Why have so many coaches been fired?
by Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra are two of the league’s three longest-tenured coaches, and they’re showing why in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, many of their colleagues are trying to hold on as the coaching carousel spins faster than ever.
There have been a record-tying 11 NBA coaching changes since the regular season ended. The latest move came last week and symbolized the state of affairs: George Karl, the sixth-winningest coach of all-time and reigning coach of the year, was fired by the Denver Nuggets after his team won a franchise-record 57 NBA games but fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Golden State Warriors. He became the fifth coach of a playoff team to lose his job, with a sixth possibly on the way should the Memphis Grizzlies decide not to re-sign Lionel Hollins.
“That’s a tough state for our business and where it is right now,” said Spoelstra, who was the neophyte of the head coaching world when he took over the Heat in April 2008 as a 37-year-old. “That just doesn’t correlate to an objective mind. People’s expectations are way off or just not looking at it really objectively. I really don’t know.”
Yet for all the unprecedented decisions, there’s a story behind every move that makes some measure of sense. The Sacramento Kings’ ownership change led to the dismissal of coach Keith Smart, and another in Memphis has everything to do with Hollins’ uncertain future. For the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns and the Nuggets, changes in the front office came first and lessened the shock of coaches being fired.
The Suns fired Alvin Gentry during the season, then replaced interim Lindsey Hunter with Jeff Hornacek in late May. They are one of three teams — the other being the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks — that finished the season with interim coaches and made expected changes.
Steve Kauffman, whose Kauffman Sports Management Group represents coaches and front-office officials around the league, noted there is a balancing effect that comes with all of these changes this season after there were three made … [For more on Why have so many NBA coaches been fired this season?, click here.]