Typically, it's not particularly difficult to suss out top candidates for an open head-coaching job. The team presumably moved on from that coach for specific reasons, and the executive making the decision likely has relationships with coaches who could theoretically fix those problems. Surprises aren't exactly rare in the NBA, but for the most part, identifying top candidates for an open job usually isn't all that difficult.
That isn't the case for the Dallas Mavericks because their whole organization has sunk into depths of chaos it hasn't seen in decades. Donnie Nelson, their general manager for over two decades, is gone. Rick Carlisle, their head coach for the past 13 seasons, is gone with him. We have no idea who's making the decisions in Dallas right now, and it might be a former professional gambler that has an uneasy relationship with franchise player Luka Doncic.
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These are uncharted waters. We don't know who will be making this decision and we don't know what traits that decision-maker will prioritize. At this point, we can only speculate. The following coaches make sense for some reason or another, but just know that for an organization facing such turmoil, basically, anything is on the table.
1. Jamahl Mosley
Any coach the Mavericks hire has to be able to connect with Doncic, and Mosley, their defensive coordinator, already has Luka's seal of approval. "He's got the things that are needed for a head coach," Doncic said after Mosley filled in for Carlisle in a win over the Knicks during the regular season. "He can be the head coach, for sure." Mosley has interviewed with a number of teams, including the Knicks and Cavaliers, and appears destined to become a head coach either in Dallas or elsewhere in the near future.
The questions he'll have to answer relate to the side of the court he was responsible for. Dallas ranked 21st in defense this season. They were 18th in the two prior seasons and allowed 119.7 points per possession in the first round against the Clippers. Personnel played a big role in those struggles. This is a team built to win shootouts. But unless Dallas is planning a major roster overhaul, promoting Mosley would limit the changes coming on defense.
But even if those roster changes don't come right now, it's hard to imagine Dallas not making major changes over the next few years. If the team likes Mosley's principles, it may trust that he could lead a top defense when the right talent eventually comes.
Mosley is the top internal candidate, and he has a direct line to the franchise player. But it's unclear how valuable continuity is going to be for the Mavericks right. The organization clearly needed change. Depending on who takes over the front office, that might entail bringing in a new voice for the locker room. Without knowing who is making this decision, there is just no way of knowing.
2. Jason Kidd
If the goal here is to hire a coach who can build a strong relationship with Doncic, there isn't a better candidate than Kidd. Giannis Antetokounmpo was ready to go to bat for him when he got fired in Milwaukee. LeBron James reportedly views him as an equal in terms of basketball IQ. Superstars swear by Kidd in part because his own superstardom has helped him understand them. Mark Cuban knows him well from his time as a Mavericks point guard. We are going to hear Kidd's name in this process.
But no candidate comes with more red flags than Kidd, and those extend beyond the court. Kidd was arrested for domestic abuse in 2001. That should scare any team, but it would send a terrible message for the Mavericks to hire him considering the culture of sexism that reportedly enveloped that organization for years. Dallas ignored that history in trading for Kristaps Porzingis despite rape allegations. Doing so again would cause a justifiable firestorm.
Kidd's basketball record isn't quite as problematic, but isn't exactly peachy, either. There's a reason the Bucks fired him, after all. Milwaukee finished 24th or lower in 3-point attempts in each of his last three seasons there. His ultra-aggressive blitzing defense thrived for a season, but teams eventually figured out how to exploit it for easy looks at both the rim and from behind the arc. For all of Mike Budenholzer's postseason struggles in Milwaukee, his common-sense reforms have made the Bucks one of the NBA's best regular-season teams in recent years.
He also has a troubling history of power plays, most notably trying to take over control of basketball operations in Brooklyn before being denied and moving on to the Bucks. The Mavericks are hiring a new head of basketball operations, and presumably, that hire will have quite a bit of say in this one. Would that executive really feel comfortable with Kidd? Hopefully not. No matter how badly the Mavericks want to cater to Luka, this isn't the way to do it.
3. Terry Stotts
Stotts is the compromise candidate. He's a known commodity after 13 seasons as an NBA head coach. He was a Dallas assistant under Carlisle prior to taking over the Portland Trail Blazers and helped the Mavericks win the 2011 championship. He coached Damian Lillard for almost a decade, so clearly, he has some understanding of what it takes to work with a superstar. Stotts might not excite anybody, but he wouldn't anger anyone either. He's external continuity.
But if the Mavericks are concerned about Mosley defensively, they'd have to be even more worried about Stotts. His Blazers ranked 29th last season and were near the bottom of the league for most of his tenure. His former boss, Neil Olshey, did everything short of screaming "this was Terry's fault" at his press conference after the two sides split. The Mavericks might have had better defensive personnel than Portland did last season, but the gap wasn't enormous.
There's something to be said for stability, though. So many things are changing in Dallas that having a known quantity might not be the worst thing, if only for a few years. The Mavericks should look into higher-upside options, but as fallbacks go, they could do a whole lot worse.
4. Igor Kokoskov
Need a coach that Doncic will respect? Well, how about someone that has literally coached him already? Igor Kokoskov led the Slovenian National Team in 2016 and 2017, and with Doncic as his primary ball-handler, went undefeated to win gold at EuroBasket 2017. Kokoskov moved on to coach Serbia after that, connecting him with another NBA superstar: Nikola Jokic.
His lone season as an NBA head coach didn't go well. The Suns fired him after a 19-63 campaign, but in fairness, they likely would have been a good deal better if they'd drafted Doncic No. 1 overall. There's no way of knowing how much or little influence Kokoskov had in that decision, but considering the youth of the roster he had in Phoenix, it's hard to imagine him doing much better. He was an assistant in Sacramento under Luke Walton during the 2019-20 season before taking the head job with Fenerbahce last season.
Judging Kokoskov based on that lone season in Phoenix wouldn't be fair or even possible. There's no telling how successful he would be in a second stint, but his connection to Doncic warrants an interview. Keeping the superstar happy has to be a priority.
5. Becky Hammon
Hammon's credentials are beyond reproach. A seven-year apprenticeship under Gregg Popovich has earned her several head-coaching interviews, but she still hasn't been given a top job. She is a WNBA legend that could connect with Doncic through their shared experience of carrying a franchise. She's drawn rave reviews from almost everyone that has worked with her. Hammon, like Mosley, is going to be an NBA head coach. It's just a matter of when, and where.
The Mavericks aren't going to make a symbolic hire, but it would be hard to deny the impact of that franchise, specifically, choosing Hammon. The entire organization should be re-evaluated with Carlisle and Nelson now gone, and while the Mavericks have taken steps in the right direction on the business side, their basketball operations didn't experience much notable changes after Sports Illustrated's reporting on their culture as it related to women. Hammon deserves a head-coaching job on merit. She is going to get one. But getting the Dallas job would indicate true progress within an organization that badly needs to make some.