We are not even into the Conference Finals yet and there have already been an astonishing eight coaching moves around the NBA – almost a third of the league.
What’s more, considering 16 teams make the playoffs, this means almost HALF the teams that did not qualify for the post-season dismissed their mentor.
However, a playoffs berth was also apparently not enough to satisfy some ownerships around the league, with two coaches (who have both recently made Conference Finals) also getting the tap on the shoulder.
With all the hiring and firing going on in the Association right now, which teams got theirs right and which teams didn’t?
Brooklyn Nets - hire –
After firing Lionel Hollins in January, the Brooklyn Nets finally found their new head coach mid last month, hiring Kenny Atkinson from the Atlanta Hawks’ staff to join the team at the conclusion of his season.
Atkinson comes to Brooklyn having mainly featured as an assistant in France and the NBA, and has been with the Atlanta Hawks since 2012. From 2008-2011, he was also an assistant across the Brooklyn Bridge with the New York Knicks.
Having been an assistant under successful head coaches such as Mike D’Antoni and currently Mike Budenholzer, Atkinson knows what winning in the NBA looks like.
However, with no previous head coaching appointments and still relatively new to coaching in general, (career beginning 2004) this is one that could go pear-shaped quickly if Brooklyn’s roster does not improve.
Indiana Pacers – fire – Frank Vogel
In a story we have seen all too often, just a couple of years removed from back-to-back Conference Finals appearances, the Indiana Pacers have sacked head coach Frank Vogel.
Vogel departs Indiana with an impressive record of .580%, and will likely have no shortage of job offers with the many head coaching vacancies around the league.
It has been reported that both New York and Memphis have already reached out to the young head coach.
With many respected NBA commentators and even fellow head coaches scathing Larry Bird and the Pacers for their handling of the situation, it’s clear that this one was maybe an ill thought out move. Of course, it all depends who they hire to replace him.
Los Angeles Lakers – hire – Luke Walton
Luke Walton made his head coaching fame earlier this year, guiding the Golden State Warriors to a 39-4 start, including going 24 games unbeaten, all before Steve Kerr returned from back surgery.
While his efforts will not be recognised by the NBA as official, that did nothing to get other NBA teams to sit up and take notice of the obvious coaching talents that Walton possessed.
Nonetheless, at the conclusion of the regular season, he was quickly hired by the Los Angeles Lakers to kick off the post Kobe Bryant era.
Although he had the luxury of coaching this historically good Golden State side, the record he amassed through the early part of the season cannot be ignored.
Memphis Grizzlies – fire – Dave Joerger
This one comes with a slight caveat – Dave Joerger and the Memphis Grizzlies somewhat mutually parted ways after it became clear to both parties that contractual stipulations would not be met.
Joerger is himself now on the hunt for a new team and a more lucrative contract, and he has no shortages of options, should prospective teams choose to look past his fairly self-centered breakup with Memphis.
When contract negotiations break down, there is usually only one end result, and the Grizzlies and Joerger got it. Did they lose a talented young head coach? Yes. Is it the end of their world? Not even close.
Minnesota Timerwolves – hire – Tom Thibodeau
After a year on the open market, Tom Thibodeau will make his triumphant return to coaching with the young Minnesota Timerwolves next season.
Thibodeau’s reputation is known by all – he transforms teams defensively, and works his players into the ground. These things alone would make him an interesting hire for any team.
Interestingly enough, Thibodeau was an assistant with Minnesota in their first three years in the league, and now he returns to the city where he first coached in the NBA.
It will be interesting to see how such a young and talented team handles one of the toughest taskmasters in the league, but good on the front office for backing their playing group. This could prove one of the better hires of the season.
Phoenix Suns – hire* - Earl Watson
After what was a supposedly exhaustive three-month search for a new head coach, at which time interim Earl Watson lead the team, the Phoenix Suns finally named their new head coach – Earl Watson.
This one had more Phoenix fans shaking their heads – with all the job hunting going on around the league, could they find no better than the current interim?
Either way, Watson has supposedly earned the job, and he is allowed the same assessment time as any other new head coach. Still, this is hardly the most creative hire of all-time, and is not the best look for the club.
Sacramento Kings – fire – George Karl
Well, if George Karl isn’t good enough for the Sacramento Kings, you may as well look into re-animating the corpse of Red Aeurbach.
Karl was Sacramento’s fifth head coach since 2011, with their leadership beginning to resemble Australian Parliament. Their new hire will be their sixth, and for such a high potential team and emotionally fragile centerpiece, (DeMarcus Cousins) so much change cannot be good.
However, with the Sac-town missing the playoffs for the 10th straight season, Karl was relieved of duties. Good luck to the Kings’ next head coach – he’ll need it.
Washington Wizards – hire – Scott Brooks
After a season that disappointed themselves and most NBA fans, the Washington Wizards finally sacked Randy Wittman and committed to finding the elite level head coach they need. However, they then just decided to hire Scott Brooks, for no apparent reason.
Don’t get me wrong – Brooks obviously has some clue – after all, he has been to the NBA Finals.
However, during his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooks was largely considered to be wasteful of his two superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and was often caught running absolutely no offence for long stretches of play at a time.
Considering the team’s best player John Wall has shown visible and audible frustration at the organisation and his teammates this year, this does not initially promise to be the hire to keep him around for the long stretch.