Midseason replacements Nate McMillan (SuperSonics) and Jim
O'Brien (Celtics), both at the helm for the first time, are
among the 10 coaches in their inaugural season with their
current team. If you were a rookie coach and could choose any
team to sign with for four years, which would you select? Here's
our ranking of jobs, from most to least desirable.
1. TRAIL BLAZERS Portland has a billionaire owner in Paul Allen
(right) and a keen eye for talent in president Bob Whitsitt. The
only catch: divvying up the minutes.
2. LAKERS Shaq and Kobe have long-term deals, meaning they may be
stuck with each other. If Jerry West were still around, this
would be the No. 1 job.
3. KNICKS The media blitz can take its toll, but also makes it
that much sweeter to win--a likelihood with Allan Houston and
Latrell Sprewell on hand.
4. MAGIC If having Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill (when he's
finally healthy) isn't enough, throw in year-round golf and no
state income tax.
5. SUNS A free agent's paradise: The weather is warm, management
is sharp and Jason Kidd is at the controls.
6. MAVERICKS They have a terrific nucleus on the court, but even
more important is owner Mark Cuban's all-out commitment to
7. CELTICS Cap-clogging salaries seem daunting, but Paul Pierce,
Antoine Walker and tradition are a potent lure.
8. PACERS Your tools; a state-of-the-art arena, a deep and
diverse roster, and a chance to chart the course of the franchise.
9. SPURS Tim Duncan is signed through 2002-03, and a new building
is on the way.
10. HEAT The prospect of a healthy 'Zo and Micky Arison's
checkbook outweigh a weak fan base and having to succeed Pat
11. KINGS Geoff Petrie finds energetic players who can shoot and
create. If Chris Webber re-signs, this is a dream opportunity.
12. WIZARDS The team's short-term fix is severe, but as soon as
Michael Jordan has cap room, stars will clamor to play for him.
13. 76ERS Allen Iverson is a handful, but he holds nothing back
on the court.
14. ROCKETS Gone from champs to third-ranked team in Texas, but
have Steve Francis and will have cap room post-Hakeem.
15. BUCKS Combine two All-Stars and Herb Kohl's deep pockets and
the sky (no matter how gray in Milwaukee) is the limit.
16. RAPTORS It all hinges on Vince Carter. If he opts not to
re-sign, all you have are aging vets, disaffected fans and tax
17. SUPERSONICS Uncertainty with new ownership group. Wally
Walker's personnel moves have been hit-and-miss.
18. TIMBERWOLVES There's Kevin Garnett and a front office that
has proved with Joe Smith it will do anything to win--even at the
cost of four first-round picks.
19. WARRIORS Three problems: location, location, location. Hard
to make headway in the loaded Pacific Division.
20. BULLS Marquee free agents won't come, though lottery picks
should be plentiful. Unfortunately, there are also two
Jerrys--Krause and Reinsdorf--too many.
21. NUGGETS Antonio McDyess is a rising star, but as the mutiny
in December suggests, this group is no walk in the park.
22. JAZZ What comes after the aging combination of Stockton to
Malone? Crotty to Ostertag? Salt Lake City's not exactly a mecca
for free agents.
23. NETS It's great having Stephon Marbury, but how long will it
be until he grows weary of watching teammates troop to the
24. PISTONS If free-agent-to-be Webber returns home, you have a
title contender. If not, you have to listen to endless Bill
25. HORNETS Bad omens: sagging attendance, possible move to
another city, presence of Derrick Coleman.
26. HAWKS Stain of the Steve-Smith-for-Isaiah-Rider trade will
take a long time to erase.
27. CAVALIERS They're forever teetering on the edge of the
playoffs, delaying a complete rebuilding effort.
28. GRIZZLIES Have flopped in Vancouver for a reason: their
29. CLIPPERS Your mission: Accept a pitiable salary and teach
young players who will flee at the earliest opportunity.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL WITTE