Of the seven coaching vacancies in the NBA since the season ended, only two remain unfilled.
Yet former Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell will have received scant consideration for any of them unless he gets an interview with the Los Angeles Clippers or unexpectedly materializes as a fallback candidate in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are still waiting on a yea-or-nea response from Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
Mitchell, though, is in the mix for a new job. NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com that Mitchell will be interviewed this week by the Nets as a potential top assistant to new coach Avery Johnson, who wants at least one former head coach on the bench with him in New Jersey.
After winning NBA Coach of the Year honors in 2006-07 and signing a four-year contract extension, Mitchell lasted only one more full season with the Raps before his dismissal in Toronto in December 2008. But he recently told the Toronto Sun that he accepts the notion that he’ll probably have to work as an assistant coach first before getting his next opportunity as a head coach … even though no one has really told him why.
“Being an assistant would be fine,” Mitchell told the newspaper. “But I want to make sure it’s in a good place -- a team that not only has a chance to win, but to be with someone who brings something different to me, where I can actually learn something. I’m still a young coach. I still have a lot of things to learn.”
Two of Johnson’s former assistants in Dallas -- Joe Prunty and Popeye Jones -- have also been frequently mentioned as likely candidates for his new staff with the Nets.
Mitchell did get a look from Philadelphia before the 76ers hired Doug Collins, but the Atlanta resident curiously received no serious interest from the Hawks, who ultimately promoted former Mike Woodson assistant coach Larry Drew into Woodson’s chair after interviewing Dallas Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, ESPN’s Mark Jackson and Johnson.
Asked by the Toronto Sun if he’s at all bitter about the relative lack of interest he’s received from teams with openings this spring, Mitchell said: “For me to feel that way would be wrong. These guys [who have been hired], I know them, they’re good guys who deserve an opportunity. I was chosen over people with that kind of experience when I got the job with the Raptors. So I’m not disappointed. A lot of head coaches go back to being assistants. That’s the nature of coaching. It wouldn’t bother me. That’s just how it is.”