfortable with a coach that’s one of two things:
1. A proven championship-level coach, meaning he’s coached in a championship game or series and we haven’t all agreed it was either a fluke that his team made it or the team made it despite the coach’s incompetence. In the NFL, this means eliminating a guy like Bill Callahan or Bobby Ross. Or NBA coaches like Mike Brown and Brian Hill. Pretty much anybody else who’s been to a Finals is fair game, the more recent the better.
2. An assistant waiting for his shot who’s learned from and is trusted by one of the best in the business.
While I think the Warriors would do well in hiring Jeff Van Gundy, or — even better — Phil Jackson, my pessimistic ways make it hard for me to believe either one of those coaches would take the job in Oakland without promise of a near-$10 million salary, something I can’t imagine Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are in a hurry to offer … regardless of what Lacob and his folksy spokesman Larry Riley will tell you about finding the best man for the job and money being no object.
Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman are too good to be considered retreads, but Sloan’s almost 70 and Adelman isn’t far behind. The Warriors aren’t close to championship contention right now, regardless of what Riley says in KNBR interviews about how things will be just peachy as soon as they pick up a “5.” You know, because there are so many capable centers in existence.
So while I’m going to secretly pull for JVG or the Zen Master, here’s the man I think could (and should) be the next head coach of the Golden State Warriors: Mike Budenholzer, an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs since 1996, and Gregg Popovich’s top assistant for the last four seasons.
Tom Ziller wanted Budenholzer to coach the Sacramento Kings two years ago, and I agree with his reasoning. Let’s take the passage he wrote at the time, only we’ll swap out the items that were Kings-centric and replace them with more Warriors-relevant words instead, in italics.
The Warriors have a long way to go in every facet of the game. The offense is bad, with tools available but ineffective implementation rampant. The defense is beyond awful, with only the most minor shreds of material to work with. After ten coaches in 17 calendar years, it’s time for stability. How better to make a move in stability’s direction than to hire Gregg Popovich’s right-hand man, a kid no one has anything bad to say about? Doesn’t the top assistant of a coach who has won four titles in the last decade, has a 67% winning percentage (63% in the playoffs) — doesn’t he merit consideration? What’s the problem here?
I sure wouldn’t have a problem with this. It would be a better option, in my opinion, than Mike D’Antoni (do the Warriors really need another coach who ignores defense?) or John Calipari. Get someone in here who doesn’t care about entertaining the fans, a guy who comes from a culture that’s been proven successful for over a decade, a guy who knows the NBA but hasn’t gotten a shot yet and is undoubtedly hungry. Is he the next incarnation of Tom Thibodeau? I don’t know, but if I owned the Warriors I’d be willing to find out.
Oh, and good luck to Keith Smart. He ran a solid press conference, and even better out of bounds plays. It’ll be telling to see which head coach hires him to be his assistant.