In the infantile stages of the Sixers' coaching search, a host of names are being mentioned as possible candidates to succeed Doug Collins. They mostly fit into two categories, established names like The Brothers Van Gundy, or top assistant coaches (i.e. would-be rookie head coaches) like Mike Malone, Brian Shaw, and even Aaron McKie. A few wild cards like Larry Brown have been mentioned, and let's not even joke about that.
In the midst of all the rampant speculation (OK, maybe not so rampant), allow me throw my support behind a name that is being floated. His hiring is not necessarily of life or death consequence, especially for reasons I'll touch on later, but let's talk about Mike Budenholzer.
Well, let's talk about him in a minute, after touching on the Sixers' current situation a little bit first. It's pretty safe to say that the organization needs to rebuild in some way, shape or form. And for the Sixers, their rebuilding process will start in earnest with the selection of a new coach. Looking at recent history, the franchise's last four full-time coaching hires had previous NBA head coaching experience. Jim O'Brien, Maurice Cheeks, Eddie Jordan, and Doug Collins were all at least on their second stop (I hate the word "retread"). Obviously, none of them really worked out.
The lack of top-level success wasn't completely any of these guys' fault, with the possible exception of Jordan. In what is of course a little bit of an oversimplification, the Sixers' problems were due more to an organizational failure, specifically a lack of direction. Despite drafting pretty well in the last decade, picking in the teens and eventually signing these players and B-Level free agents to long-term deals hasn't worked. They clearly need to start doing things differently.
I personally think this means starting over and building from scratch. It's a plan that would require playing young players like Arnett Moultrie heavy minutes to try and develop their skills. It might entail trading Thaddeus Young in an effort to gain a future asset of equal value. More than anything, the organization would need to come to the realization that they're a long way from contention, and conduct their business with that in mind.
Which brings us to Budenholzer. I really, really don't understand how he hasn't received a head coaching gig yet. If this were the NFL, he would have gotten one by 2005. What does he have going for him? Well, he's only been an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs since 1996. There's not much else to add to that statement. It's like, like... it's like being a Spurs assistant coach for almost two decades. Is there any comparison?
But there's a rub. Budenholzer is rumored to be very attached to the Spurs organization. When we asked, Matthew Tynan of the Spurs blog Pounding The Rock for a take on Bud's current mindset, he offered this:
It's become a ritualistic right of summer that Mike Budenholzer be named in coaching searches around the league, and then, unceremoniously, nothing happens. He's been Gregg Popovich's right-hand man for two decades basically, and Pop sings his praises at every opportunity.He's also damn near a lock to succeed the grumpiest coach in the league once the 64-year-old does decide to retire or assume a front-office position, KINDA LIKE DOUG COLLINS!!! Bud has lasted this long, I wouldn't be surprised if he waited it out for the long haul. Also, I kind of picture the following scene.Bud: "Hey Greggory."Pop: "Hello there Michael."Bud: *drags toe on the carpet* "You…you 'member when you said I could talk to other teams?"Pop: *looks up from 'Ulysses' and peers over spectacles* "Have a seat Michael."Bud: *sits*Pop: *stands* *grabs knife and starts cleaning it* "Did I ever tell you about my days in the Air Force?"Bud: *stares*Anyway, despite his close-knit relationship with this organization, I'm certainly surprised he hasn't taken a head gig elsewhere. He's got the corporate knowledge and great player relationships, and Pop has lost droves of assistants over the years. But not Bud. My gut feeling is he'll stick around and become the next Spurs head coach when the time comes years from now (who the hell knows when?).I feel like his attachment to Pop and the Spurs sort of prevents teams from being overly aggressive in their pursuit of him. But, if a team in the right situation is able to pry him away from San Antonio, they'll be getting a hell of a coach. Basically out of the mold of Popovich, except younger and a little less grumpy.
This makes sense. If he's been with the organization for so long and is under the impression the coaching job is his once Popovich retires, then why wouldn't he stay? That doesn't mean the Sixers shouldn't be extremely aggressive in trying to pry him away, just that there's a good chance it might not work.
If the Sixers can't land Budenholzer, that's ultimately alright. But they should be looking for what he represents, which is a radical departure from Doug Collins' emotionally draining coaching style. The understanding of the process of improving, smart and efficient gameplans on both ends of the court, an open mind towards analytics, and a commitment to the whole organization being on the same page. These are attributes that the Sixers should want in the next coach.
Is it easy for someone like me to name positive characteristics and tell the Sixers "Go get the guy who puts a check mark in all of those boxes"? Of course it is, and their task is much more difficult. But if the Sixers are rumored to be chasing someone like Mike Brown, you have to wonder: What's different around here?