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So where do the Cavaliers go from here?
Back to the telephones.
They have a lottery pick, another pick later in the first round, and several players already on the roster who they really like. Now all they need is a coach.
That’s because the Cavs and Larry Drew mutually parted ways Thursday, two days after the season ended and less than 24 hours before general manager Koby Altman’s end-of-season address with reporters.
Altman isn’t going to name names when it comes to candidates, but this is the NBA, and any vacancy creates lots of interest. So they’ll be hearing from a wide-range of applicants — from assistants with opposing teams, to college coaches longing to try their hand at the pros, to veteran NBA coaches currently collecting checks via the unemployment line.
The Cavs are still forming their list and it will get considerably longer before making a hire.
But they do have their extremely early favorites, and according to Amico Hoops sources, both Utah assistant Alex Jensen and Denver Nuggets assistant Jordi Fernandez are near the top. For one, Jensen and Fernandez have coached the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ affiliate in the G League. Both are also tight with members of the Cavs’ front office.
Other names said to be on Altman’s radar:
Portland Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool, and Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. Tibbetts is a former Cavs assistant and Unseld is the son of an NBA legend. Tibbetts and Vanterpool also have interviewed for numerous vacancies over the past couple of years, only to return to Portland.
But if history teaches us anything about Cavs coaching searches, it’s that the basketball staff will conduct one search and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will conduct another.
Gilbert is more of a swing-for-the-fences type, and he is likely to reach out to many of the names you know. For instance, he offered the job to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo back in 2010, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Izzo hears from Gilbert again.
Also, recently fired Alabama coach Avery Johnson impressed Gilbert when the team was doing its due diligence before drafting point guard Collin Sexton, who played for Johnson in college. Johnson also has NBA coaching experience.
But that’s just a very small sample. Plenty others are sure to emerge, perhaps expressing interest before the Cavs even get a chance to call.
Veteran coaches such as Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy are available and always on the lookout for the next gig. Villanova’s Jay Wright has coached pros as an assistant with Team USA. And ESPN analyst Mark Jackson is seemingly linked to every opening every offseason.
Along with all those, Dave Joerger was just fired by the Sacramento Kings after a 39-43 season in which he just missed the playoffs with a young team. And who knows what will become of Los Angeles Lakers coach and former Cavs forward Luke Walton? If he’s fired, the Cavs will be interested.
After all, the Cavs aren’t against the idea of recycling coaches.
Steve Clifford was canned by the Charlotte Hornets and is now taking the Orlando Magic to the playoffs in his first season. The same applies to Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey, formerly of the Toronto Raptors. And before Rick Carlisle led the Dallas Mavericks to the 2011 championship, he was fired by the Pistons and Indiana Pacers.
On and on it goes.
Bottom line: For the Cavs, this is just the beginning of a very busy and what they hope will be a productive offseason. Ideally, the first step will be to hire a strategist, a voice and a leader who is still around when they get good again.