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Thunder prospective coach power rankings: was Mike Krzyzewski in Oklahoma City?

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The Thunder coaching rumors will be coming fast and furious. We try to make sense of them all with this helpful power ranking.

We begin a new running poll of sorts today to try and keep track of all the rumors and quasi-news surrounding the Thunder's coaching vacancy. There is nothing even remotely formal or data driven about this. In fact I may be guilty of lowering college coaches out of general principle; nobody knows for sure!

In any event, here is our initial ranking, prompted in part by the possible news that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski may or may not have had lunch in OKC yesterday.

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1

Mike Krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski, who for now and ever more will be known in this space as "Coach K" because I hate typing out his name, was possibly in OKC yesterday. Let us say for intents and purposes that it was indeed the guy who just won his 5th NCAA championship and he was having lunch. The question is, why? Was he meeting with Sam Presti? Was he there to scout a high school prospect named Trae Young, even though it is an NCAA dark period? Also, why were Thunder owners Bennett and McClendon in Durham last week? Then again, he just landed another 5 star recruit, giving him the #1 recruiting class. Would Coach K walk away from that?

2

Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan

The Thunder have had a relationship with Gators coach Billy Donovan for some time. From Joey Conger's recent ranking: "Sam Presti and Billy Donovan reportedly have a great relationship. Oklahoma City Blue head coach Mark Daigneault was hired from the Florida coaching staff. They also spent a lot of time together in 2012 when Presti was scouting Bradley Beal. The question with Donovan is the doubts that he can be a good professional coach." According to The Oklahoman, OKC was scouting Donovan recently too.

3

Ettore Messina

If you don't recognize the name Ettore Messina, you are probably not alone. He is an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, and was brought on to serve under Gregg Popovich last year. If you are of the mind that picking fruit from the Pop coaching tree is always a smart move (witness: Mike Budenholzer), then Messina's pedigree is pristine. Given his willingness to work under another coach despite his global success lends well to an ego-less nature, something that OKC values. The glaring caveat is of course, if Popovich were to retire after this season, Messina would likely be in line to step up to fill the vacancy.

4

Fred Hoiberg

Fred Hoiberg, head coach of Iowa State, is a former NBA role player who has had his eye on a coaching gig in the NBA, and according to reports, is waiting for the right one. Conger wrote the following: "The current Iowa State coach has been rumored to be the next Chicago Bulls head man if Tom Thibodeau is fired. Hoilberg has led a traditionally-not-great basketball school to a couple fantastic seasons the last few years at Iowa State. As Hoilberg is a young coach, I could picture him being the next Brad Stevens if he did jump to the NBA."

5

Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau is the current head coach of the Chicago Bulls, but according to various reports has been on the hot seat for most of the 2nd half of the season. While his coaching chops are substantial, taking an oft-injury depleted Bulls team into the playoffs and remaining competitive, and also playing a key role in the Celtics' defensive schemes during their championship run in 2008, the sense is that his aggressive style eventually wears down and leads to the injury of his stars. If he is on his way out, he would be a top candidate for a number of teams.

6

Kevin Ollie

Kevin Ollie was also reported to have been scouted by the Thunder recently, and if stories are true, OKC had been pursuing him for the last year. Why? Start with the fact that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both hold Ollie in high regard, stemming all the way back to when they played together, and KD says Ollie is directly responsible for building the winning culture in OKC. Problem is, Ollie has now apparently taken himself out of the running. Should we believe him? Or is there a godfather like offer waiting for him?

7

Rick Carlisle

Rick Carlisle has had a laudable career as head coach, currently leading the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. His 2011 title with the Mavericks is one of the best coaching runs in NBA history, and he has always had the endorsement of owner Mark Cuban. Furthermore, as Donnie Hazlewood recently wrote, he has a year remaining on his contract. However, if his team fails to get out of the first round again, and wit h Dirk Nowitzki nearing retirement, Cuban may seek to take the team in a new direction with a new coach. Could OKC pry Carlisle loose a year early?

8

Alvin Gentry

Alvin Gentry is currently an assistant coach with the NBA's best team, the Golden State Warriors. He is an offensive guru, overseeing a pretty good offensive squad and helping turn them into an elite juggernaut, as recently witnessed by their 4-game sweep over the Pelicans. He has exceptional experience, previously as head coach of the Phoenix Suns during part of Steve Nash's run there, and has also served under Popovich, Mike D'Antoni, and was an associate head coach under Doc Rivers in L.A. before joining the Warriors. If offensive strategy is what is most desired, Gentry has to be considered a top contender.

9

Tyronn Lue

Tyronn Lue, the former NBA player who has now had the opportunity to work under Doc Rivers in Boston and with the Clippers, and currently is assistant coach under Dave Blatt in Cleveland. He was in the running for the Cavs' head coaching job prior to the hiring of Blatt, and many consider him to be an up and coming coaching prodigy that will eventually get a shot running his own team. It would not be surprising for the young coach, who is already highly respected by LeBron James and others, to get a lot of interest in the off-season after the Cavs' season has concluded.

10

Michael Malone

Mike Malone may be a dark horse this season. He was head coach of the Kings for the first half of this past season before injuries wrecked a promising campaign, and is still held in high regard in coaching circles. Writes Conger: "As the Sacramento Kings coach early this year, Malone had the Kings in the playoff hunt (no easy feat). The Kings were playing inspired basketball and really good defense as they raced out to a 9-5 record. Malone was relieved of his duties as the Kings hit a slump when Demarcus Cousins went down with meningitis. Malone is a good coach that seems to get along with players - two important qualities for a potential Thunder coach."

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