NBA AM: Looking At The NBA Coaches
The Coaches: With the trade season behind us and the offseason and postseason squarely in view, there are some coaches that are cementing their futures, while some others may be having cement poured over theirs. Here is a look at the 30 NBA coaches, and who is likely staying and who is likely on the way out.
Larry Drew – Atlanta
Larry Drew is in the final year of his contract, so it is unlikely that Drew is back in Atlanta next season as the Hawks try and reinvent themselves into an Eastern Conference power with some $40 million in possible cap space. New Hawks GM Danny Ferry inherited Drew, and while Drew has done a decent job in Atlanta he has all the makings of a lame duck coach, especially if the entire roster is going to turn over in July. Drew was the inexpensive hire when the Hawks tabbed him to replace Mike Woodson and he has done a solid job, although the writing is on the wall that Atlanta will do more than go player shopping this summer.
Doc Rivers – Boston
Doc Rivers agreed to a five-year contract extension in the summer of 2011, giving him lots of long-term security. The way Rivers agreement works is he can opt to step down every offseason, however if he chooses to stay his money is already negotiated. If Rivers were to leave the Celtics he wouldn’t be able to take another coaching job, so the question surrounding him is how much longer does he want to coach and will he want to coach a Celtics team that may be without Kevin Garnett, who may retire this summer, and Paul Pierce, who is likely being traded around the draft? Rivers will control his own future, so the smart money says he’ll be back, especially as one of the highest paid coaches in the game.
P.J. Carlesimo – Brooklyn
The Nets wanted a big name coach when they let go of Avery Johnson earlier this year, however they were unable to get any serious traction from the notable names. P.J. Carlesimo was named the interim coach and has actually done a decent job with this Nets team. His future, like the future of many in Brooklyn, is tied to how deep the team goes in the playoffs. An early exit likely signals the end of the road for Carlesimo. If he can get this Nets team to the Eastern Conference Finals he may have a real shot at keeping the job. The smart money says Brooklyn goes big game hunting in the offseason. especially with Phil Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy having already been targeted as candidates when Avery Johnson was fired.
Mike Dunlap – Charlotte
Mike Dunlap was brought in to teach and to change the culture in Charlotte and for the most part he has done a pretty good job at that. The Bobcats still are not winning games and at the end of the road that’s what basketball is about. The fact that Charlotte is rebuilding could keep Dunlap where he is; his hiring was viewed as part of a bigger picture and its unlikely that the Bobcats replace him this summer, however, if things don’t start turning after another talent injection this offseason he’s a name to watch going into next season.
Tom Thibodeau – Chicago
You almost want to say “next” on Thibodeau. He just signed a four-year extension this summer and with the success his team is having he’s not going anywhere. Cross Thibodeau off the watch list.
Byron Scott – Cleveland
The Cavaliers picked up their team option on Byron Scott in October, so he is under contract for next season. The odds of Scott being anywhere but Cleveland seem fairly remote. Scott’s impact on Kyrie Irving and to a certain extent rookie Dion Waiters has been more than noticed not only by the Cavs, but by the NBA at large. When Scott does get free of his deal in Cleveland he may find himself a lot more coveted than he was when he left New Orleans, even with a losing record with the Cavs. It will be interesting to see what Cleveland does with Scott in the offseason. Do you give a coach with a 58-146 record in three seasons an extension?
Rick Carlisle – Dallas
The Dallas Mavericks gave Carlisle a four-year deal in May, so the odds that he is not back with the Mavs next season is pretty remote. Carlisle has a reputation for being tough to deal with. He is somewhat of a mad scientist in his approach and that does rub some players the wrong way. As the Mavericks set out for another trip through free agency you have to wonder if the quirky Carlisle is going to be a hindrance or a help. Carlisle is a solid coach, and the fact that he’s won a championship surely helps his cause, but having a prickly reputation may shy guys away from Dallas, especially if they have had run ins with coaches.
George Karl – Denver
Karl signed a three-year extension in summer of 2011 which carries him through the 2013-2014 season. After that his deal has three one-year team options so in essence the Nuggets have Karl locked up for what could be four more seasons at their choice. Given how well the Nuggets have played it’s hard to imagine that Denver would look to replace Karl, but you also have to wonder at what point do the Nuggets start to expect more than just a playoff berth. Getting into the playoffs might be enough for now, but eventually improvement is going to be expected and rightly or wrongly that sometimes falls on the coach.
Lawrence Frank – Detroit
Frank signed a three-deal with the Pistons in the summer of 2011, making next season his final contract year with the Pistons. To say Frank’s tenure with the Pistons has been underwhelming is selling short how bad it’s been. The Pistons are looking at more than $30 million in possible salary cap money this summer and a chance to reinvent themselves in free agency, you have to wonder if Frank will be a part of that.
Mark Jackson – Golden State
At the start of the season it seemed as if the Jackson experiment in Golden State was a colossal failure. However, with the Warriors playing very well this season, especially on defense, Jackson may get a little more time to see if he can become a coach that matters in the NBA. The Warriors ownership wants playoff success in the worst way, so there may not be much tolerance for failing out of the dance, but as things sit today Jackson seems fairly secure for next season.
