As we've said before, choosing a head coach is in many ways a crapshoot. Great coaches come from all sorts of backgrounds -- Mark Montieth of the Indianapolis Star shows that very well in this blog entry on the current top coaches in the league (hat tip to pookey and Indy Cornrows).
Different teams need different characteristics from their coach. Different executives value different backgrounds... differently. Some prefer the former player, some think a great Xs and Os guy is needed. Some want a traffic director who can keep everyone happy, some would rather hire a strong leader who isn't afraid to knock some fools in line. Rudy Tomjanovich was a great coach who just didn't fit at all in Los Angeles. Ditto Larry Brown in New York. Bill Belichick in Cleveland. There really is no telling what makes a great coach, and the situation has everything to do with it.
But I think something Geoff Petrie will be looking for in his search -- which could be finished by the end of the week, by the way -- is experience. This roster watched a young coach get murdered by the dynamics of the locker room. In a rebuilding phase, there must be a strong hand of guidance showing the way. In some places, that role can be filled by a player -- such as in Philadelphia during the second half of this season, with Andre Miller bringing the youngsters to life and the franchise to the upswing. In other towns, it's the coach -- Portland, with the underrated Nate McMillan at the helm, is an example.
Sadly, no player like that exists on this team. Mike Bibby is not a leader. Ron Artest has too many other issues and a murky future with the franchise. Kevin Martin is young. Francisco Garcia doesn't yet have a big enough on-court role. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, John Salmons, and Brad Miller are quiet guys, and Kenny Thomas sucks. This leadership through the storm -- and this season will be a storm -- needs to come from the coaching staff.
That makes me believe Geoff Petrie is looking for an experienced head coach, one who has seen a lot of locker rooms with various problems. If this team needs a guiding hand, Petrie will try to find it. That said, here's how the eight actual candidates and one possible candidate stack up in terms of coaching experience.
Jeff Van Gundy -- the not-yet-a-candidate candidate -- has more head coaching experience than all other eight combined. Stan Van Gundy has 2.5 years, and Kurt Rambis has the equivalent of a half-season. That's it. Tom Thibodeau has plenty of assistant coaching experience. Reggie Theus is the only guy being interviewed with zero NBA coaching experience.
Which way do you think Petrie will lean?