Take a spin on NBA coaching carousel
There are better jobs out there with less security than a National Basketball Association head coach: being married to Jennifer Lopez springs immediately to mind. But if you’re looking for the perfect storm of lack of respect from your subordinates, lack of support from your employer and immense public pressure, coaching in the NBA might just be for you.
Since the 2002-’03 season, 22 of the 29 NBA teams have changed their head coach at least once. That number may rise as high as 26 by the time next season rolls around. Atlanta’s Terry Stotts, before his firing last week, was the dean of Eastern Conference coaches at 1 1/2 seasons.
One would think there would be at least one coach in the East who managed to stick around for a while. After all, someone has to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. Doesn’t that constitute success and isn’t that what professional sports is about?
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Winning the East two years in a row wasn’t enough to save Byron Scott from getting the old heave-ho out of New Jersey midway through this season. Now the Nets are looking like the third-best team in the East, which is like losing a weightlifting contest to Don Knotts and Sarah Jessica Parker. Come to think of it, current Nets coach Lawrence Frank, who looks like a malnutritioned Boy Scout, might actually lose that contest.
Apparently the Nets’ players weren’t always thrilled with Scott’s stern coaching methods. Rumors that Jason Kidd threatened to leave the team if Scott remained were the death-knell for the coach’s tenure with the team. The inmates aren’t just running the asylum, they’re choosing the guards.
Everyone knows the East is the red-headed stepchild of the NBA, with the West claiming perennial powers such as the Lakers, Kings, Spurs, Mavericks and Timberwolves. Did we mention that none of those teams have changed their head coach for at least five years? Apparently even crazy owners like Dallas’ Mark Cuban realize that stability might be a little more important than finding the flavor of the week.
Not that the firing/hiring frenzy ends at the Mississippi River. Denver’s Jeff Bzdelik is likely to be fired before next season after leading the Nuggets to their first playoff berth since 1995. That kind of success simply can’t be tolerated. Even more ludicrous, Sacramento’s Rick Adelman is the subject of firing rumors despite having won at least 55 games for four straight seasons.
The most action around the Golden State Warriors’ complex these days is folks watching for the axe to fall on Eric Musselman’s neck. While Musselman may have exceeded expectations after losing his top two players from the previous season (Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas) and getting only an aging, injured, pain-in-the-neck point guard (Nick Van Exel) in return, apparently that’s not enough for owner Chris Cohan.
Assuming Musselman is indeed a goner, Cohan will be looking to hire the ninth coach of his 10-year ownership stint. There’s some kind of consistency there, but it’s probably nothing you’d want on your tombstone.
Cohan, by the way, is widely regarded as the worst owner in the NBA, with the Warriors having gone more than a decade without making the playoffs. The only guy competing for Cohan’s title is New Orleans’ George Shinn, who behaved so badly the good folks in Charlotte ran his entire franchise out of town.
Shinn last week fired head coach Tim Floyd, who spent a whopping one season with the club. To make room for Floyd, who had proven himself worthy with a 49-190 record with the Chicago Bulls, Shinn fired Paul Silas, one of the most respected men in the game. Silas was snapped up by Cleveland, where he’s coaching some teenager named LeBron and trying to bring the Cavaliers out of a Warriors-like pit of despair.
So now we’ve learned the model for running an NBA franchise: change leadership as often as possible, most times at the urging of players who haven’t lived a day in the real world since high school; undermine your coach’s authority whenever possible; and ignore applicants’ track records and go with your gut. Now that’s a recipe for success.
– Tribune sportswriter Jared Green can be reached at (530) 542-8008 or email@example.com