NBA coaching rumors: Clippers interview assistant Sam Cassell for head coach; Rockets, Pelicans eyeing Ty Lue

There are many teams across the league still looking for head coaches, and now that the 2019-20 season has come to an end, the interviews and announcements should ramp up even more. Many of the open spots have been filled, with Doc Rivers becoming the latest coach to find a new home after he joined the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Both New York squads brought in new head coaches, with the Nets going with Hall of Fame player Steve Nash in his first coaching gig, while the Knicks went with a veteran in Tom Thibodeau. Elsewhere in the league, the Chicago Bulls scooped up Billy Donovan mere days after he decided not to return as head coach of the Thunder, ending the Jim Boylen era and effectively completing Chicago’s offseason of cleaning house. 

There are still several jobs available, though, many of which are very enticing opportunities. Until the remaining positions are filled, there will surely be no shortage of rumors piling up with what team is interviewing which coach. To keep all the updates in order, here is the latest coaching news and rumors around the league.

It didn’t take long for Doc Rivers to find a new home after Clippers owner Steve Ballmer ultimately made the choice to move on from the well-respected coach. Now the Clippers have to figure out who they’ll bring on to steer this ship, after an incredibly disappointing — and shocking — second-round exit in this year’s playoffs. They began the process by interviewing current assistant coach Sam Cassell for the head-coaching position Tuesday, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Cassell has been an assistant with the Clippers for six seasons, and before that spent five seasons as an assistant on the Wizards staff. A former NBA All-Star, Cassell won three championships during his career, two with the Rockets and one with the Celtics. He also spent two and a half seasons as a point guard for the Clippers before retiring in 2009. 

Aside from Cassell, the Clippers also are interested in promoting another one of their assistants to the head coaching job in Ty Lue, who is considered the frontrunner to replace Rivers for the job. 

Another name on the list, per Wojnarowski, is Jeff Van Gundy, who has been mentioned in virtually every coaching search that’s come up in recent years. Van Gundy hasn’t coached since 2007 with the Houston Rockets, but the Clippers will explore all avenues when it comes to this search, considering this team is in win-now mode. Time isn’t on the Clippers’ side as Paul George and Kawhi Leonard have player options after next season, so L.A. will need to get this hire right and hope next season goes better than this year if it wants to retain both of those players for a few more years.

Houston Rockets

Innovative coach Mike D’Antoni decided he wanted to explore other coaching opportunities outside of Houston soon after the Rockets were bounced in the second round of the playoffs, and is leaving this franchise with an important decision to make. The latest news has the Rockets honing in on Lue, who seems to be a hot commodity for several coaching positions. The Rockets met with the current Clippers assistant on Monday and were impressed with the meeting, per Wojnarowski. Because Lue is also being targeted for the Clippers’ coaching vacancy, the Rockets could offer him a deal soon to try and steal him away from L.A. 

The Rockets also interviewed Jeff Van Gundy on Wednesday, and more conversations are expected on Thursday, according to Wojnarowski. Van Gundy coached the Rockets from 2003-2007, and still lives in the Houston area. He has worked as an ESPN broadcaster ever since, and coached Team USA as it qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. 

Other names the Rockets have been rumored to have interest in are Minnesota Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool, Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. and Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas, per Wojnarowski.

Like the Clippers, the Rockets are in win-now mode, and with so much money tied up in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, this team will basically run it back for next season barring any major trades in the offseason. Whoever steps in will have to enjoy Houston’s small-ball ways, too, as the Rockets want to keep the same style of play even though D’Antoni is gone. 

Unlike Houston and L.A., New Orleans isn’t exactly in a win-now mode with great expectations, but whoever inherits this team will have plenty of talent to work with and an eye toward making the playoffs next season. Zion Williamson is obviously the biggest draw of coaching the Pelicans, and after firing Alvin Gentry, New Orleans will have its pick of a number of high-profile coaches to bring in. The latest news has the Pelicans settling on some finalists for the position, with Stan Van Gundy and Ty Lue being on the list, per Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans have been playing it close to the vest in who they’ve been targeting for head coach, as evidenced by the somewhat surprising report that Stan Van Gundy is one of the finalists. Van Gundy hasn’t been tied to many coaching jobs in the past few months, unlike his brother, but he has an impressive coaching resume that spans 12 years, most recently a four-year stint with the Detroit Pistons that ended in 2018. He has a career coaching record of 523-384 with the Pistons, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, and he’s made the postseason eight of the 12 years he’s been a head coach, including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2009 with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.

Indiana Pacers

After agreeing to give Nate McMillan a contract extension last month, the Pacers ultimately decided they wanted to go in a different direction heading into next season after being swept by the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. It was a weird series of events that was really unfortunate for McMillan, but now Indiana is in the market for a new head coach. Pelicans assistant Chris Finch is reportedly a frontrunner for the position, who has drawn comparisons to reigning Coach of the Year Nick Nurse. The team is still conducting interviews, though, and Miami assistants Chris Quinn and Dan Craig will receive interviews, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. The Pacers have also already held interviews with former Kings coach Dave Joerger and NBA champion Chauncy Billups, per Wojnarowski. 

The Pacers will look to run things back with a fully healthy roster next season, after dealing with crucial injuries to Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in the past few years. 

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