The new regime running the Warriors knows what it wants in a head coach.
It's not Keith Smart.
The Warriors informed Smart on Wednesday that he wouldn't be retained as their coach. Now in the market for their third coach in three years, the Warriors want one who is going to be around a few years and can develop young talent, said Larry Riley, the team's head of basketball operations. They also want a coach with a vision on how to get this team into the playoffs, an event the Warriors have missed for 16 of the past 17 seasons.
"The main thing," Riley said, "is we do feel like we need a new direction."
Smart led the Warriors to a 36-46 record this past season, a 10-game improvement over the 2009-10 campaign under coach Don Nelson.
Riley said Smart did a good job, citing the team's effort and chemistry. But Smart didn't do enough to convince the decision-makers -- Riley, co-owner Joe Lacob and vice president of basketball operations Bob Myers -- that he was the coach to take this team to the next level.
Most everyone figured Smart's return was unlikely when he signed -- perhaps even Smart. He was introduced as head coach the day before training camp, after signing a contract that had just one guaranteed season and a team option for the next.
"I don't know if it was ever going to be a fair shot," Smart said in a phone interview. "I was put in a situation to try to coach this team and get this headed in the right direction. Fair or not fair, who knows? But certain things had to fall in place for it to happen."
Riley said the Warriors haven't contacted anyone yet and don't have a timetable for hiring a new coach, though he said it wouldn't hurt to have one by the NBA draft, which is June 23.
He declined to reveal whom the Warriors have on their shortlist, but multiple sources -- from the team and in NBA circles -- said they believe former Cleveland coach Mike Brown and assistant coaches Dwane Casey of Dallas, Mike Budenholzer of San Antonio and Lawrence Frank of Boston are on that list. Casey and Frank are also former NBA head coaches.
One team source said the Warriors have an eye on former Utah coach Jerry Sloan. But that's considered a long shot, as the legendary coach isn't expected to come out of retirement for a rebuilding franchise.
Riley wouldn't comment on why management let Smart go, saying just that he, Lacob and Myers weighed the pluses and minuses for about five days. Riley conceded Lacob's desire to have his own guy was part of the reason for Smart's departure, but one team source pointed to Smart's handling of point guard Stephen Curry as being a factor.
A second-year player and franchise centerpiece, Curry seemed to regress, committing turnovers and fouls and not looking as confident on the court as he did for most of his rookie season. Many think Smart's decision to often pull Curry and run the offense through guard Monta Ellis had a role in that regression.
Smart said he didn't discuss the reasons for his departure with Riley when the two met Wednesday morning. Smart said he takes pride accomplishing what he set out to do, which was getting the organization moving in the right direction and proving he can be an NBA head coach. Smart had been an assistant coach for the Warriors from 2003-10.
Riley suggested that a new coach will have only minimal input over player personnel. He will be expected to significantly improve the defense and get into the 2012 playoffs.
"What we would like to see is some stability once we make the next selection," Riley said. "I think everybody looks at situations and would assess it as, if you get the right guy and you keep him there for a few years, things flow a lot better and you have a lot better opportunity."
Not quite fresh face Lacob will be seeking
Jeff Van Gundy
Interesting, but he'd want enormous money
Solid coach; not exactly fresh face for long term
Very good coach; could get pricey
More likely heir to Phil Jackson's throne
-- TIM KAWAKAMI