Given their roster, the 2018-19 Cleveland Cavaliers could be far worse. While the organization made Larry Drew the permanent head coach going forward this season after the firing of Tyronn Lue, it’s clear Drew won’t return once the year ends. The Cavaliers will be in the market for a new coach.
“I don’t know if I ever want to be a head coach again after this year,” Drew told Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. “You know with a rebuild, particularly if you’ve got young guys, you want them to play and get experience and you live with the mistakes they make as they continue to learn and grow. But when you throw in injuries with that, that can kind of put you in a tailspin, which is what it has done to me.”
Based on reports, both the organization and Drew want to part ways, for a variety of reasons. With the league trending toward younger, innovate assistant coaches, the Cavaliers will likely hire someone from the outside.
Cleveland Has the Chance to Make History
Before I submit my idea for the Cavaliers offseason coaching search, there’s been rumored candidates the front office has already taken a look at.
Both Vardon and Lloyd of The Athletic reported the early candidates include;
- Jordi Fernandez (36)- Denver Nuggets assistant coach
- Steve Hetzel (38)- Orlando Magic assistant coach
- Adrian Griffin (44)- Toronto Raptors assistant coach
- Chris Jent (49)- Atlanta Hawks assistant coach
- Jamahl Mosley (40)- Dallas Mavericks assistant coach
- Alex Jensen (42)- Utah Jazz assistant coach
Among these early, rumored candidates, there’s a common thread between them. Five candidates listed above have prior experience with the Cavaliers organization, whether it’s with the professional club or its G-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. Griffin never spent time with Cleveland, but interviewed for their head coaching position in 2014.
While these coaches have experience with player development, there’s one particular assistant I’ve recommended the Cavaliers hire, which would make sports history. That particular name is San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. If or when Hammon gets an opportunity, she would become the first female head coach in NBA history. The Cavaliers should make this possible.
For several reasons, this hire would be smart for the Cavaliers front office to consider.
In nearly all facets, Hammon fits the criteria of experience. She spent 16 years in the WNBA and ranks among one of the best female basketball players of all-time. During her playing career, Hammon earned six WNBA All-Star game appearances and was twice named for the All-WNBA First Team. She clearly had talent as a player. The Spurs took notice.
Once her playing career commenced, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hired Hammon as an assistant coach in 2014. Hammon became the second female coach in NBA history. In 2001, then-Cavaliers coach John Lucas hired Lisa Boyer as a volunteer assistant. Hammon is the first full-time female coach in NBA history, however.
Under Hammon’s guidance, the Spurs won the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League title, where she became the first-ever female head coach to not only coach the Summer League, but win the title. She’s also helped pave the way for other female assistants to break into the NBA, where other teams have followed the Spurs hire of Hammon.
In 2016, she became the first female to be a part of an All-Star coaching staff at the NBA All-Star Game.
The Gregg Popovich Factor
When the Spurs made the initial move to hire Hammon in 2014, Popovich released the statement; “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
Given his prolific career, Popovich has built just as prolific a coaching tree as any former head coach. During his tenure with the Spurs organization, Popovich has won five NBA championships. He’s widely regarded as one of, if not, the greatest head coach in basketball history. With those achievements, Popovich has given several assistants the opportunity to become head coaches themselves.
Mike Budenholzer, the 2015 Coach of the Year, currently owns the league’s best record with the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Brett Brown has established an Eastern Conference contender with the Philadelphia 76ers. James Borrego is currently helping revive the Charlotte Hornets into a playoff-caliber team. Championship-winning coaches like Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors) and Doc Rivers (Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers) played under Popovich.
In addition, there’s several assistants and players that achieved success thanks to Popovich’s tutelage. Hammon would have no problem at all transitioning into a head coaching role. The Cavs should definitely give her a chance to make history, while helping the franchise rebuild into an Eastern Conference title contender once again.
Ready as Head Coach
I’m not advocating the Cavaliers hire Hammon on the sole purpose she would help make history in becoming the first female head coach in the NBA. With that being said, the Cavaliers should make the move.
During her basketball career, she’s achieved success, both in playing and coaching. In addition, she’s everything an organization looks for in a head coach. She’s young (41) and has several seasons of coaching experience as an assistant under one of the league’s greatest coaches.
On June 2, 2017, Hammon interviewed with the Bucks to become their next general manager. When the Bucks finalized their search, she wasn’t among the finalists for the position. Clearly, she’s widely regarded among the league as a great basketball mind.
Since the Cavs will have a coaching opening this offseason, the organization needs to take serious consideration in making Hammon the next head coach. She’s more than qualified for the position and the opportunity to walk into a low-pressure environment and help rebuild a disastrous roster would prove enticing to a first-year head coach.
The Cavaliers are on pace to draft among the top of the lottery, and with the cap space projections for 2020, the organization looks in prime position to improve their roster drastically over the next season or two.
If the Cavaliers give Hammon the chance to interview or coach, it would open the door for more female coaches around the sports world. She most definitely deserves the chance.
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