Trail Blazers coaching search: Who will replace Terry Stotts?

For the last nine years, the Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the better teams in the Western Conference, making the playoffs in eight consecutive NBA seasons, including a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2019. However, change is finally coming to this organization as head coach Terry Stotts and the Blazers have mutually agreed to part ways. 

Now, with rumors about the futures of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum swirling, Portland finds themselves in the midst of what could very well be a franchise-altering coaching search. Both Lillard and McCollum have never played for another head coach other than Stotts, so they will both likely be involved in this coaching search, but one early candidate for the position has already backed out. 

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Lakers’ assistant Jason Kidd withdrew his name from consideration for the Portland head coaching job Sunday afternoon according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. After Portland announced that they were moving on from Stotts as head coach on Friday, Damian Lillard publicly cited Jason Kidd as someone he would love to play for, but many believe that this may have pushed Kidd away from pursuing this opportunity with the Blazers. 

Jason Kidd was heavily expected to be the next head coach of Portland given the team’s interest in him and Damian Lillard wanting to play for him, but now, they will have to consider all of their options to not only put their organization in a great place to succeed, but to please their star player. 

Sources have told NBA Analysis Network that Clippers’ assistant coach and 5x NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups, Nets assistant Mike D’Antonio, University of Michigan head coach and former 2x NBA champion Juwan Howard, and former Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool are among the leading candidates for the head coaching vacancy in Portland, but no meetings have been scheduled yet.

Billups retired from the NBA in 2014 and prior to the start of this season, he was hired as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers under head coach Tyronn Lue. The former five-time All-Star was the leader of the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons team that went to the NBA Finals and won the franchise’s third championship. Billups was named Finals MVP in that series and would be a great fit in Portland given his experiences as a guard and the two focal points of the Trail Blazers being Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, two of the premier guards in the league today. 

After coaching four season in Houston, Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets decided to part ways after last season, leading to him becoming an assistant coach on the Brooklyn Nets under his former player with the Phoenix Suns, Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash. D’Antoni has been coaching in the NBA since 1997 and brings a ton of head coaching experience to the table for Portland. 

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While D’Antoni has never coached a team to the NBA Finals, he is a 2x NBA Coach of the Year award recipient and recently coached the Houston Rockets, led by James Harden, to the Western Conference Finals in 2018, coming up one win short of reaching the NBA Finals. 

When former Michigan Wolverines head coach John Beilein decided to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of the 2019-20 season, the University of Michigan decided to hire former member of “The Fab Five,” Juwan Howard, as their next head coach. Howard played 19 years in the NBA, making the All-Star game once during the 1995-96 season and won back-to-back titles with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. 

Since becoming the head coach of Michigan, Howard has seen his name pop up a lot at the NBA level in coaching searches given his success coaching at the college level. Juwan Howard has posted a 42-17 record at Michigan over the last two seasons and is an excellent player’s coach. 

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The final candidate that has been mentioned to NBA Analysis Network is David Vanterpool, who served as an assistant coach for the Trail Blazers from 2012-2019. Vanterpool was essential in the development of both Lillard and McCollum in Portland and Damian Lillard has credited his former coach specifically with him developing leadership skills. 

Over the years, David Vanterpool has interviewed for several head coaching vacancies around the league and has yet to be given a chance to prove what he can do as a head coach, but this opening in Portland definitely seems like one he could wind up getting. He already has a great relationship with some of the players and team executives and Vanterpool would probably love to come back to Portland to be the head coach of the team he spent seven years with as an assistant. 

Portland has some big decisions to make in regards to who they will hire, but they really cannot go wrong with any of these four guys mentioned above. All of them bring a unique coaching aspect with them to the table and with Portland stating that Lillard will be involved in the coaching search, do not expect to see a rash decision to be made. 

The Trail Blazers finished the 2020-21 season with a 42-30 record, tied for the 5th best record in the Western Conference, and they made the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season, ultimately losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first-round of the playoffs.

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