Source: Kings begin coaching search with seven intriguing options

Mike D'Antoni, Mark Jackson, Mike Brown highlight initial coaching list

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The silence was deafening over the last week and a half since the Kings dismissed interim head coach Alvin Gentry following another disappointing season in Sacramento. But in the blink of an eye, the coaching search is heating up.

According to a league source, the Kings have secured interviews with a grouping of former head coaches, including Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Steve Clifford and Mark Jackson, as well as current assistant coaches Charles Lee, Darvin Ham and Will Hardy.

General manager Monte McNair and his squad are expected to hold virtual interviews with this first group beginning next week via Zoom, with a second round of in person interviews expected shortly after.

Following Gentry’s departure, McNair promised to hold a “comprehensive and process-driven” search for the Kings’ 20th head coach since moving to Sacramento before the 1985-86 season. 

Gentry posted a 24-41 record with the Kings after taking over for Luke Walton 17 games into the 2021-22 season. The latest we heard, the veteran coach was still deciding on whether to join the Kings’ front office in some capacity moving forward.

This list of candidates can be broken up into two very distinctive groups. Brown, D’Antoni, Clifford and Jackson have all had varying degrees of experience as head coaches in the NBA. Lee, Ham and Hardy are all looking for their first opportunity to take over a team. 

Brown, 52, is currently in his sixth season with the Golden State Warriors, acting as an assistant head coach on Steve Kerr’s staff. In eight seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers and a second tour of duty with the Cavs, Brown has a regular season record of 563-347 and his teams have posted a 47-36 record in six playoff appearances. 

D’Antoni is the most experienced coach of the group and also has ties to McNair from their time together with the Houston Rockets. The soon-to-be 71-year-old has a career record of 672-527 during stops with the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks, Lakers and Rockets. He earned NBA Coach of the Year Honors in 2005 and 2017 and has a career postseason record of 54-56. Out of all the coaches mentioned, D’Antoni has the most distinct style of play.

Clifford currently works as a consultant for the Brooklyn Nets, after leading the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic to a combined 292-345 record between 2013-21. The 60-year-old led his squad to the playoffs in four of his eight years as a head coach, posting a 5-16 record in those games. 

The last of the veteran coaches is Jackson, who has worked on the TV side since leaving the Warriors bench following the 2013-14 season. The 57-year-old former All-Star has a career mark of 121-109, including a 51 win season in his final year in Golden State. Current Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadivé was a minority owner of the Warriors during Jackson’s time with the team, so there is some familiarity.

Lee and Ham are both current assistants under Mike Budenholzer with the Milwaukee Bucks and they also spent time on his staff in Atlanta. Lee, 37, played basketball at Bucknell University and also abroad before joining the Hawks' staff in 2014. Ham played eight seasons in the NBA as a high-flying hustle player. The 48-year-old jumped into coaching on Brown’s Lakers staff in 2011 and has spent the last nine seasons with Budenholzer in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

The last name on the list is 34-year-old Will Hardy, who currently acts as an assistant coach on Ime Udoka’s staff in Boston. Before joining the Celtics, Hardy worked his way up from a video coordinator to an assistant under coaching legend Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and at one time was considered a potential heir apparent.

What to make of the list

This is a very diverse group of candidates. The list also has a few surprise omissions in Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, who is a fan favorite in Sacramento, as well as veteran head coach Terry Stotts.

Brown, D’Antoni and Clifford are all very qualified candidates with varying degrees of success. Jackson is a big name, but his time in Golden State has left as many questions as answers. 

Ham is the most experienced of the assistants and has been biding his time waiting for an opportunity. Both he and Lee were in Atlanta with current Kings assistant general manager Wes Wilcox, so there is some familiarity there. Wilcox also spent time as an executive when Brown coached the Cavs.

If you are going to hold a comprehensive and process-driven search, Hardy might be the wild card. Popovich has one of the strongest and deeply rooted coaching trees in professional sports. Either directly or indirectly, many of the coaches on this list have been touched by the legend and going straight to the source and plucking a young and well-regarded assistant might be a stroke of genius for the Kings.

You would hope that there would be a few first round cuts from this grouping, and maybe a few late additions, but overall, this is a strong list. Brown, Ham, Lee and Hardy are all knee deep in the playoffs, which could complicate matters.

This is a huge moment for McNair, who is finally getting an opportunity to bring in his own guy after two seasons on the job in Sacramento. Will he swing for the fences with a young hire, turn to a veteran hand or pull a tv personality out of mothballs? It should be an interesting couple of weeks in Sacramento. 

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