The opportunity to potentially coach in the NBA came calling for Chase Buford, which has left the Sydney Kings with no choice but to replace him.
With the Kings opting not to take up their third-year team option with back-to-back Championship winning coach, Chase Buford, there are plenty of candidates available in the Kings’ ‘global search’ for a replacement heading into the NBL24 season.
The Kings wanted to avoid a scenario where Buford was still in talks with NBA clubs in the coming months heading into the NBA Summer League and into NBL pre-season, such as they were with Will Weaver heading into the 2020-21 season, who departed the Kings before the season to become an assistant with the Houston Rockets in the NBA.
Avoiding a similar scenario was important for clarity for the Kings, who will use the Summer League opportunity to scout potential import signings, which led to the Kings’ decision on the agreed-upon May 15 deadline.
With a brand-new set of imports and plenty of roster space to fill, the Kings search for a new coach needed to happen sooner rather than later.
Kings CEO Chris Pongrass, President and majority owner Paul Smith, as well as Andrew Bogut and Luc Longley on the Kings ownership group will have plenty of reach and ideas as for who the new Kings head coach should be.
Having picked up Buford from the Wisconsin Herd, the Milwaukee Bucks’ G-League affiliate team, there are no shortage of potential candidates for the new top job at the Kingdom.
One potential option for the Kings was that of former Kings coach, Paris coach Will Weaver, but those rumours were quashed after he announced he is looking to coach in the NBA next season, potentially as head coach at the Milwaukee Bucks or in some capacity at the Toronto Raptors or Brooklyn Nets.
Another former mentor, Brian Goorjian, also will not be considered given his coaching of the Bay Area Dragons in the East Asia Super League, and of the Australian Boomers.
Jacob Chance was another option floated around, but he recently joined Melbourne United as an assistant coach.
Therefore, here are some potential options for the Kings as they look to continue their quest for an NBL Championship three-peat in NBL23.
Five-time NBL Champion coach Trevor Gleeson could be in the mix to take over the top job in Sydney.
He is currently the assistant coach at the Toronto Raptors, but with a change at the helm at the Raptors he could look for opportunities elsewhere to land a head coaching gig.
The former Perth Wildcats coach boasts a CV including five NBL Championships with the Wildcats during his tenure, as well as two NBL coach of the year awards.
Gleeson had discussions with the South-East Melbourne Phoenix about taking up their head coaching role while the Raptors were in the NBA playoffs – with the Raptors out of the playoffs now, it opens the door for discussions to take place for the Kings about an Australian return.
His experience and exposure in the NBA coaching ranks will be important for the Kings’ success, as well as team owners Andrew Bogut and Luc Longley, headed by CEO Paul Smith, as well as involvement from Chris Pongrass; they love to recruit either from the NBA or United States personnel.
The current Australian Boomers assistant coach could be a great pickup for the Kings, but with plenty of others chasing his signature, including potentially the Raptors, themselves, it would take a lot of effort to secure Gleeson’s services for NBL24.
One of Sydney’s favourite sons, three-time NBL Champion with the Sydney Kings, Matthew Nielson, could be a great replacement for the Kings as head coach, if they can secure his services.
The 2004 NBL Grand Final MVP won three NBL Championships as an assistant coach at the Perth Wildcats and is currently an assistant coach at the San Antonio Spurs, as well as head coach of the Spurs’ G-League team.
However, with the Spurs securing the draft lotto of #1 pick for the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft, where they will most likely sign 7 foot 3 French teenage sensation Victor Wenbanyama, he could take a bit of convincing to leave his current role.
However, with Gregg Popovic delaying his retirement as head coach of the Spurs, it could leave the opportunity open for Nielson to return to Sydney as head coach for a few years.
It would be the return of a king, figuratively, for Sydney, who could use his experience and love for the club to guide them forward towards a three-peat.
It may be an unlikely appointment, but one that would go down well with Kings fans.
The Kings’ ownership group could look to the NBA once again with another current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, Brett Brown.
The former Sydney Kings head coach between 2000-2002 could return back to the harbour city to coach the Kings for the next few years given Gregg Popovic is still the head coach of the Spurs, giving him the opportunity to win some silverware down under.
With Spurs’ playstyle, bringing in a coach from that system would work given their unselfishness and willingness to run the ball quickly with speed, utilise the pick-and-roll and move defences.
The Kings love to attack quickly – they want to run the court to get a shot away as soon as possible through their point guard; or, they set up their side to score inside the paint with clever player movements.
The Kings encourage teams to shoot from beyond the arc – it is, after all, harder to score from out there.
The four-time NBA Champion could bring his learnings both from his time as head coach at the Philadelphia 76ers and under Popovich at the Spurs back to the Kings in a coup for Sydney.
With the Kings’ connections to the NBA, including the Spurs, either of these two options could be possible – just a matter of the details.
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Current assistant coach as the Wisconsin Herd, where the Kings picked up Chase Buford from as head coach, Carson Shanks could be in the Kings’ list to take the helm.
Shanks joined the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA G-League side in September 2022 and makes sense as a signing given his learnings in the NBA as the player development and video assistant for the Bucks in 2021-22.
His professional basketball career included one season in Malta and he was also a successful college basketball player.
As a young coach willing to learn a lot, a head coaching role in the NBL could be a great move for Shanks.
However, he may prefer more stability staying with the Bucks’ organisation.
Former Sydney King and current Kings assistant coach, Kevin Lisch, could make the step-up to become head of the pack heading into NBL24.
The former captain and two-time NBL MVP, Lisch spent five years at the Kings as a player between 2016-20 and moved directly into an assistant coaching role following a career-ending ankle injury.
The 37-year-old made his head coaching debut in December 2022 in the absence of coach Buford, in a home match against the Tasmania JackJumpers, where he led the Kings to a 19-point home victory, 97-78.
Having coached alongside Buford for the past two seasons, ensuring their fast-paced style of play was used to great effect, he could be the ideal man to take over the role.
Furthermore, it would show the Kings’ ‘next man up’ mentality, which usually applies to squad players filling in for starters when there are injuries, but can also be applied to Lisch in a coaching sense.
In Lisch’s young coaching career, it could be a big step up, but one he would be ready to attack with both hands.
A former Cockburn Cougars coach, Fleur McIntyre was the first female to win an NBL Championship ring and has been a major part of the Sydney Kings success in recent years.
McIntyre also took charge of the Kings for a match during the 2022 NBL Blitz – the NBL’s pre-season competition – the first female to head a men’s basketball team in Australia,
However, McIntyre has said herself that she would not be ready to step up; not yet, anyway.
She has a close relationship with a lot of the Kings players, including those who have stayed or left; one of the more prominent ones is her bond with Kings big centre, Jordi Hunter.
Perhaps in a few years she will step up to take the main mantle at the Kings, but look for her to continue her prominence from a seated position on the sidelines for the time being.
In the meantime, the global search for a new head coach of the Sydney Kings continues; the answer to ‘who will it be?’ should be answered in the coming weeks as preparations for NBL24 begin.
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