NBA 2012: 5 Coaches on the Hot Seat
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Down the stretch they come. NBA teams are jockeying for playoff position as the abbreviated 66-game schedule winds down. And while some coaches are trying to squeeze every bit of potential out of their teams as they tried to garner that Larry O'Brien trophy, many are also wondering just how secure their jobs are. Do you really think that Miami Heat president Pat Riley would not consider whacking Heat coach Erik Spoelstra if Miami comes up short in a run for the title.
And just how comfortable are the Clippers with Vinny Del Negro and the Lakers with Mike Brown as the coaches of their respective franchise? And while Mike Woodson may have the New York Knicks playing good defense as they close in on a playoff berth, don't you just get a sense that Zen Master Phil Jackson is itching to get back to the bench and see what he can do with a team that features Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire?
Oh, and then there is Stan Van Gundy. Has there ever been a coach who seems more to be issued a pink slip.
So without further hesitation here is list of NBA coaches who are on the hot seat.
The Heat Is On
Erik Spolestra could be finished if the Heat don't win a title this June
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It's win or else for Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. President Pat Riley likely won't settle for anything less than a title come June, and if it doesn't happen what's Riles going to do? Trade LeBron James or Dwayne Wade? Not likely. That would make Spoelstra the fall guy.
Since the Heat brought together the Big Three of James, Wade and Chris Bosh, it's always seemed it would only be a matter of time until a veteran coach would be brought in to lead the club.
Spoelstra received a mulligan last June when the Heat fell to Dallas in the finals. He likely won't be that lucky this year if the Heat can't close the deal. Miami gave Spoelstra an extension in late 2011. But they'll definitely pay him off to bring in another coach if the Heat goes cold in the playoffs.
Mike Woodson could be chopped to welcome back Phil Jackson
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Where it came from, I don't know. But ever since Phil Jackson left the Lakers in 2011 there's been rumblings that he will return to New York, where he played for much of his career, to coach the Knicks. Jackson appeared to silence that speculation in an interview in the New York Times in January that was quoted on ProBasketballTalk when he said: "I have no desire to coach. You never say never, right? I mean, there is always something that might change my mind - but I just don't see it."
Current coach Mike Woodson has done a good job since taking over for Mike D'Antoni. However, with the Nets moving to Brooklyn this coming fall the Knicks will have to do something huge to win the battle for the hearts and wallets of fans and the back pages of the tabloids. Jackson would be a nice weapon to have in that fight.
Stan Van Gone
Stan Van Gundy is likely to be fired unless the Magic doing something magical during the playoffs
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I'm going out on a real short limb here and I'm going to say that Stan Van Gundy will not be back as the head coach of the Magic next season. Dwight Howard, who is also likely to leave in free agency, has already said he doesn't want to play for Van Gundy, according to Yardbarker.com.
That means if the Magic do by some miracle re-sign Howard then Van Gundy being canned is going to be part of the package. If Howard doesn't come back why would Van Gundy want to hang around and be part of a rebuilding process? All signs point to him leaving Orlando after this season.
If the Lakers make an early exit from the playoffs it could mean a short stay in LA for Mike Brown
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Kobe Bryant has never come out and put his full stamp of approval on Lakers coach Mike Brown. And in this star-driven league that is never a good sign. The Lakers seem to be playing better as the playoffs approach, despite not having Kobe, who has been sidelined with an injury, but Brown has been the target of criticism from both his players and the Los Angeles media this season. The criticism centers around Brown's rotations and use of players. He ran into the same problem while in Cleveland.
Brown likely picked up some support from fans and the front office for his benching of Andrew Bynum after his center took an ill-advised three-pointer. Brown's also sat Bryant for an entire fourth quarter to send a message. But support for benching a head case and not caving to the rantings of Bryant would likely earn him enough goodwill to survive an early playoff ouster.
Clipped in L.A.?
Vinny Del Negro could get clipped by the Clippers
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The Los Angeles Clippers have one the best young big men in the game in Blake Griffin and a premier point in Chris Paul. What they don't have is maturity or an apparent ability to maintain an even keel during an NBA season. The team has a young and talented roster but could need a more established and experienced head coach to lead it to a title.
At times Griffin has become unhinged because of a bad call or allowed an opposing player to get into his head. Could better coaching help the young star overcome that? Los Angeles is playing well in April. They are 7-2 this month through the first nine games so maybe they are peaking at just the right time and Del Negro has helped his young team figure out how to win when it matters most.
The Clippers have captured the imagination of the Los Angeles fanbase. They'll need to take the step to championship contender, not continue to be an exciting novelty, to keep that fanbase with them and allow Del Negro to keep his job.