5 potential candidates for the next 76ers head coach

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The Philadelphia 76ers officially sacked head coach Brett Brown on Monday following a disastrous first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.Brown’s sacking didn’t just end a disappointing season in Philadelphia. It also ends a lackluster multi-year spell that saw playoff success elude the franchise despite a talented (and expensive) core. Whoever succeeds the 59-year-old is tasked with immediately reversing the 76ers’ playoff woes.

A coach search is reportedly underway in Philadelphia, although some potential names may not yet be on the franchise’s radar. Here are five potential candidates to become the 76ers’ next head coach.

Ime Udoka

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Udoka is Philadelphia’s safe, in-house solution. The 43-year-old has been the senior assistant to the 76ers coaching staff since June 2019 after working with Gregg Popovich at the San Antonio Spurs for seven years. His experience seems to be well regarded in the league. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls have reportedly interviewed Udoka for their now-filled coaching positions, and he has also spoken to the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic in recent years.

By promoting Udoka, the 76ers are hoping he can rejuvenate the squad while introducing his key stars with some familiarity. A similar maneuver worked for the Raptors when they parted ways with Dwane Casey (despite winning Coach of the Year) to hire his long-time assistant Nick Nurse, who led them to the title during his first season in charge.

Tyronn Read

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Philly has changed their view from accumulating lottery picks to fighting for the titles, so now is the time to bring in a proven winner. Enter Lue, who is currently the main staff assistant for Doc Rivers’ Los Angeles Clippers.

Lue played 554 games in 11 seasons before joining the coaching ranks. The 43-year-old guided the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers to the title after succeeding David Blatt as the team’s best player in January 2016. The Cavs followed that championship with two more final appearances in 2017 and 2018. The latter race came after Kyrie Irving left via trade, triggering an ad hoc reconfiguration of the roster during the 2017 offseason.

Lue has demonstrated an ability to overcome extremely high expectations while commanding respect in a dressing room filled with stars. Isn’t that exactly what the 76ers need as the team look to maximize the talents of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons over the next decade?

Jay Wright

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Wright led Villanova to March 14 Madness trips in 19 years, resulting in national championships in 2016 and 2018. Including his eight seasons at Hofstra, he has 594 coaching wins and a .690 career winning percentage.

Maybe Wright is content with a career similar to that of Coach K as a lifer. But, if he ever wants to try the NBA, the Crosstown 76ers present a fantastic opportunity.

John Beilein’s disastrous 14-40 run with the Cavs this season didn’t exactly help convince Wright to leave college. The 67-year-old former Michigan coach has learned the hard way that managing a list of millionaires isn’t quite the same as building a squad of amateur teenagers. Wright is 58 years old relatively brisk compared to Beilein, but that would make him the second oldest non-interim head coach since Spurs hired then-61-year-old Jerry Tarkanian in 1992.

It’s not like Wright isn’t familiar with coaching professional-caliber talent. Eight of his former Wildcat players made it to NBA rosters during the 2019-20 season, and he cut his teeth as a staff assistant for Popovich USA Basketball. Perhaps the time has come for him to take the leap.

Kenny Atkinson

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Atkinson’s name has popped up in some research since he suddenly left the Brooklyn Nets in March. He has yet to succeed elsewhere despite four respectable seasons with the club. While the combined record of 118-190 doesn’t jump off the page, his player development skills make him an intriguing option. The 76ers are way beyond “The Process,” but a revamped system could be what ultimately makes Simmons, Embiid, Tobias Harris and Al Horford click simultaneously.

A minor tactical refresh aside, Atkinson may also be the kind of voice Philadelphia needs. 76ers goalie Josh Richardson openly told PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck on Sunday that Brown did not hold the players accountable enough. Atkinson benched some of his best players if they weren’t performing, the most memorable being D’Angelo Russell in the 2018-19 season.

Mike D’Antoni

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D’Antoni is concerned about the Houston Rockets handling in the playoffs right now, but the 69-year-old’s future beyond 2019-20 is unresolved.

The two-time Coach of the Year exhausted his contract after failing to agree on an extension in 2019. Add the fact that Rockets officials are considering Lue or Jeff Van Gundy if the coaching role opens, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and D’Antoni are almost certainly gone if he doesn’t at least make it to the final.

Antoni’s expertise is exactly what the 76ers need. He’s a well-traveled offensive specialist with a playbook that can energize the stagnant score of Philadelphia, which placed 20th with 110.7 points per game during the regular season. Coincidentally, they also had an offensive rating of 110.7, which ranked 14th in the league and proves they weren’t much better by advanced metrics.

Some familiarity could also work in D’Antoni’s favor. The longtime bench boss was the associate head coach of the 76ers during the 2015-16 season and oversaw Elton Brand’s final year as a player. Brand, who was named general manager of the 76ers in 2018, would remain in the team’s front office.

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