Do you believe in second chances? The answer would be “Yes” for five NBA teams. When NBA training camp begins at the end of the month, some teams out there will be celebrating the return of their coaches. The free-agency market for coaches may not be as exciting as the free-agency period for signing players, but it is equally important. We’re talking about the guys who’ll be calling the plays and managing the minutes. Nowadays, controlling egos among superstar players and getting blasted on social media for losing streaks are part of the job.
Let’s take a look at some of the teams who are welcoming back their coaches.
Rick Carlisle is back as he takes the lead in guiding the Pacers. It’s a homecoming for Carlisle as he was their former coach from 2003 to 2007. He was there to witness the Malice in the Palace and Reggie Miller’s last season. While his record did not stand out in Indiana, Carlisle’s time at Texas showed that he could lead a team by winning the 2011 championship with the Mavericks. The teams they had to eliminate made that title run impressive. Aside from beating the Miami Heat with LeBron James, they went through Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.
The Washington Wizards have brought back one of their own. Wes Unseld Jr. has gotten his first head coaching job with the Wizards. He was with the team from 2005 to 2011 and was around during the Gilbert Arenas versus Javaris Crittenton gun controversy. Fortunately, the team dodged some bullets and avoided a potential catastrophe. Unseld Jr. seems to have finally been rewarded after being an assistant coach around the league. His most recent gig was being part of the coaching staff for the Denver Nuggets last season.
Jason Kidd spent plenty of years in Dallas, including the 2011 championship season. What happened during Kidd’s last head coaching job? He was fired by the Milwaukee Bucks in the middle of his fourth season with them. His fans will have an easy time forgetting about that though because his return brings back a lot of better memories. During Kidd’s first stint, he was drafted by the Mavericks in 1994 and won Rookie of the Year award. He had to share that award with the great Grant Hill. Kidd also earned his first All-Star appearance the following year as a starter. During Kidd’s second stint, he was traded back to Dallas in 2008 and then won the NBA title with Dirk Nowitzki a few years later. With Luka Doncic in tow, Kidd has a chance to bring a title back to Dallas.
New Orleans Pelicans
Willie Green has been around the NBA for several years as a player and assistant coach. He even played for New Orleans when they were known as the Hornets and was there during the end of the Chris Paul era. Highlights of Green’s career would be the two titles he won as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. Green also gets to bring with him the experience of reaching the NBA Finals last season with the Phoenix Suns. At 40 years old, Green is one of the youngest coaches and is tasked with turning Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into playoff contenders.
Nine years ago, Nick Van Exel was the team’s player development instructor. Now he’s back as an assistant coach. That’s an upgrade Van Exel would accept anytime. He gets to be on the sidelines now with head coach Nate McMillan and help lead an Atlanta Hawks team that is expected to make the playoffs as long as Trae Young is around. Van Exel, former scout for the Mavericks, can probably teach Young how to get triple-doubles consistently like Doncic.
The first thing these coaches have to do is to make sure their respective team finishes at a better position compared to last season. Making the playoffs would be counted as a successful season for the Pelicans and the Pacers. For the Wizards and Mavericks, making it past the first round has to be the priority. That leaves Van Exel with the highest expectation to conquer. The Hawks had a deep playoff run last year and matching it this season might be a tough task. No matter what happens, these coaches and how they’ll fare in their second-chance opportunities will be something to keep an eye on.
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