The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly entering the final rounds of their interview process to find a new head coach after firing Terry Stotts following a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. So far there have been three finalists who have made it past the initial round of interviews, including Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D'Antoni, Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Hammon reportedly had her second interview with the team on Monday, while D'Antoni and Billups will have theirs at some point this week.
Hammon's candidacy for the Blazers job marks the first time a woman has been a finalist for a head-coaching position in the NBA, and if she were to get the job, she'd be the first woman head coach across any of the major men's professional sports leagues in the country. She's been an assistant on coach Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs staff since 2014, and has interviewed for several head-coaching gigs across the league over the years. However, she hasn't gotten this far before, which shows that it's not a matter of if but when there will be the first woman head coach in the NBA. Hammon's already been the first woman to coach in the NBA summer league, when she led the Spurs to a summer league championship in 2015, and she's been lauded by the likes of other great basketball minds like Popovich throughout her coaching career.
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While Billups wouldn't be breaking any barriers by becoming head coach of the Blazers, it would certainly be a long time coming for the former NBA champion. Billups is highly regarded across the league for his basketball IQ, and his championship pedigree would command respect inside the Blazers locker room for a team that's looking to get over the hump the past few years. He's been considered for other head-coaching positions in the past, but none of them has ever come to fruition.
D'Antoni's candidacy is a no brainer, given his creativeness on the offensive side of the ball. If he were to become the Portland head coach he could unlock a new level of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum's game. But offense has never been the problem with the Blazers. Stotts was a great offensive-minded coach, the issue with Portland over the years has been its subpar defense. When D'Antoni was coaching the Rockets, only one season did his team rank in the top 10 in defense, which was the year the Rockets went to the Western Conference Finals in 2018. The other three seasons in Houston, D'Antoni coached average to below average defensive teams, so it would be about the same as what Portland had with Stotts in that regard.
The Blazers have been unable to catapult themselves into the championship-contender conversation in recent years, but with Lillard and McCollum as their core right now, those expectations certainly remain. Whoever takes over as coach will be inheriting a team that expects to win right now, and won't settle on just securing a playoff spot anymore.