Denver Nuggets General Manager Brian Connelly announced Tuesday that head coach Brian Shaw has been fired, after the former Phil Jackson assistant finished with just a 20-39 record this season. The Nuggets will turn to assistant Melvin Hunt as the interim coach, but a full-time replacement will likely be decided after an offseason search and hiring process.
"This season our management staff has remained patient and supportive as decisions of this nature are never taken lightly," said Nuggets President Josh Kroenke in a press release.
"Patience is encouraged, as long as the organization continues to show progress toward a greater goal. However, competing for championships is our goal, and therefore we decided to make this decision now and look forward to conducting an extensive head coaching search upon the season's conclusion."
ESPN reported there are already strong candidates in discussion to be the full-time replacement for Shaw, who went 56-85 in less than two full seasons with Denver. Most of the projected replacements are familiar candidates who have been around the coaching block before.
Below is a look at three of the stronger candidates for the Nuggets job and what they might bring to the organization should they be hired:
Mark Jackson – Jackson had a relatively successful stint with the Golden State Warriors before being let go after the 2014 season. In less than three full seasons as coach of the Warriors he went 121-109, posting a .526 winning percentage. That percentage would be a significant upgrade over Shaw’s mark of .397. Jackson also led the Warriors to back-to-back playoff appearances with a squad that relied heavily on young players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Jackson clashed with the organization, however, and Golden State has ascended to greater heights under new coach Steve Kerr’s direction. Jackson returned to work for ESPN as an analyst, and will likely be considered for the Nuggets’ position. However, Jackson is considered a hot commodity and will likely have other offers, as well.
Avery Johnson – Much like Jackson, Johnson is a former coach who previously found success in the NBA and now works at ESPN. Johnson had a good run as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks from 2005-2008. His best season was 2006, in which the Mavericks made the NBA Finals but lost to a Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat squad. Like Jackson, Johnson’s replacement took the team to new heights as Rick Carlisle went on to lead the Mavs to a title in 2011.
Johnson later coached the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets for two full seasons before being fired 28 games into his third year. The Nets run was far less successful, yet Johnson’s coaching overall record is still 254-186 (.577) over seven seasons. His experience and past successes might make him an attractive candidate for a Denver squad that has looked lost for stretches of the season. Johnson is known for coaching his teams to play aggressively on both offense and defense, which could help counteract a roster thinned by trades and departures.
Alvin Gentry – Gentry might be a top candidate for just about every opening this offseason. He is currently the associate head coach of the first-place Warriors and is generally credited with being an offensive mastermind. He had the Los Angeles Clippers churning out 108.8 points-per-game in 2014 before jumping ship to help lead the Warriors with Kerr. Golden State leads the league in scoring this season at 110.1 ppg.
Gentry has been around the coaching carousel before and has amassed a 307-338 (.476) combined record in his stints as a head coach or interim head coach. His pit stops feature stints with the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns, Clippers and Warriors. In a league that is moving toward fast-paced, high-scoring offenses, Gentry would be a hire that would fit with the trend. If he doesn’t land in Denver his successes, it wouldn't be surprising if ends up somewhere else.