Apparently, concerns about the defense are not the primary drivers of the coaching search in Charlotte.
The temptations of putting All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball and his creative playmaking in a Mike D’Antoni system may be too much for the Hornets to resist. Echoing earlier reports, Marc Stein says in his latest newsletter Mike D’Antoni is in a “strong position” to be the next head coach in Charlotte.
…there is ongoing buzz in league coaching circles that Mike D’Antoni is in a strong position to land the Charlotte Hornets’ head coaching job. Defensive issues were said to be a key element of James Borrego’s unexpected downfall after four solid seasons, but Charlotte is nonetheless said to want a veteran coach who can forge a strong connection with All-Star guard LaMelo Ball, who would presumably thrive in an offense D’Antoni surely tailors around him completely. Another factor in D’Antoni’s favor despite his reputed aversion to defensive matters: Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak already hired D’Antoni once with the Lakers.
D’Antoni has evolved as a coach since the seven-seconds-or-less Suns and even since his time with Kupchak and the Lakers. With the Rockets, he built a successful James Harden-centric offense (until walking away following a contract dispute). If he put together something similar around Ball, the Hornets could improve and become the most entertaining team in the league.
Charlotte already had a top-10 offense last season, it was the bottom-10 defense that relegated them in the play-in games (and getting blown out by the Hawks). Kupchak would likely force D’Antoni to hire a solid defensive lead assistant coach, essentially making that person a defensive coordinator.
Is Kupchak being this involved in the coaching search a sign he is not leaving the team? Picking the coach then walking away and forcing a new GM to live with his choice is, at best, unconventional. It’s not something Michael Jordan should allow — a new GM should get to pick his coach. Maybe it means Kupchak is sticking around a while.
And working with D’Antoni.