PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers hired Terry Stotts as head coach on Tuesday, filling the NBA’s last coaching vacancy.
Stotts had a 115-168 record as coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks before spending the past four seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks. He inherits a team that fell drastically short of expectations last season and heads into the new campaign with a roster that includes forwards LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and a lot of question marks.
Stotts, 54, replaces Kaleb Canales, who went 8-15 in an interim role after Nate McMillan was fired.
Stotts and Canales emerged as the finalists for the permanent job, and the men reportedly interviewed with owner Paul Allen over the weekend at the London Olympics. Canales has been in the Trail Blazers organization since 2005. It is unclear if he will remain with the club.
“Terry is one of the elite offensive minds in the NBA, has extensive experience with multiple organizations and was instrumental in the Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA championship,” general manager Neil Olshey said. “He understands the vision for the future of the franchise, appreciates the process involved and will create an environment on the court that will produce championship habits.”
While the team may develop championship habits, it appears to be several seasons away from contending for championship banners.
The roster as constructed is interesting, yet unproven. Aldridge and Batum are set at forward, but incumbent shooting guard Wesley Matthews is coming off a so-so season in which he shot 41 percent from the field and the Trail Blazers thus far don’t have a true center for the opening tip on Halloween night.
Rookie Damian Lillard, the sixth overall pick in the draft, is expected to start at point guard after his good showing in the Las Vegas summer league.
Other intriguing young players include 7-foot-1 Meyers Leonard, the 11th overall pick in the draft; guard Elliot Williams, who had flashes of brilliance before a shoulder injury ended his season; and a pair of new imports — forward Joel Freeland of Great Britain and swingman Victor Claver of Spain.
“I’m very pleased to be part of a great franchise in a beautiful city with such a proud history,” Stotts said in a news release. “I look forward to working hard with Neil and our players toward the ultimate goal of bringing another championship to Portland.”
Stotts coached Atlanta to a 52-85 record after replacing Lon Kruger in December 2002. He was an assistant with Golden State before getting his second chance as a head coach with Milwaukee in 2005. He led the Bucks to the playoffs in 2006, but was fired toward the end of the following season.
He has coached under Rick Carlisle the past four seasons. In a recent interview with The Oregonian, Carlisle said: “Of all the coaches presently in play, Terry is by far the best available. He’s a professional and understands the process of NBA coaching and how to communicate and teach young players.”