An early look at coaching targets

RYAN WOLSTAT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Excluding Jay Triano, who has the rest of the season to prove himself, there are many candidates to take over long-term as coach of the Raptors:

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

- Jeff Van Gundy -- Elite defensively ... Took the Knicks to the 1999 NBA final, but his teams don't score enough or please the fans -- two traits Colangelo favours.

- Flip Saunders -- Maligned for never getting to the final, but did lead both the Timberwolves and Pistons to appearances in the conference final ... Balanced coach. A creative offensive mind who consistently fielded teams that ranked near the top of the league in defensive efficiency.

- Avery Johnson -- Jury still out. Took Mavericks to within minutes of the 2006 championship, but team had spectacular meltdown and again the following playoffs ... Fiery attitude grates on players.

- Eddie Jordan -- Recently let go by the Wizards ... Brilliant offensive strategist ... Teams play hard and overachieve when injuries to stars hit ... Knock is his teams don't play a lick of defence.

THE ASSISTANTS

- Tom Thibodeau -- Defensive mastermind behind world champion Celtics ... In 18 seasons, teams have finished in the top 10 in team defence 15 times ... Unclear if he can provide enough at the other end to be a head guy.

- Mike Budenholzer -- Gregg Popovich's lead assistant in San Antonio. Three titles in 15 years with the Spurs.

OVERSEAS GANG

- Ettore Messina -- Decorated coach of CSKA Moscow, has ties to assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini and Andrea Bargnani ... Is seen as the leading candidate to become the first European head coach in NBA history.

- David Blatt -- An American who also has done well overseas and helped develop Bargnani at Benneton.


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