Where will the Magic go from here?
There are plenty of potential candidates.
In alphabetical order, possibilities include:
Steve Clifford: Clifford has been on Van Gundy’s Magic coaching staff from the start, and he helped tutor Ryan Anderson over the last three seasons. A former head coach at Adelphi University, Clifford has worked his way up the NBA ladder.
Mike D’Antoni: D’Antoni, 61, has coached three NBA teams: the Denver Nuggets, the Phoenix Suns and, most recently, the New York Knicks. His teams are renowned for their run-and-gun ways and their general lackadaisical attitude toward defense (although the 2011-12 Knicks showed significant improvement defensively before he resigned in March). Opposing coaches say he’s brilliant at teaching the pick-and-roll. He served as an assistant coach when Team USA won the gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics and will return as an assistant coach when the U.S. attempts to defend its Olympic title in London this summer. He owns a 388-339 career regular-season record and a 26-29 postseason record in the NBA.
Patrick Ewing: Ewing, 49, has paid his dues. He’s spent five of his nine seasons as an NBA assistant coach under Van Gundy, and Ewing would love the opportunity to be a head coach. Ewing is a candidate for the Charlotte Bobcats’ vacant head-coaching job.
Phil Jackson: Jackson, 66, would be a dream candidate for the Magic. He has won 11 NBA titles as a head coach, six with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Los Angeles Lakers. But he also would be a significant, significant long shot candidate who would command a gargantuan salary to be lured out of retirement. Still, during the 2008-09 season, Jackson said that if he had to pick one player to build a team around, it would be Dwight Howard. Jackson owns a regular-season record of 1,155-485 and a postseason record of 229-104.
Michael Malone: Malone, currently the lead assistant coach under Mark Jackson with the Golden State Warriors, is one of the most in-demand assistants in the NBA. In the 2011-12 GM Survey undertaken by NBA.com, league general managers were asked “Who is the best assistant coach in the NBA?” Malone placed first, receiving 29 percent of the vote. Malone is a son of Magic assistant coach Brendan Malone, and Howard is said to like him.
Nate McMillan: McMillan was fired as the Portland Trail Blazers’ coach in March after he had compiled a 266-269 regular-season record and a 6-12 postseason record over seven seasons with the team. A former guard, McMillan played 12 seasons for the Seattle SuperSonics, and he coached his former team from 2000-01 through 2004-05. McMillan is considered an “old-school” coach, and Otis Smith respects him greatly. McMillan, 47, served as an assistant coach when Team USA won the gold at the 2008 Summer Olympics and will return as an assistant coach when the U.S. attempts to defend its Olympic title in London this summer.
Brian Shaw: Shaw, 46, is currently the Indiana Pacers’ associate head coach and took the job after the Lakers — much to Kobe Bryant’s dismay — passed him over to replace Phil Jackson after the 2010-11 season. Shaw played three seasons for the Magic during the mid-1990s, and he would welcome the chance to return to the franchise as a head coach. Howard is said to like him. In the 2011-12 GM survey, he placed second when GMs were asked to name the league’s best assistant coach; Shaw garnered 21 percent of the vote.
Jerry Sloan: Again, a huge longshot. If the Magic are looking for someone who could impose stability, the 70-year-old Sloan might be an ideal choice. But would he want to come out of retirement? He coached the Utah Jazz from the 1988-89 season until he resigned during the 2010-11 season. He owns a 1,221-803 regular-season record and a 98-104 postseason record.
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