Alvin Gentry and 6 More NBA Head Coaches on the Hot Seat

Al Rieger@Al RiegerCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2012

Alvin Gentry and 6 More NBA Head Coaches on the Hot Seat

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    NBA head coaches have it rough. They often become scapegoats when their teams start losing games.

    Two coaches, Flip Saunders (Washington Wizards) and Paul Westphal (Sacramento Kings) have already been fired this season. Westphal got the boot after only seven games, the second-fastest firing since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976.

    Ahead is a list of NBA head coaches who could be next... 

Alvin Gentry (Phoenix Suns)

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    The Phoenix Suns have the players, but they’re losing games. The Suns started the season ice cold, losing 13 of 20 games. They're playing horrible defense, and losing ticket sales (they’re 21st in attendance).

    After hiring a new president of basketball operations, Suns owner Robert Sarver may be looking to replace Gentry.

    Sarver told the media, via SB Nation, in July 2010:

    As long as Steve (Nash) and Grant (Hill) are here, I feel an obligation to be as successful as possible...(and) I don't know that I can sit there for four years and watch a terrible team play. I think we have too many good players to be terrible, even if we wanted to try and be terrible.

    The huddled season is starting play natural selection: the strong are rewarded and the weak suffer. It’s becoming clearer that the Suns, who are always competitive in the playoffs, will be an afterthought in the West come May.

    The Suns are poised to make big moves during the 2012 free agency period. In consequence, there is a limited chance they will make any big roster changes this season. Instead, the front office could be looking for a new head coach to shake things up.

    What needs to change

    Gentry needs to get his stars to stop underperforming. Channing Frye has to start playing more aggressively; 8.6 points and 5.4 rebounds are not good numbers for your starting power forward, especially with Steve Nash by his side.

    Hill just looks like he’s losing interest. His shooting percentage is under 50 percent for the first time in four years. Also, Gentry needs to get his team fired up and crash the boards. They are 26th in total rebounds per game.   

Mike D’Antoni (New York Knicks)

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    Can Jeremy Lin save D’Antoni’s job?

    Things were looking bright before the onset of the 2012 season. The Knicks signed Tyson Chandler to complete their own Big Three. D’Antoni told CBS in a radio interview his team was elite and capable of a championship.

    He should have taken a lesson from the Miami Heat’s arrogant celebration when LeBron dubbed the Heat a dynasty before they even set foot on a court.

    The Knicks lost 13 of 20, mostly against bad teams. Although some hope has been resurrected with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, D’Antoni’s “Seven Seconds or Less” coaching style is not championship quality.

    ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith explains why the Suns let him go after the 2007-08 season:

    A frenetic pace in which everyone has the green light was not going to cut it. Neither was jacking up 3-pointers while playing limited defense.


    What needs to change

    D’Antoni needs to change. His one-sided game plan just doesn’t work. This "Linsanity" is great for ticket sales but Lin is most valuable when he’s distributing to his scorers. Carmelo Anthony is the focal point of this offense and the only superstar on this team.

    D’Antoni’s seat is momentarily cooling but he’s not off the hook just yet.

Avery Johnson (New Jersey Nets)

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    I wonder if Dwight Howard is changing his preferred destination list. Rumors say the New Jersey Nets are still the front-runners but I don’t know why Howard would do that to himself.

    This year was supposed to be the re-emergence of the New Jersey Nets. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and rap star Jay-Z were going to ignite the Nets to elite status. They had Deron Williams, Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband (Chris Humphries) and an award-winning coach in Avery Johnson. They had their own shiny new stadium in Jersey. The Nets won 24 games last year.

    This year, 24 wins is a long shot and because expectations were so high, someone is going to bear the blame. That man will likely be Avery Johnson. He’s got a hot head and has lost control of this team. Johnson might be the next coach in line to get the boot.       

    What has to change

    Where do I begin?

    This team has problems but the biggest one is defense. According to defensive efficiency statistics, the Nets have the worst defense of any team in 20 years.

