Do you like seeing train players coach teams? The NBA has you covered! Whether it’s guys like Steve Kerr showing his dominance or Steve Nash being in attendance on the sideline, the league is completely obsessed with having former players as head coaches.
This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Heck, Pat Riley used to play, so did Larry Brown, even Phil Jackson. Some of the league’s greatest coaches once played themselves — but now we’re seeing everyone roll the dice on an ex-player. The Lakers just hired Darvin Ham, who spent nine years in the NBA before playing in the Philippines for the Talk N’ Text Phone Pals, which I note only as an excuse to mention the Talk N’ Text Phone Pals. Ham has a pedigree as an assistant coach with the Lakers, Hawks and Bucks, but it’s still a little surprising to see him take over a team with the expectations Los Angeles does.
The entire ex-player phenomenon got me thinking. What if all 30 teams agreed to play one magical season with ex-players all coaching? What if we added the caveat that teams had to have a coach who used to play for their organization? When I mentioned this in our work Slack the conversation exploded with some of the most incredible terrible ideas, like Gilbert Arenas leading the Washington Wizards or Darko Milicic coaching the Pistons — God help them both.
Dig a little deeper and you’d find one of the most compelling seasons in recent memory. The hard-nosed NBA of the 80s and 90s merging with the modern game to create a one-season mix where nobody is afraid of hurting feelings, everyone is out for their own, and powderkegs all over the NBA primed to explode.
The all-player NBA coaching dream
Atlanta Hawks: Dominique Wilkins
Boston Celtics: Larry Bird
Brooklyn Nets: Jason Kidd
Charlotte Hornets: Muggsy Bugs
Chicago Bulls: Steve Kerr
Cleveland Cavaliers: Mark Price
Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups
Indiana Pacers: Mark Jackson
Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade
Milwaukee Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing
Orlando Magic: Penny Hardaway
Philadelphia 76ers: Charles Barkley
Toronto Raptors: Charles Oakley
Washington Wizards: Caron Butler
Dallas Mavericks: Steve Nash
Denver Nuggets: Dikembe Mutombo
Golden State Warriors: Chris Mullin
Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon
Los Angeles Clippers: Danny Manning
Los Angeles Lakers: Kurt Rambis
Memphis Grizzlies: Paul Gasol
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Garnett
New Orleans Pelicans: Baron Davis
Oklahoma City Thunder: Gary Payton
Phoenix Suns: Dan Majerle
Portland Trail Blazers: Bill Walton
Sacramento Kings: Mike Bibby
San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan
Utah Jazz: Jeff Hornacek
So… who would win this league?
The Bulls being coached by Steve Kerr. Any other answer is incorrect.
Which team would implode before the All Star break?
The Sixers. Absolutely, positively, without question the Sixers. Can you imagine how practice would go with Joel Embiid and James Harden butting heads with Chuck? It would be an absolute nightmare. Barkley would trash talk them to the media all the time, they would scream non-stop and Danny Green, bless his heart, would try to be the mediator to no avail.
Who would get an NBA job from this?
My money is on Mark Price. He bounced around the NBA with various assistant coaching jobs over the years, and gained some renown with the Charlotte Bobcats before being named as head coach of UNC-Charlotte. That tenure didn’t go as planned, but I feel with a talented team like the Cavs they can carry him during the player-coached season and he’d get a chance somewhere else.
Who would be the first to get fired?
Charles Oakley might punch someone in training camp.