Kevin McHale – Houston
Much like Jackson, it seemed as if McHale in Houston was doomed to fail and then James Harden arrived. The Rockets look poised for the postseason and another run through free agency, it remains unclear how much faith the organization has in Kevin over the long-term, but a good strong run through the postseason could solidifying things for McHale. Kevin has had his run-ins with players, so much like Carlisle, will McHale’s reputation be a hindrance for the Rockets in free agency, or will the glimmer of his Celtic championships be the elixir the Rockets need to nab a serious free agent?
Frank Vogel – Indiana
The Pacers extended Vogel on what is believed to be a three-year extension in January, with the third year said to be a team option. The Pacers have been playing great as of late and the odds that Vogel is anywhere but Indiana next season is almost unthinkable. Vogel’s rise to NBA elite status without a true star player is impressive. If he can get his Pacers deep into the playoffs again this season his stock and his price may go way up on the Pacers, that extension might look like a genius move this summer.
Vinny Del Negro – LA Clippers
Del Negro is in the final year of his deal, giving the Clippers options this summer. Last summer both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were consulted on the decision to retain him for this season and you can bet both will have a say in the coaching decision this summer. For all of Del Negro’s detractors, he has done a remarkable job in both his stints in Chicago and with the Clippers amassing a 194-176 (.524) record. To put that into perspective George Karl has a .595 winning percentage, Jerry Sloan has a .604 winning percentage. It is more likely than not that the Clippers have a new head coach next season, especially if they do not make the Conference Finals.
Mike D’Antoni – LA Lakers
The Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni in November after abruptly firing Mike Brown. D’Antoni agreed to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with a team option for a fourth season. So let’s call this what it is – the Lakers will owe D’Antoni $8 million when the season ends. The question becomes can they retain him and still retain Dwight Howard as a free agent. The short answer is likely no. The Lakers had hoped Mike D’Antoni would bring an exciting up-and-down style of play to the Lakers and that a championship would ensue, what they got was far from that. Now to D’Antoni’s defense he has had a ton of injuries. His roster isn’t exactly athletic and both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have been a shell of themselves since arriving in LA mainly due to injury. The money owed to D’Antoni isn’t crazy, so disposing of him in the offseason is an option, but with the Lakers still owing Mike Brown some $4.5 million a year for the next two seasons, do they add another $4 million on top of what they’d pay a replacement coach? How far the Lakers go this season may go a long way towards answering that question.
Lionel Hollins – Memphis
Hollins is in the last year of his deal with the Grizzlies and recently said he “expects” to be back. The problem is that Hollins is his own guy, he’s not a “company” man and he is prone to saying exactly what he is thinking. His players have grown to respect that about him and that’s likely why they have had so much success together. The problem with a new deal for Hollins is new ownership in Memphis. If this was still Michael Heisley calling the shots Hollins not only gets a new deal, he likely gets a raise. A good strong run though the playoffs could do wonders for a new deal with Hollins, but given how little trust seems to exist between him and his new front office and ownership you have to wonder if he looks for options elsewhere and Memphis gets a new coach that fits in with their new front office more seamlessly. A name to watch in Memphis if Hollins does opt to explore his options is Stan Van Gundy.
Erik Spoelstra – Miami
There is almost no scenario in which Spoelstra is not with the HEAT next season. Barring an absolute meltdown in the postseason the HEAT have gotten exactly what they wanted out of Coach Spoelstra and his players are bought in 100 percent.
Jim Boylan – Milwaukee
Boylan has done a decent job replacing Scott Skiles. It’s unlikely that he’ll be retained next season barring a crazy run through the postseason, although the Bucks could do worse that Boylan going forward. The Bucks will have a ton of free agent money and the chance to rebuild their team this summer and looking at additional coaches will be part of that. Boylan has earned a chance at the job, but how he does in the playoffs will go a long way towards cementing his candidacy as the Bucks full-time head coach.
Rick Adelman – Minnesota
In the summer of 2011 Adelman signed a four-year deal worth more than $16 million. That deal carries him through the 2014-2015 season, however health concerns with his wife may play a factor in how much longer he coaches. The Wolves love what they have in Adelman and he has been instrumental in getting free agents to consider Minnesota. Injuries have derailed the Wolves season yet again, but unless Adelman opts to step aside to deal with his family, the odds that he isn’t with the Wolves next season are fairly slim.
Monty Williams – New Orleans
The Hornets/Pelicans signed Monty to a four-year contract extension in August locking him into New Orleans through the 2016 season. If there is one coach that is far better than his record, it’s Williams. The Hornets have a long-term plan and Williams and general manager Dell Demps are a key part of that. At some point Williams is going to need to start turning losses into wins to live out his deal, but there is almost no situation in which Monty isn’t coaching in New Orleans next season, his extension all but insures that.
