NBA Coaching Carousel Heats Up with Big Names on the Market
The NBA finals are still in progress, but the all the focus is off the court. Six of the 16 teams that made the 2013 NBA Playoffs are replacing their head coach. Six more teams that missed the playoffs are moving forward with new coaches as well. While that number seems high, the names that got axed are more perplexing. Here’s a look:
Denver Nuggets: One of the most intriguing moves was made by the Nuggets in releasing reigning Coach of the Year George Karl, who led the Nuggets to the postseason in every year he was there but failed to make it out of the first round every year except 2009. It appeared that Karl had put together a perfect team in Denver this year. They had no recognizable star but earned the No. 3 seed in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The team had suffered injuries to their key contributors and bowed out in the first round yet again. Denver has yet to find a replacement.
Brooklyn Nets: The Nets opened their inaugural season in Brooklyn with Avery Johnson running the show. With a new stadium and a new roster, the expectations were high heading into the 2012-2013 season. The Nets squared off with the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day and were blown out in their own building. Ownership fired Johnson shortly thereafter and promoted assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo as the interim head coach. Under Carlesimo, the Nets played their way to a four seed in the playoffs but lost a thrilling seven-game series to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Brooklyn hasn’t found a replacement yet, but with the backing of a Russian billionaire owner, the Nets can pay for whoever they like.
Los Angeles Clippers: After the season, the Clippers chose to not renew the contract of coach Vinny del Negro, who got the job in 2010. Despite a losing record in 2010-11, he had talent on the roster in the form of reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin. The next season the Clippers acquired all star point guard Chris Paul via trade. In late 2011, the team became known as Lob City because of their high-flying explosive style of offense. The Clippers won a franchise record 56 games and the team’s first ever Pacific Division title in 2012-13, but LA was bounced out of the playoffs in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies. The team hasn’t found a replacement but looks to be the most attractive job right now.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies’ record improved every year under former head coach Lionel Hollins, who took over in 2009 and turned the team into a powerhouse in the Western Conference. Memphis reached the conference finals this year but was swept by the Spurs. Management decided not to renew Hollins’ contract, and emerging reports claim that he clashed with the front office on personnel decisions. This is the most recent firing in the NBA, so there are no front runners for the head coaching position yet.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers looked to rebuild after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. They tabbed former New Orleans Hornets and New Jersey Nets head coach Byron Scott. Scott had success in his previous two stops, turning lottery teams to playoff contenders. The Cavs hoped for the same success under Scott, but that success never came. Now they turn to the man who brought the team to prominence when James was there, Mike Brown.
Philadelphia 76ers: Doug Collins resigned after three years at the helm in Philly. He reached the playoffs in his first two years in Philly but missed out this past season. The team was part of the Dwight Howard mega-deal this year, where they gave up Andre Iguodala and received Andrew Bynum in return, but Bynum never suited up after suffering a knee injury. Collins said that he would stay with the team in a consulting role.
Atlanta Hawks: After a first round exit at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, the Hawks parted ways with head coach Larry Drew. Drew had been with the team as an assistant from 2004-2010. He was promoted in 2010 and kept the job until 2013. The Hawks had been a playoff team that struggled to get out of the early rounds. Atlanta hired former San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer as new head coach.
Detroit Pistons: The the Pistons fired coach Lawrence Frank on April 18 after two underwhelming seasons with Frank at the helm. Detroit hired former Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Maurice Cheeks to replace him. Cheeks spent the last five seasons as an assistant under Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Milwaukee Bucks: Scott Skiles stepped down as head coach of the Bucks in January and assistant Jim Boylan was promoted as interim head coach. Despite a 38-44 record, the Bucks were good enough to qualify as an eight-seed in the 2013 playoffs, where they were promptly swept by the Miami Heat. Milwaukee chose not to move forward with Boylan as head coach and found their new head man in Larry Drew, who was looking for a job after he was fired by the Atlanta Hawks on May 28.
Phoenix Suns: Phoenix is turning to former point guard Jeff Hornacek for their new head coach. Hornacek was drafted by the Suns in 1986 and also played for the 76ers and the Utah Jazz. He retired in 2000 and became an assistant for Utah in 2011. Hornacek replaces another former player, Lindsey Hunter, who was interim head coach after the team parted ways with Alvin Gentry during the season.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings were embattled in an ownership dispute for most of the the past two seasons. With that dispute settled, the Kings can now focus on the on-court product. Sacramento has a multitude of lottery picks on their team thanks to going 48-93 in two years under Keith Smart. Former Golden State Warriors assistant Michael Malone will take over as head coach next season.
Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats have been terrible since their inception. They only have one playoff appearance in nine seasons and are a perennial lottery team. Charlotte first Mike Dunlap after just one season and turned to former Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford.