The Celtics' 8 best coaching candidates to replace Brad Stevens after promotion

Written By Jacob Camenker
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(SN/Getty)

The Celtics made some massive changes to their team in the wake of their Round 1 playoff loss to the Nets.

Brad Stevens is out as the team's coach, but he's not gone from the organization. Instead, he was promoted to the head of basketball operations position with the team. He's taking over for Danny Ainge, who departs after 18 years as the GM for the Celtics and one championship (2008).

But now, the Celtics will have their first new GM in almost two decades. And Stevens will be searching for who will be just the Celtics' third coach since 2004.

MORE: What Stevens' promotion, Ainge's departure mean for Celtics

Replacing Stevens won't be easy. His 318 wins are the fourth-most in Celtics history behind Red Auerbach, Tommy Heinsohn and Doc Rivers. But because Stevens is set to lead the search for the next coach, he should have a chance to pick a good one from a solid crop of available candidates. Here are some of the best and rumored options for the team to target.

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Jason Kidd

  • Current job: Lakers assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? Yes

Kidd is expected to be a candidate for the Celtics' coaching job, reports Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. Kidd was once a star point guard in the NBA and led the league in assists during five of his 21 seasons. He has plenty of coaching experience as well.

Kidd is coaching on Frank Vogel's staff with the Lakers, but before that he was in charge of the Nets and the Bucks for five total seasons.

Overall, Kidd sports a 183-190 record as a coach, but he only had one losing season with the Nets and Bucks. He made the playoffs in three of the four full seasons that he coached but has only won one series in those three appearances.

Is Kidd the most exciting coach on the market? Maybe not, but he has solid experience and was a great player who could be a nice mentor for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

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Lloyd Pierce

  • Most recently: Hawks head coach 
  • Head coaching experience? Yes

Pierce is the other candidate who Haynes reported would be a candidate for Boston's coaching job. He has a much different resume than Kidd, as he had just a four-year playing career and never made it into the NBA.

However, Pierce did find his niche in player development with the Cavaliers during the 2007 to 2010 seasons. From there, he would work with the Warriors, Grizzlies and 76ers and helped young players find their footing and earn roles in the NBA. Most notably with the 76ers, he was part of the staff that developed Joel Embiid. And in Philly, Pierce started to play more of a role on defense during his later years.

MORE: How will LeBron James perform in Game 6?

Pierce's two-plus-year tenure in Atlanta didn't go as planned. He went just 63-120 as coach, but he's only 45 and had a strong rapport with the coaches there. The ownership group just wanted to see whether Nate McMillan could catalyze the underachieving Hawks and have a better relationship than Pierce did with his players. McMillan delivered.

Pierce may be a good fit for the Celtics as he could help to develop the large group of young talent the team has, including Tatum, Brown, Payton Pritchard, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams and Aaron Nesmith, among others. That could give him a leg up on the competition, provided that Stevens believes that Pierce's poor record with the Hawks was a fluke.

(AP Photo)

Becky Hammon

  • Current job: Spurs assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? No

Could Stevens become the first NBA GM to hire a female coach? Ahead of a Celtics game in late April, he spoke about how the "day was coming very soon" for a woman to head an NBA bench. And during that interview, he spoke well of Hammon.

"Becky obviously is a terrific candidate," Stevens said, per NBC Sports Boston. "I don't know her well, but I know what people think about her, and I know how well she's respected all across the league by players and the coaches."

So, it seems like Hammon is someone Stevens would at least be interested in interviewing for the job. She had a very successful WNBA career and has learned from one of the best in the business, Gregg Popovich, so she seems like a sensible target. 

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Jay Larranaga

  • Current job: Celtics assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? No

Larranaga has been with the Celtics since the 2012 season and was one of Stevens' top assistants during his later years as coach. With Stevens accepting a promotion, it seems natural that he'd at least interview Larranaga to see whether he should get one as well.

The son of Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who famously led George Mason to the Final Four during the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the younger Larranaga spent 12 years as a basketball player overseas. He is well-regarded in the Celtics' organization, and he was interviewed as a potential replacement option in 2013 when Rivers left the team.

He has also previously been interviewed by Georgia Tech and George Mason for coaching vacancies.

Larranaga would provide a new voice that has familiarity with the team. It remains to be seen whether that's what Boston is looking for, but Stevens knows Larranaga very well, so don't be surprised if he gets an interview at the least.

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Sam Cassell

  • Current job: 76ers assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? No

Cassell was a key reserve on the Celtics' championship-winning team in 2008 and remained with the organization until he was traded during the '08-'09 season. Almost immediately after retiring in 2009, he joined the coaching staff of Flip Saunders with the Wizards. There he got his feet wet for a handful of years before eventually moving on.

In 2014, Cassell joined Doc Rivers' coaching staff with the Clippers. Since then, he has served as an assistant on Rivers' staff and has established himself as a solid, well-respected coach.

If the Celtics want to pluck someone from the Rivers coaching tree, Cassell would be a logical choice. He has experience in Boston and was beloved in the locker room throughout his career. And hey, the teams he has helped Rivers coach haven't been bad either.

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Chauncey Billups

  • Current job: Clippers assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? No

Billups was actually drafted by the Celtics in 1997 before the ever-impatient Rick Pitino traded him away during his rookie season. Billups ended up playing on seven different teams during his NBA career and was a five-time All-Star and was the Finals MVP during the 2004 season when he was with the Pistons.

Billups doesn't have much coaching experience. In fact, he's in just his first year as an assistant to Tyronn Lue with the Clippers. However, he was considered to be a sharp basketball mind; he just took the media route before getting into coaching.

Is it too early for Billups to get consideration as a head coach? Maybe, but he is a savvy former player, and we've seen teams such as the Nets take on former point guards Kidd and Steve Nash without experience. Perhaps Stevens could follow that trend if he's a believer in Billups.

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Kenny Atkinson

  • Current job: Clippers assistant coach
  • Head coaching experience? Yes

Two Clippers assistant coaches on the same list? You bet.

Atkinson's overall record as a coach may not be impressive — he went 118-190 in three-plus seasons in Brooklyn — but considering the dearth of talent he had on those teams, their performances were impressive. He managed to get a team keyed by D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie to the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 42-40 record and helped countless players develop along the way.

MORE: Austin Rivers thought guarding red-hot Damian Lillard was "fun"

Then what happened? As the team struggled to a sub-.500 record the next year with marquee signings Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant missing big chunks of the year, the two sides elected to part ways. As such, Atkinson became available and decided to work as an assistant with the Clippers.

Atkinson could be an ideal fit to help develop Langford, Williams, Nesmith, Pritchard and other role players on the Celtics. He's similar to the aforementioned Pierce, so it will be interesting to see whether both draw consideration for the role. 

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Juwan Howard

  • Current job: Michigan head coach
  • Head coaching experience? Yes

The last NBA coach hired out of Michigan, John Beilein, didn't perform so well. But Howard's a lot different than the 68-year-old coach who lasted just one season with the Cavaliers.

Howard played 19 seasons in the NBA and won two championships at the tail end of his career (2012 and 2013). He was also an All-Star way back in 1996.

Since then, Howard became a respected assistant under Eric Spoelstra with the Heat before taking the coaching job at Michigan. He led the Wolverines to a Big Ten title in 2021, his second year on the job, and was named Sporting News' Coach of the Year for his efforts.

Howard looks like a strong college coach who could easily jump to the NBA, much like Stevens did in 2013. But would Howard leave Michigan? That's the big question. given the job security he has there. So, that could affect any decision to pursue him.

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