Celtics

NBA insiders weigh in on Celtics’ coaching candidates and the team’s situation

Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee are reportedly candidates for the job.

Carlos Osorio
Chauncey Billups is reportedly one of several possible candidates for the Celtics' head coaching position.

The Celtics’ head coaching search appears to be picking up some steam.

Brad Stevens, who’s now the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, has reached out to external coaching candidates after interviewing internal candidates, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday. Among the reported candidates are Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups and Bucks assistants Darvin Ham and Charles Lee.

On his podcast “The Woj Pod,” Wojnarowski and fellow ESPN NBA insider Malika Andrews shared their thoughts on some of the reported candidates for Celtics’ head coach job.

“One thing I love is to watch Darvin Ham and Charles Lee discuss what the future could look like for the both of them. There is no bigger proponent for Charles than Darvin and there’s no bigger proponent for Darvin than Charles,” Andrews, who used to cover the Bucks for ESPN, said.

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“[Bucks coach] Mike Budenholzer, as you mentioned, it’s been a trickle-down effect because he came from the [Gregg] Popovich tree. Now Bud, he’s created his own tree. There is a Mike Budenholzer tree that is coming out in the NBA. I believe Charles Lee and Darvin Ham are going to be head coaches in this league. I think the league is starting to see it.”

Both Ham and Lee have worked under Budenholzer since Budenholzer was a head coach in Atlanta and made the move with Budenholzer when he became the Bucks head coach in 2018.

Lee, who played basketball professionally overseas, was touted by those in the league as a “five-tool coach,” ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz found while reporting on the top coaching candidates in 2020.

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“Those who have worked with him say he has an intuitive sense of how to inspire improvement from players but also understands high-level strategy and the preparation required to implement it,” Arnovitz wrote. “He is, in the words of one peer, someone who is ‘categorically going to be an NBA head coach.'”

In the 2021 version of the article, Arnovitz found Ham is also a “multi-tool candidate.”

“Ham brings both the savvy of a tough NBA journeyman and the prowess of a top assistant on one of the league’s best-organized staffs,” Arnovitz wrote. “He could thrive with both a roster of vets, a rebuilding project or anything in between.”

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Wojnarowski said that there’s “a great crop of assistant coaches” on the head coaching market and mentioned that Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley will interview for the Celtics’ job. Mosley, who once played professionally overseas, serves as the Mavericks’ defensive coordinator under head coach Rick Carlisle and has prior coaching stints with the Cavaliers and Nuggets.

“There’s a certain blend of personal qualities executives look for in first-time head coaches: affability, discipline, mental fortitude, self-awareness, intellectual curiosity and energy. Mosley checks every box and has the added benefit of a graduate education in X’s and O’s from one of the game’s best tacticians,” Arnovitz wrote of Mosley in 2020.

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Billups is the biggest name from the list of candidates Wojnarowski reported on. After getting drafted by the Celtics in 1997, Billups was traded during his rookie season but found great success in the league as a player. His career highlight came in 2004, when he led the Pistons to an upset NBA Finals win over the Lakers and won Finals MVP. He was also a five-time All-Star during his playing days.

The Celtics may have some competition to get Billups, who is in his first season with the Clippers.

“One name we left out that is maybe the most prominent of assistant coaches is Chauncey Billups with the Clippers, who is among the very serious candidates in Portland and Boston,” Wojnarowski said on his podcast. “He obviously started his playing career in Boston. He originally was focused on going into the front office and he came pretty close in Cleveland but ultimately chose to turn that job down as GM. He then decided to go on the coaching track and the chance to go to the Clippers as an assistant coach has been really beneficial for his development.”

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“I think for Chauncey it’s been really good to get that experience on what’s a very good Clippers staff,” Wojnarowski added. “You have former head coaches on that staff and obviously Ty Lue, who’s been an elite coach in the league. You’re going to continue to hear Chauncey’s name in this coaching cycle.”

Other coaches who’ve been rumored to be candidates for the Celtics gig are Nets assistants Ime Udoka and Mike D’Antoni. While Udoka doesn’t have head coaching experience, D’Antoni has 16 seasons as a head coach under his belt, holding that role for the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks, Lakers, and Rockets.

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As for the inhouse candidates, the Celtics interviewed assistants Jay Larranaga, Jerome Allen, Scott Morrison and Joe Mazzulla, according to Wojnarowski.

No matter what the Celtics end up doing, Wojnarowski has his eye on them.

“Boston will be interesting,” Wojnarowski said. “Brad Stevens is doing their search to find his replacement. Would they go with an assistant? You’ve got two All-Stars under 25 years old in Boston. It makes it an appealing job.”

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