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Best candidates to replace fired New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy

On the heels of the New Orleans Pelicans firing head coach Stan Van Gundy after just one season, let’s take a look at some viable replacement candidates as the team’s search for a new leader begins.

New Orleans Pelicans promote Teresa Weatherspoon or Fred Vinson

Oct 11, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans player development coach Teresa Weatherspoon watches forward Zion Williamson (1) warm up before a game against the Utah Jazz at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Stunt casting for an NBA head coaching vacancy is the last thing any franchise should do. Some would probably accuse the Pelicans of that if they elevate assistant Teresa Weatherspoon to the leading gig.

But that would be a fundamentally inaccurate evaluation. Weatherspoon has head coaching experience from a six-year tenure at Louisiana Tech, and has quickly moved up in the Pelicans organization.

The New York Times‘ Marc Stein floated Weatherspoon as a serious candidate for New Orleans’ coaching vacancy. She’s obviously made enough of an impression to merit strong consideration.

As for Fred Vinson, he’s been with the Pelicans for 11 seasons. Across multiple coaching changes, he’s been a constant. That tells you how the franchise views him, and the high regard Vinson’s peers hold him in.

New Orleans Pelicans hire former NBA star Jason Kidd

New Orleans Pelicans hire former NBA star Jason Kidd
Nov 19, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers coach Jason Kidd warms up players before the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There are a number of former players being bandied about as head coaching candidates such as Chauncey Billups and Sam Cassell, but Jason Kidd seems like the best fit of the bunch.

Kidd is an especially intriguing fit in New Orleans if the Pelicans intend to hang onto restricted free agent Lonzo Ball.

New Orleans’ floor general is among the savviest lead guards in the game, and Kidd is a Hall of Famer who’d be the ideal mentor for Ball as he enters his prime. Oh, and if “Point Zion” continues to be a thing, who better to help Williamson fine-tune his distributing skills than Kidd?

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also mentioned Kidd as a potential Pelicans coaching candidate when he broke the news of Van Gundy’s firing.

Instead of just rolling with Woj’s list, for purposes of this exercise, it was best to pick one name from that group, and Kidd has a key edge. He’s likely learned a lot from his brief one-year stint in Brooklyn and his failed time in Milwaukee.

After helping the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship in 2020 as an assistant, Kidd now has the coaching pedigree to back up his obvious playing chops. If he gets a crack in New Orleans, he’s bound to thrive.

New Orleans Pelicans steal Becky Hammon from San Antonio Spurs

New Orleans Pelicans steal Becky Hammon from San Antonio Spurs
Aug 3, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; Assistant coach Becky Hammon of the San Antonio Spurs looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers during the fourth quarter at Visa Athletic Center at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 03, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Like Weatherspoon, Becky Hammon had a fine WNBA career and has years of coaching experience under her belt. The difference is, Hammon hails from the San Antonio Spurs, where she’s learned under arguably the best coach of the modern NBA era in Gregg Popovich.

Hammon has logged seven seasons as a Spurs assistant, and if that wasn’t enough, she was even contacted for the Milwaukee Bucks’ general manager position in 2017. She obviously has a grasp of personnel in addition to coaching.

Thus, it seems like Hammon would be an ideal fit in New Orleans with executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon.

By the way, Langdon was a pro scout and front office member in San Antonio and had some overlapping, shared time with Hammon in the Spurs organization.

It’d be quite news-worthy if the Pelicans passed up an internal candidate to be the NBA’s first female head coach. If anyone were to deserve that, it’s Hammon. That Spurs-Langdon connection aside, her resume is undeniable at this point.

New Orleans Pelicans land proven NBA coach in Terry Stotts

Apr 18, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Portland Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts talks to his team during the second quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Stotts must have done something right to be the Portland Trail Blazers’ head coach for nine seasons. In the loaded Western Conference, Portland made the playoffs in Stotts’ last eight years at the helm.

Unfortunately, Stotts got the boot this offseason when the Blazers went one-and-done for the fourth time in the last five postseasons. Maybe that shakeup will be best for Portland and for Stotts as they each try to move forward and improve.

Stotts just couldn’t get the Blazers to play good enough defense throughout his tenure. Is that something he can fix, or is it fated to be a flaw of the next team he coaches?

If he can make the necessary improvements on that end of the court, or capitalize on the talent he has in New Orleans in that regard, maybe Stotts is the man for the Pelicans’ job in the end.

You won’t find many more proven coaching commodities than Stotts. A couple alternatives among that veteran group don’t seem as viable.

Mike D’Antoni has to be considered a journeyman at this point, and Dave Joerger’s tenures in Memphis and Sacramento lasted three seasons apiece.

Stotts presents stability and steady leadership, which is precisely what the Pelicans need after one season of chaos under the mercurial Van Gundy’s watch.

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