With the Houston Rockets filling their coaching void earlier this week, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the last remaining NBA team without a head coach. With that in mind, the field is theirs for the choosing, as there will no longer be competition between them and other teams.
However, they should move quickly as the 2020-21 NBA season could be here sooner than expected. The NBA is targeting a potential December 22 start date, meaning that the league could start in just over 50 days.
This would result in free agency and training camp coming several weeks before then. Additionally, the 2020 NBA Draft is less than 3 weeks away. For most of these events, it would make sense to have a head coach in place. This is especially true considering Shams Charania of The Athletic recently reported that the NBA has informed teams that they are now allowed to open practice facilities for group practices, workouts and scrimmages with up to 10 players.
While there haven’t been many reports of who the Thunder could be looking at, one name that has been mentioned is Will Hardy, who is currently an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. Just 32 years old, he has experience under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs and Team USA in the FIBA World Cup as well as being the head coach of San Antonio’s summer league team.
Someone like this would certainly make sense for the job. For a team that is looking to re-tool the roster and build for the future, a young and upcoming coach who can develop young talent would be ideal. There is a real chance the coach the Thunder hire has no experience as a head coach.
Similar to the Houston Rockets with Stephen Silas and Indiana Pacers with Nate Bjorkgren this offseason, hiring a candidate who has worked their way up the ranks would be a good option. It sure worked out for the Toronto Raptors with Nick Nurse.
One name who fits this description is Wes Unseld Jr., who is one of the best assistant coaches in the league. He’s been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2005, spending time with the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, Orlando Magic, and now the Denver Nuggets.
Maurice Cheeks would be excellent internal option if he were interested in stepping into the head role. Cheeks is an NBA Hall of Famer who has been an assistant in two separate stints for the Thunder from 2009-2013 and then from 2015 to present. Another name already in the Oklahoma City organization is Brian Keefe, who is also in his second stint with the team as an assistant coach while also having experience with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Regardless, the Oklahoma City Thunder should hire a coach sooner rather than later to start planning for next season, which could be here in less than two months.