Mike Brown and 7 NBA Coaches Under the Most Pressure in 2013
Mike Brown and these seven fellow NBA coaches may want to keep their agents on speed dial in 2013.
In a league where the average coach only lasts 3.2 years, turnover is common and expected. There's an awfully good chance that many of these head coaches will become part of that statistic.
Once a coach has lasted for a while with a franchise, they're often given a longer leash and greater margin for error. After all, they only survived that long because they did enough things right. That usually buys some credit to balance against wrong decisions in the future.
Racking up wins and/or rings will bank a lot of "get out of jail free" cards for later.
However, it's all too easy to drain the "good will" account, especially for those who haven't been on the job so long. So, it's not too surprising that many of the coaches on this list are relatively new to their respective positions.
Short leashes, unmet expectations or cultures of negativity are all obstacles that these guys currently face. If they can't clear these hurdles, they'll be likely be looking for new jobs by sometime next season.
Mike Brown: Los Angeles Lakers
Mike Brown succeeded a coaching icon on a legendary stage with a renowned franchise followed by rabid fans who expect an annual storybook ending. Let's hope he's taking something for his blood pressure.
The Los Angeles Lakers dropped seven winning percentage points from last season. Most importantly, they were bounced from the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Lakers scored seven fewer points in 2012, while giving up the same amount as they did the previous season. People expected that Brown's bland offensive sets would slightly decrease points per game. However, pardon everyone for wondering how switching from Phil "The Triangle Offense Zenmaster" Jackson to a "defensive guru" should bring the second result.
Mike Brown didn't hand a roster-crippling contract to Kobe Bryant, and he didn't mistakenly sign Jason Kapono, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
Unfortunately, none of that will matter to Lakers fans or management if L.A. isn't a clear title contender by next year.
Vinny Del Negro: Los Angeles Clippers
Just across the Staples Center hall, you'll find another coach whose seat will be warm in 2013.
Vinny Del Negro has been a perfectly average NBA coach. In fact, many franchises would kill to find a guy who could simply split games for them on a consistent basis.
Unfortunately, "Vinny D" has twice stepped into situations where expectations rapidly outpaced his ability to deliver. Similar to his tenure with the 2008-2010 Chicago Bulls, Del Negro now helms a Los Angeles Clippers team assumed to be on the brink of consistent contendership.
Del Negro's strange substitution patterns, poor end-game clock strategies and chippy relationship with management and media have soured and shortened his stays.
In the past, the Los Angeles Clippers would have adored any coach who could keep them at .500. Now? Those days and Vinny's might be quickly coming to a close.
Avery Johnson: Brooklyn Nets
With a ridiculous .741 winning percentage and a disciplinarian demeanor, Avery Johnson seemed like the perfect guy to return the New Jersey Nets' "glory days" of the past decade.
Instead, new ownership, the new coach and star point guard Deron Williams now enter their third season having only won 31 percent of their games together. The roster should, thankfully, look much different for 2013.
Yet, the pressure is mounting on Avery Johnson. If the team fails to land additional game-changing free agents this offseason, owner Mikhail Prokhorov will have few other options to pacify the new Brooklyn fanbase. Avery's head could roll simply for change's sake.
If the Nets do effectively rebuild their roster, Johnson will be in an immediate, must-win position. That actually sounds like a lose-lose to me.
Erik Spoelstra: Miami Heat
If he were coaching nearly any other team, we'd be talking about Erik Spoelstra's success in ever-reverent tones. The 41-year-old coach has yet to miss the playoffs in four seasons, while also taking his team to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years.
Yet, Spoelstra operates in a post-Decision reality that demands a championship trophy or else. His .622 regular-season winning percentage means nothing unless he begins racking up those multiple rings promised by his once over-eager superstars.
The pressure has gotten so out of hand that few would be surprised if Spoelstra's job was in serious jeopardy were the Miami Heat to lose these 2012 NBA Finals to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Say what you want about his offenses, strategies and so on. Either way, send this man a hot pad, because he's been sitting on an ever-warming seat these past couple of years.
Scott Skiles: Milwaukee Bucks
As the longest-tenured coach on this list, Scott Skiles has built up some good-will points among Milwaukee Bucks management and fans.
He got Wisconsin's perennial afterthought franchise back into the playoffs for 2009, has a no-nonsense demeanor which has resonated with fans and has largely kept the Bucks competitive, despite some rather talent-less rosters.
Yet, Skiles' cache of cred has to be running low. The team has regressed for three seasons in a row, and expansive roster changes are still not possible. With Brandon Jennings supposedly wanting out and Ersan Ilyasova potentially getting snagged away in free agency, Skiles has to hope the Bucks can do big things with their No. 12 pick in this year's draft.
History does not support that hope, and the Bucks may only have one option left if they're going to "shake things up." A slow start would be especially damaging here.
Larry Drew: Atlanta Hawks
Outside of Atlanta Hawks circles, Larry Drew was an unexpected choice to replace Mike Woodson in 2011.
Drew has certainly been competent enough, helping lead the Hawks to a .568 winning percentage and playoff appearances in his two years at the helm. However, the Hawks have yet to make any real postseason noise, and that's the exact thing which got Woodson fired in the first place.
Similar to Avery Johnson, Drew could be stuck in a strange no-win situation. If the Hawks really would blow up the roster, shipping away guys like Josh Smith, Al Horford or even Joe Johnson, he'll be expected to immediately shape the new crew.
More likely, when Atlanta can't find trades which take them to the next level, they'll either start from scratch or once again change the easiest variable. Larry Drew may not be a part of either equation.
Randy Wittman: Washington Wizards
With a well-publicized and horrific .331 career winning percentage over nearly six seasons, it's a wonder that Randy Wittman is still an NBA head coach at all. In his defense though, this interim-turned-head has had some terrible luck picking his situations.
Getting the atrocious Washington Wizards to win eight of their final 10 games helped, as did supposed endorsements from key players. Still, the Wiz didn't exactly tie the knot very tight when retaining him.
A paltry two-year deal, with a team option on the second, means that Randy Wittman is entering a probationary season with this young roster.
He's not exactly a lame duck coach at this point, but if things go south, it's not too difficult to figure out whose head will be the first to roll.
Mark Jackson: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have averaged a different coach every two years during the past decade. Mark Jackson's predecessor, Keith Smart, didn't even make it that far.
It's not Jackson's fault that management apparently mandated a nearly-failed must-lose policy. Still, he's never been a coach before. He's also trying to instill a defense-first identity on an offensive roster that's not going anywhere.
This disconnect in styles, the fact that he doesn't have any previous credibility, plus the toxic history for Bay Area pro basketball coaches means that Jackson might just be the next Warriors fall guy.
It's year two for Mark, and that's not a healthy time for Golden State coaches. His catchy broadcasting phrases notwithstanding, Mark Jackson has to work a modern miracle if he's to avoid being sacrificed on this altar of perpetual mediocrity.