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News » Inside the Sixers: Handicapping the race for new coach


Inside the Sixers: Handicapping the race for new coach


Inside the Sixers: Handicapping the race for new coach
It's one week later, and for all that hasn't occurred, it might as well have been an hour.

Resolution and direction are no closer today - 10 days after the 76ers' dismal season finale against Orlando in Game 6 of the playoffs - than they were then.

For these Sixers , resolution and direction mean stability at head coach. It means either handing the keys to Tony DiLeo, which would buck a tidal wave of calling for a coaching switch, or hand-selecting his replacement, which would certainly quiet the critics - if the choice is right - but guarantees little and comes with a many-million-dollars price tag.

Welcome to the life of Ed Stefanski, Sixers general manager.

It's early May, the weather is nice, summer is a few more Phillies games away, but Stefanski probably isn't enjoying much of it, not with this make-or-break decision cooking on his front burner.

And we mean make-or-break in two ways: for the direction of the Sixers , who appear teetering between mediocrity and significant improvement, and for Stefanski, whose biggest head-honcho decision to date, the free-agent signing of Elton Brand, remains inconclusive.

This is head-honcho selection, take two.

Stefanski must choose wisely, because the city seems poised to pounce.

Stefanski has said, and keeps saying, that he has taken no step in any direction. Those words remained sound even after a bucket's worth of calls around the league.

With movement around the corner, but not quite at hand, it's time to piece together the framework of Stefanski's coaching search.

This is a moving target; tomorrow it might not even exist, replaced with a headline exclaiming the selection of the Sixers' new man, or the reupping of the old one.

Either way, for now, these clipboard carriers, some now holding microphones, seem to make up the field from which Stefanski will choose.

And like any field, the players are accompanied by odds. There is no clear-cut favorite.

Logical choices Doug Collins, 5-1 - Collins, currently an NBA analyst with TNT, has coached three NBA teams, most recently the Washington Wizards from 2001 to 2003. Collins appears to be the front-runner because he has, tentatively, expressed interest in the job. That's more than most folks. Also in Collins' favor is a family tie to the city and, more than likely, the backing of swingman Andre Iguodala, who grew up a Chicago Bulls fan when Collins coached there in the late 1980s.

Collins, a former Sixer and former all-star, reached the peak of his coaching career in 1988-89, when he took a Michael Jordan team to the Eastern Conference finals. A source has confirmed that Collins would be a popular choice among the Sixers' players, but he would also more than likely command a hefty, multiyear paycheck.

Eddie Jordan, 6-1 - Although a league source has confirmed that Jordan has not been contacted by Stefanski, neither has Collins.

No one has been contacted.

Jordan's name has swirled around this job since Stefanski became Sixers GM midway through the 2007-08 season. Jordan and Stefanski worked together with the New Jersey Nets. When the Washington Wizards fired Jordan earlier this season, Jordan became a coaching free agent. While Jordan seems to have Stefanski's trust, his coaching record (230-288) doesn't scream at you.

Middle of the pack Avery Johnson, 8-1 - Johnson coached the Dallas Mavericks from 2004 to 2008, during which he was named NBA coach of the year in '06. Although Johnson is currently a studio analyst for ESPN, he has entertained coaching offers in the past, most recently when the Detroit Pistons fired coach Flip Saunders after the 2007-08 season.

Johnson is a former player and also is known to be a demanding, controlling coach. While this group of Sixers would likely benefit from this mentality, the question exists whether they are ready to embrace it. And whether Stefanski is willing to trust his team with someone this far on the outside.

Tom Thibodeau, 12-1 - Who? His name might be less than household, but once you scan his resume, you start thinking Thibodeau might have a chance. He is the associate assistant coach with the Boston Celtics and is known throughout the league as a defensive guru. The Sixers fancy themselves a defensive squad. Thibodeau could make that a reality.

His tie to the Sixers is thin, but it exists: In 1993-94 he worked as an assistant under John Lucas.

Thibodeau could be a candidate because his personality and presence wouldn't dominate the franchise, thus allowing Stefanski continued involvement with the come-and-go of the team.

Tony DiLeo, 15-1 - Two weeks ago, these odds would have been even, but as the days roll past, the likelihood of retaining DiLeo decreases. He remains a possibility because he offers Stefanski things no other candidate can: shared vision, accountability, intricate knowledge of the franchise and system.

Also, to discount the economy in this coaching search would be foolish. The Sixers' recent history includes simultaneously paying multiple coaches. Heck, they are still paying former coach Maurice Cheeks through next season. The assumption that Stefanski is holding a blank check for this deal could be incorrect.

The long shots Jeff Van Gundy, 25-1 - The selection of Van Gundy, a notoriously meticulous coach, would inspire worries similar to those about Johnson: Are the players mentally prepared for such a coach?

Van Gundy is legendary for his all-nighters and all-consuming nature. He works as an NBA broadcaster for ESPN and has not coached since he was fired from the Houston Rockets in 2007.

Chris Ford, 30-1 - Ford might inspire a head scratch, but overlooking an in-house, experienced head coach would be a mistake. Ford is a scout for the Sixers .

If Stefanski is determined to make a change, but refuses the risk associated with an outsider, Ford might receive a call, or rather a knock on his door.

When Ford coached in 2004, he clashed with then-superstar Allen Iverson. The franchise backed Iverson, but it might be that kind of accountability the team now needs.

Jay Wright, 100-1 - It's the sexiest choice on this list, the kind that would make presses stop and radio shows howl. But let's be realistic, it isn't going to happen. Wright is a college coach aware of the ridiculous pressure accompanying an NBA gig, aware he probably already has the best job in town at Villanova. A Big East source has confirmed as much.

He's on the list mostly because it's too compelling to resign ourselves to the truth: He's staying in Radnor Township.

Inside the Sixers :

Read Kate Fagan's 76ers blog, Deep Sixer , at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Blog response of the week Posted by esesjay 12:34 p.m., 05/07/2009

Tough call. You have to give [Tony] DiLeo credit [for] making the most of what he had. I simply don't know much about the guy. Maybe if he's given a full off-season and training camp, with a healthy Elton Brand, he can do more with this team. Maybe not. I don't think we need a disciplinarian or a "big name" coach with a big ego, but I do think we need a quality guy that can command respect and grow with this relatively young team. Stability would be nice for a change. I've always loved this team, through the good and bad, and it would be nice to get them back to being a consistent contender. Nothing is better than when the Sixers are flying high. They can create a lot of excitement in the city when they are. I just hope [Ed] Snider and [Ed] Stefanski are as savvy and committed as some of our other successful teams.Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 11, 2009

 

 
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