There is a ton of smoke around the 76ers and Tyronn Lue. So much so the other day WIP’s Jon Johnson reported the team and Lue were closed to a deal, which he then walked backed a few minutes later. I don’t know if Jon was fed wrong info, or if the info he was told wasn’t ready to be released.
Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice, tweeted this following Johnson’s tweet about an impending deal, saying that his feeling is the search is still ongoing. My personal uninformed opinion is that Lue will be the 76ers next head coach, just connecting the dots of Lebron – Lue – Simmons makes me lean that way, but also I don’t believe Johnson’s report was a made-up or he was given wrong information, I’d lean the information shouldn’t have been released. However, seeing how there was no official announcement, from the team or from Woj, and in light of Kyle’s tweet, I will continue my profiling of head coaching candidates for the 76ers job.
So, Sam Cassell?
It is sometimes difficult to find what certain assistant coaches actually bring to the table when it comes to coaching. Not being around the team, and lack of real literature on them as coaches really make it hard for outsiders like myself to have a real opinion on the matter.
What we do know is Sam was a PG on 3 championship teams, he has made an all-star team and made an all NBA team. He played in the NBA for 15 years and since has been an assistant coach for 11 years in Washington and LA (Clippers). There is no lack of experience when it comes to being in an NBA locker room, and also being a point guard and assistant coach for as long as he has been, there is no doubt he possesses the leadership qualities to be a head coach.
As far as what Sam brings to a team as a coach, it’s very hard to learn about what assistants bring, and difficult for me to project if they would thrive as a head coach. However, you don’t continue to have a job for as long as Sam has if you are bad at it. Also, guys like Doc Rivers don’t just ask anyone to be on his coaching staff, seeing how NBA champion head coach Tyronn Lue is on the same bench. One thing that can be clear about Sam, is he has been credited by John Wall himself for helping him develop and become the NBA player he became, injuries aside.
“He was a big part of it,” Wall told CSN Washington. “Definitely helped me with my jump shot. Just being a mentor, somebody who was a point guard who knew the game very well. It was Big.”From “Wizards’ John Wall says Sam Cassell was a ‘big part’ of his growth” by Molly Geary of Sports Illustrated Aug 12, 2014
Sam does have a winning record as a head coach though, sort of. In the Orlando bubble Doc stepped out the spotlight during the last game and allowed Sam to take over head coaching duties. They won, and Sam has an unofficial 1-0 record as a head coach in the NBA. Sam was asked about it after the game and credited Doc and Lue for helping him prepare for that moment.
“Just went out and did the things I learned through my mentors,” he said. “I am old than Ty Lue, but he’s my mentor. He has been to four straight NBA Finals. Doc [has] been to a couple of them”From “Five takeaways from Clippers’ win Friday, including Sam Cassell’s coaching ‘debut'” by Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times Aug 15, 2020
Ty Lue would be my first choice as a head coach, to me, it’s simple as being the most qualified. That doesn’t mean that he should be the only candidate or that another candidate would not excel in the position. By all accounts, I have read Sam checks off the boxes that I would look for in a coach. While Sam was a championship-caliber player, he wasn’t a superstar, much like Lue (but better obviously), and he could fall into the “back-up QB” theory I like when it comes to coaching. Not that Sam was a back up by any means but he wasn’t a multi-time all-star or superstar by any means.
One thing that is intriguing to me is Sam’s experience playing the PG position. The PG is much like the on-court coach at times, he may be able to call plays, or adjust what the team is doing on the fly. In order to do that he needs to be able to recognize and understand what the opposing team was doing. Sam excelled in the position and in theory, should bring that kind of knowledge to any team he coaches when game planning, or teaching players and PG’s how to manage the game. There is a reason Cassell was viewed as a “guard whisperer”.
I also like that Sam has mentioned that he has learned from his mentors and that his mentors are both Championship quality coaches. Just the ability to learn from the greats and then display what he has learned, coaching the game in the bubble, is a great selling point for me personally.
From the minimal information I could find on Coach Cassell there is no reason why I don’t think he can be a really good head coach in the league. He has experience both playing and being on the bench as a coach. We don’t know how he would handle in-game situations or playoff series, but he has had great coaches to learn from. For me personally, if Lue decides to go elsewhere, Sam should definitely be in line for the 76ers open head coaching position.