NBA coaching carousel

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

BOSTON -- Away from the on-court games, away from the ongoing battle featuring the Celtics and the Lakers, is the league's annual coaching carousel.

As the NBA final began, there was word that Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau was offered the coaching vacancy in New Orleans, a post he decided not to accept.

Days later, news leaked that Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls had an agreement, a deal that got done when officials from Chicago flew to L.A. to hammer out details with the NBA's highest-paid assistant.

Now comes word that ESPN analyst Avery Johnson will coach the Nets.

But the biggest coaching domino is Michigan State's Tom Izzo, who is being courted by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland's owner, Dan Gilbert, is a Michigan State alumnus whose deep pockets have reached out to Izzo.

It's not the first time an NBA team has tried to lure Izzo to the pro level, and it's not the first time an NBA team has coveted a college coach.

Izzo reportedly is mulling an offer that will pay him $6 million US a year, but there's no assurance that LeBron James is staying in Cleveland.

Unfortunately, the history of college coaches succeeding at the pro level isn't very good.

The list is seemingly endless, going back to the days when Jerry (Tark the Shark) Tarkanian bombed in San Antonio.

John Calipari was a bust in the NBA with the Nets; Rick Pitino failed in Boston; Lon Kruger failed in Atlanta; Leonard Hamilton in Washington; Tim Floyd in Chicago; Mike Montgomery in Golden State.

"It's not an easy job," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said of the grind that is life in the NBA.

"When it's 200-some days, depending on how far you go into the playoffs, it's (a) pretty arduous task as far as dealing with stars of all ranges coming to the NBA.

"The game itself, 82 games, is a big difference from 30 or whatever you coach in college."

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers believes the list of college coaches who have failed in the NBA is the direct result of not having good teams.

He has a point, but the NBA is an entirely different beast than college, where coaches call the shots.

At the pro level, most of the good coaches don't get in the way of players, their role is more about managing egos than it is managing minutes.

"I don't think it's tough for college coaches to coach in the NBA," Rivers said. "If you look at it historically, they've all had bad jobs.

"They've all had bad talent on their team. I think the first one who gets good players will be a good coach in our league."

When informed of the package Izzo is rumoured to be contemplating from Cleveland, Jackson didn't skip a beat.

"Good for him," Jackson said, smiling. "Way to go."

Jackson is the NBA's highest-paid coach. He is in the final year of a deal that pays him $12.5 million.

If he does come back, management already has stated Jackson would have to accept a reduction in pay.

Rivers' situation is equally murky, torn between his desire to coach and his longing to be with his family, which would allow him to resume his TV analyst post.

Izzo isn't the only candidate Cleveland has targeted, but he is by far the biggest name out there.

The latest buzz has Byron Scott linked with the Cavs. Scott is a former coach of the year who led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back appearances in the NBA final. He was fired by New Orleans earlier this season and has bided his time working as a TV analyst.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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