In the end, it may shake out differently, but for now, Kelvin Sampson is the likeliest choice.
Some prominent NBA officials insist Kelvin Sampson has been and still is Bucks’ top choice as new head coach.
— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) May 4, 2013
Nabbing Jerry Sloan is a pipe dream. Hall of Famers don’t bend over backward to join small-market teams with sub-.500 records.
Getting Stan Van Gundy probably won’t happen either. Aside from the chance to plug Larry Sanders into the schemes that he used to arrange around Dwight Howard, it’s hard to foresee Van Gundy finding enough factors to make returning to coaching worth his while in Milwaukee.
Unlike Sloan or Van Gundy, Sampson is likely to take a head coaching gig soon. He has successfully climbed the ladder of NBA assistant coaches including three seasons in Milwaukee under Scott Skiles. But with Jim Boylan fully entrenched as the top assistant a season ago, Sampson left the Bucks and went to the Rockets for a similar position under Kevin McHale.
When McHale’s daughter died of lupus in November, McHale took a leave of absence. Sampson led the Rockets to a 7-6 record in the interim. Like Milwaukee in the East, Houston finished with the eighth seed in the West.
The Rockets though won a pair of games before bowing out of the first round. Houston owner Leslie Alexander lauded McHale and clearly stated his intent to keep him.
Alexander praised McHale, staff. They’ve talked. McHale has 2 more yrs on contract. “Kevin has done a great job. He’s not going anywhere.”
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) May 4, 2013
So Sampson will have to leave Houston to get a chance at being a head coach. Milwaukee makes as much sense as anywhere else.
The Bucks want a coach with a defensive bent and a personality strong enough to control a locker room. Sampson meets both requirements. With over 750 games coached in college, Sampson has the extensive experience as a head coach that Jim Boylan did not. Plus, the Bucks know exactly what they’ll have in Sampson from his three seasons with them.
It also seems like he pushes against upper limits of the team’s price tag: somewhere just below the top-10 highest coaches, but not too far below that mark either.
The Bucks could probably find a better coach; they could certainly find one worse. But in terms of timing and fit, it’s a safe bet that no one is a more likely candidate than Sampson.