    Johnson wants this team to become championship caliber overnight and there’s no way that’s going to happen. To secure future employment in the NBA, let alone his current job, Johnson has to have the Nets show steady, tangible improvement. 

Scott Skiles (Milwaukee Bucks)

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    The Milwaukee Bucks are going downhill.

    Although they might squeak into the playoffs, the Bucks are in no way contenders for the Eastern Conference title. They look worse than last year even though they have the same record after 28 games (12-16). Brandon Jennings, who is a free agent this summer, is reportedly shopping for new teams.

    In addition, tensions have developed between Skiles and Bucks small forward Stephen Jackson after Skiles has kept Jackson on the bench for entire games. Jackson has five DNP-CDs (Did Not Play-Coaches Decision) this year. He told TMJ4:

    We don't have no relationship, like I've had with other coaches and I don't expect to have one. Too much stuff has happened

    The Bucks struck gold at the 2011 NBA Draft. Tobias Harris and Jon Leuer are No. 3 and No. 4 among all NBA rookies in John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating (PER), but Skiles has them both playing less than 12 minutes a game.

    Skiles should feel uneasy about his future as the head coach of this franchise. 

    What needs to change

    The Bucks used to be known as a defensive team but that’s not the case right now as they allow on average 97.1 points a night (23rd overall).

    Their offense is not clicking and they continue to enter cold streaks throughout games. Skiles needs to use his timeouts more effectively to keep his team out of long funks.

Doc Rivers (Boston Celtics)

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    Rivers is the captain of slowly sinking ship. Since their championship in 2008, the Boston Celtics have nearly dropped out of contention. The Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Ray Allen era is reaching its demise and that could mean the end of Rivers’ eight-year reign as the Celtics head coach.

    Simply, the Celtics are an old team in a youthful NBA. Fans want to see some life brought back to this organization, and a new coach, a new leader, might be the first thing Danny Ainge installs.   

    What needs to change

    The offense needs to run through Rajon Rondo. He’s the future of the Celtics.

    I know Rivers has established a bond with Pierce, Garnett and Allen, but the Celtics need to trade at least one or two of these players to get some quality pieces to build around. If Rivers is going to stick around, he needs to be a totally different coach on a totally different team.

Vinny Del Negro (Los Angeles Clippers)

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    Vinny Del Negro helps bad teams become better. He helped the Chicago Bulls rise out of the depths, with help from a young superstar in Derrick Rose of course.

    Now with the Clippers, Del Negro’s future with the rising franchise is in question. Can he be the mayor of Lob City?

    Del Negro is a good coach but the Clippers will be looking for a deep playoff run this year, and if a better candidate becomes available, Del Negro could be out of the job.

    Right now, the Clippers are winning because of talent. Whether Del Negro can lead this team to elite status will not be seen until playoffs. That’s if he makes it that far.

    What needs to change

    To save his job, Del Negro has to become a leader. Currently, he seems better suited for behind the scenes, X’s-and-O’s type work.

    At times the Clippers have shown glimpses of dominance but then they fall backward into mediocrity. Del Negro has to match accountability with expectations. This team has championship potential and they need a coach who can stand up to his stars and hold them accountable.

Paul Silas (Charlotte Bobcats)

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    The Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA. Obviously, the heat is being turned up under Silas’s tush and the 68-year-old head coach could be forced into retirement before the season’s end.

    Silas has burdened much of the blame for the Bobcats’ struggles but it is not his fault. Without Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson, talent is scarce. The Bobcats have won just three games so far, four less than the Wizards (who let go of Flip Saunders already). Is Silas next?

    What has to change

    The Bobcats are done this year. However, Silas can save his job if he wants it and can get some intensity back into this team. He looks way too complacent about the awful play. Bobcats veteran guard Matt Carroll told the Charlotte Observer:

    Paul treats us like we're going to win every time we go out there. You don't see finger pointing like you do on a lot of losing teams, and that's because of Paul. He keeps us positive.

    This is not the right attitude to have right now. Silas needs to get mad. Things need to change. Surely a huge turnaround is improbable, but with patience, this team has to start showing some steady improvement.