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Pistons Coaching Search: Charles Lee, Kevin Ollie, Jarron Collins ‘early front-runners’

‘Stellar interview’ vaults Collins into serious contention for job

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2021 NBA Finals - Practice and Media Availability Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons are still in the early stages of interviewing head coaching candidates, but some names continue to crop up consistently in various media reports. Now, James Edwards III of The Athletic, who is, I think it’s fair to say, the most connected of the local media to the Pistons organization, has a list of names he is calling “early front-runners” based on feelings inside the team.

Those names are somewhat familiar — Charles Lee, assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kevin Ollie of Overtime Elite, and a newer name in Jarron Collins, assistant with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Edwards writes that the team is in no rush to fill the position, and that these three names are simply the top contenders after the first round of interviews.

“The organization will do, at least, another round of interviews with different candidates, per team sources, and could also sit back and wait to see if any head coaches currently in the playoffs become available,” Edwards writes.

That last detail is a bit interesting, and it makes me wonder if the team is keeping an eye on any particular coaching candidate still playing in the postseason. Honestly, looking at the teams still in play, I can’t think of any organization who is liable to axe a head coach. It’s certainly not going to be Coach of the year Mike Brown in Sacramento or mainstays like Steve Kerr, Mike Budenholzer, Erik Spoelstra, or Tom Thibodeau. I suppose if any series features coaches no a surprisingly hot seat it could be the Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves matchup.

The Nuggets could do something significant if perennial MVP candidate Nikola Jokic can’t lead them to the Conference Finals, up to and including dismissing Michael Malone. Likewise, after major moves in the offseason, Chris Finch’s shine has dulled a little bit in Minnesota.

The story on the three “front-runners” is pretty consistent — come from solid coaching backgrounds, have great character, and a reputation for developing young players. Lee has been on the cusp of a head coaching job for years and he is still only 38 years old. He’s from the Mike Budenholzer coaching tree, which means a commitment to modern, analytically driven offensive concepts and a commitment to creating top-10 defenses.

Ollie is a longtime NBA player who had some coaching success (and controversy) at UConn. Leaving aside his collegiate penalties, he proved to be not much of a recruiter. However, that’s not really an issue in the NBA, and his time building the Overtime Elite program seems to be paying off as the Thompson twins are poised to be a pair of top-10 picks.

Collins is the most interesting, perhaps because he is the freshest name on the list. He’s a Stanford graduate who spent the majority of his playing days with the Utah Jazz. From 2014-21, he was on the sidelines along with Steve Kerr and a dynasty in Golden State. From there, he went to Willie Green’s staff in New Orleans.

As this is called the first wave of interviews, I imagine there will be at least a second wave and maybe even a third. Coaches that could still be in play for the Pistons job, though it is unclear if they will interview, include Kenny Atkinson, Frank Vogel, Ime Udoka, Jerry Stackhouse, Adrian Griffin, and Nick Nurse.

I mean, wouldn’t it be weird of Detroit hired Nick Nurse to replace Dwane Casey, years after the Pistons hired Casey in the first place because Nick Nurse was hired to replace Dwane Casey in Toronto?