(Updated: 1:40 p.m.)
We’ve established that Rick Sund has a difficult offseason in front of him (new coaching hire, Joe Johnson, potential roster remake). We’ve kicked around the names of potential candidates (some legitimate, some suspect) to replace potential candidates to replace Mike Woodson.
But here’s something we really haven’t addressed: How adept has Sund been when it comes to hiring coaches?
Answer: Overall, not very.
In his time as general manager and front office executive for three previous NBA franchises (Dallas, Detroit, Seattle), Sund has hired or inherited and kept 11 head coaches (not including Woodson). Here’s a brief synopsis of each with a final grade (thanks to the advantage of hindsight).
♦ 1. Dick Motta (Dallas, 1980-87): Motta was a veteran coach, having won an NBA title with the Washington Bullets. He helped grow the expansion Mavericks and improved them every season, although they could not get past the second round of the playoffs. GRADE: A.
♦ 2. John McLeod (Dallas, 1987-89): Also a veteran coach who had reached the finals with Phoenix. In his first season with Dallas, McLeod coached the team into the Western Conference finals (Sund’s only conference finals appearance). But the Mavs failed to make the playoffs the following year and Sund surprisingly fired him only 11 games into the 1989-90 season. GRADE: C.
♦ 3. Richie Adubato (Dallas, 1989-93). This started a string of colossal failures by Sund. Adubato mostly had been an assistant, with one unsuccessful year as head coach in Detroit. He made the playoffs in his first season with Dallas but exited quickly. In the next two-plus seasons, the Mavericks went 52-141. He was fired after a 2-27 start in 1992-93. GRADE: F.
♦ 4. Gar Heard (Dallas, 1993): He took over as interim in 1993 and couldn’t stop the downward spiral. Record: 9-44. GRADE: Incomplete.
♦ 5. Quinn Buckner (Dallas, 1993-94): The grease fire of Sund’s hires. Buckner, who had no coaching experience, attempted to replicate the dictatorial ways of his college coach, Bob Knight. Didn’t go well. Dallas started the season 1-23 and finished 13-69. When it was over, Sund was gone too. GRADE: F.
♦ 6. Doug Collins (Detroit, 1995-98): Collins had a decent coaching run in Chicago but couldn’t win a title. He was replaced by his assistant, some guy named Phil Jackson. Collins lost in the first round twice in two seasons with the Pistons, then was fired in year three following a 21-24 start. GRADE: C.
♦ 7. Alvin Gentry (Detroit, 1998-00): Gentry is having a great run with Phoenix in the Western Conference finals. That wasn’t the case in Detroit. He mostly was a well-traveled assistant (save for one season as head coach in Miami) before he took over for Collins. The Pistons missed the playoffs in that first year and made a quick postseason exit the following season. Gentry was gone after a 28-30 start in 2000-01. GRADE: C-minus.
♦ 8. George Irvine (Detroit, 2000-01): Sund’s time in Detroit clearly was running out (the Pistons hired Joe Dumars as vice president of basketball operations in 2000). Hiring Irvine didn’t help his cause. Irvine’s record: 46-60. After the season, he and Sund both were gone. GRADE: F.
♦ 9. Nate McMillan (Seattle, 2001-05): Sund inherited McMillan, who had taken over as interim the previous season. He kept him. The Sonics made the playoffs in two of the next four seasons and won 52 games and a division title in 2004-05. But after the season, he opted to leave for Portland, taking a reported five-year, $30 million offer over Seattle’s four-year, $18 million deal. GRADE: B.
♦ 10. Bob Weiss (Seattle, 2005-06): The only explanation is that when McMillan left, Sund went insane. Bob Weiss? He was fired after 30 games (13-17). GRADE: F.
♦ 11. Bob Hill (Seattle, 2006-07). A step up from Weiss. But not by much. Totals: 53-81 in a season and a half, no playoffs. Neither Hill nor Sund (who had several draft mistakes in Seattle) survived. GRADE: D.
Many believe Sund had it right when he said the Hawks needed a new coach to take them to the next level. To find that guy, he’ll need a bit of a turnaround.