Mike Woodson – New York
The Knicks have gotten what they wanted when they signed Mike Woodson to a three-year deal in May. Woodson’s deal is believed to be worth between $10 million and $12 million, depending on achieved incentives. The Knicks have found a new identity under Woodson and that’s a team that can flat out score while also locking down teams on defense. The Knicks do have high expectations, so that could be Mike’s undoing down the road, however for now there is almost no scenario other than total collapse down the stretch in which Mike is not back with the Knicks next season.
Scott Brooks – Oklahoma City
The Thunder signed Scott Brooks to a four-year $18 million contract extension in July, and given how well his team has played this season there is almost no scenario in which Brooks isn’t back with the Thunder next season. Brooks, a former player, has really created a special bond with his players in Oklahoma City and he has become the model coach most teams are looking for – smart, young coach with playing experience who can relate to his players, but also lead. Orlando tapped Jacque Vaughn hoping to find the next Scotty Brooks; Phoenix did the same with Lindsey Hunter. Barring an out-right revolt by his players Brooks isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Jacque Vaughn – Orlando
Vaughn was the dare-to-be-great hire by the Magic. They knew they were going to lose games, so why not bring in an all-upside coach and that’s exactly what they did with Vaughn. The odds that Vaughn isn’t coaching in Orlando next year are extremely slim. He was hired to lose this year and he’ll get more of a chance to change things next year. Vaughn has installed a tenacious culture in Orlando and as long as his players continue to play hard and play tough. Vaughn may get a chance to finish what he started.
Doug Collins – Philadelphia
Collins got his contract option for the 2013-2014 season picked up in October, so he is under contract for at least one more season. There have been grumblings that Collins may be tiring of the NBA grind and wanted more control over the basketball operations side of things in Philly. Sources close to the situation say Collins is ready to see his contract through, beyond that its unclear. The 76ers still view themselves as a playoff team, but if they struggle to make the dance the 61-year old Collins may be ready to call it a day. He is clearly one of the guys to watch especially during the postseason.
Lindsey Hunter – Phoenix
Like Orlando’s Jacque Vaughn, Lindsey was viewed by the Suns as the dare-to-be-great hire after the team parted ways with Alvin Gentry. It’s unclear how committed to Hunter the Suns are especially as they try and make another run through the draft and free agency. The remaining 25 games might be more of an extended try-out for Hunter, who is expected to be in the mix when the Suns interview additional candidates this summer.
Terry Stotts – Portland
Stotts signed a multi-year deal with Portland in August and while the Blazers have shown a limited amount of patience with regards to on-court success, their plan from the start of the season was to develop young guys and gain some experience. The Blazers have faltered as of late after exceeding exceptions for the first half of the season. Stotts is likely back in Portland baring a total meltdown, but given the volatility of the Blazers organization is anyone really secure in Portland? Stotts has done a passable job so far in his first year; if things don’t improve next year don’t be surprised to see Terry sent packing. That’s how the Blazers do things.
Keith Smart – Sacramento
With ownership clearly unsettled, Smart’s future with the team is cloudy to say the least. He signed a two-year contract in January last season that covered this year and next; beyond that new ownership will have final say in where Smart ultimately ends up. Smart is a quality coach in a tough situation and unfortunately he’s going to carry the blame for whatever happens next. The smart money says Smart will be replaced by new ownership, whether that’s in Sacramento or Seattle still remains to be seen.
Gregg Popovich – San Antonio
Coach Popovich is a legend, so it’s almost impossible to see him not coaching the Spurs, however more and more people say that when Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili call it a career, Popovich may join them. If Popovich leaves the bench it will be because he chooses to, not because anyone can or would try and force a change. If there is one coach in the NBA that will have his job as long as he wants it, it’s Popovich and given how well his team is playing, it’s easy to see Popovich pulling a Phil Jackson and giving things one more year mainly out of respect for his players and his owner.
Dwane Casey – Toronto
Coach Casey finally has a team that can play, the question becomes is there enough time to close the gap and make the playoffs? Much like team president Bryan Colangelo, the window and patience of the Raptors organization is growing thin. As a result the Raptors have been aggressive in the trade market and they have really pushed as a team. If Casey fails to make the postseason there will be questions about his job security, however if you are really paying attention the Raptors are better defensively and they are a much better team all-around. Casey may deserve another season and a strong push towards the playoffs could get him one.
Tyrone Corbin – Utah
Its playoffs or bust in Utah and that goes for head coach Corbin as well. The Jazz did not make any changes at the trade deadline and have thrown all their chips in to the playoff basket. If Corbin can’t get the Jazz into the postseason or his team fails to show promise in the playoffs Corbin could be in serious trouble. If there is a coach that desperately needs a strong showing it’s Corbin.
Randy Wittman – Washington
It seems inevitable that Wittman is out this summer. The Wizards have played better since John Wall returned from injury, but Wittman has not been a catalyst for success. The Wizards signed Wittman to a two-year extension in June of 2012, so if and when he is released he’ll get a nice parting gift for his troubles. If Washington wants to go anywhere in the John Walla era they need to get a serious head coach and that means Wittman has to go.
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