5 NBA Coaches Working on Borrowed Time in 2012-13
For the following five coaches, the 2012-13 NBA season represents a make-or-break year. These coaches are in situations where their teams must win now, or they'll face the genuine prospect of losing their position on the sidelines.
It's true that a case can be made that every coach in the league is under considerable pressure. As leaders of their teams, they are ultimately responsible for the on-court performance of the roster with which they have to work.
However, the coaches who are working on borrowed time have found themselves in unique situations.
For some, they suddenly have found themselves at the helm of a team that is expected to be dominant. Some are the leaders of teams that have made significant strides this offseason. Others are working with contenders in the making, while another is entering the final year of his contract and needs to significantly change the fortunes of his team.
The varied situations that these coaches find themselves in shows how cut-throat coaching in the NBA actually is.
So, with that said, who are the five coaches operating on borrowed time this season?
Time is running out for Scott Skiles in Milwaukee.
Entering his fifth year with the Bucks and in the final year of his contract, Skiles has only managed to lead his team to one winning season in four years.
Of all the coaches in the league, he appears the most likely for an early exit this season.
While it's true that his team's progress was hampered by consistent injuries to Andrew Bogut, ownership has to be losing patience with the team's mediocrity. Other than the team's surprising late-season surge to the 2010 playoffs, the Bucks have failed to put together more than 35 wins in a season under Skiles.
With Bogut now gone, the hard-nosed and defensive-minded coach will need to find a way to make his dynamic backcourt partnership of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis work. If it's anything other than a complete success, Skiles will be headed out the door.
Like former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, Skiles is relentless in his application. However, it's plausible that his grinding methods are starting to lose traction with the players in the locker room. A fresh voice may be needed.
Skiles' future likely will be determined before the All-Star break this season. If the Bucks break out to a winning start with Jennings and Ellis leading the way, then Milwaukee is likely bound for the playoffs.
If, however, the team's form is anything like that of the last two years, then Skiles will be packing his bags.
Washington has taken some very positive steps forward in the last 6-8 months, and all of a sudden head coach Randy Wittman has significantly more expectations.
After ridding the team of JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche, the Wizards have landed Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. They also drafted the promising shooting guard Bradley Beal to play alongside franchise player John Wall.
In doing so, the Wizards emptied their locker room of unfocused and poisonous characters, replacing them with a group of experienced leaders ready to transform this wayward franchise.
On paper, Washington now has a lineup that should compete for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. That's a substantial jump in expectations for a team that hasn't won more than 26 games in a season since 2007-08.
That increased expectation unquestionably will land firmly on the shoulders of Wittman.
In his second year at the helm, John Wall's development must accelerate while the new faces must place their stamp on this team by remodeling the Wizards from a complete pushover to a hard-working and disciplined team.
If that doesn't happen, then the heat will be on Wittman immediately, and for a coach with a 118-238 career coaching record, it's a lot to ask.
Vinny Del Negro
Vinny Del Negro already escaped a turbulent period with the Clippers when his team hit a losing streak in March of last season.
He won't be so fortunate if the same situation rolls around again, though.
The 2012-13 season will be a defining time for Del Negro and L.A.'s "other team." Superstar point guard Chris Paul will be a free agent by season's end, and if the Clippers are to hold onto his services, then they simply must win under Del Negro this season.
For this make-or-break season, the Clippers have bolstered their roster with experience, most notably adding Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford and Lamar Odom. But the coach must develop as well as the roster if he is to remain in Los Angeles beyond this year.
Del Negro's coaching has been widely criticized, and many consider him a coach to rebuild under rather than one with whom to win a championship. Many consider him to be poor offensively, failing to instill creativity and variety in the team's offense, relying too heavily on Paul's brilliance to generate scores.
The team, arguably, also should be better defensively than it is, given the length and athleticism of their frontcourt.
ESPN reported that Del Negro's constantly changing rotation upset players at times last season. He can't afford to make the same mistake twice.
With experienced new faces in town and so much riding on the season, Del Negro has a lot on his plate. Unless the Clippers genuinely compete for a top-four spot in the Western Conference, Del Negro will be looking for another job very quickly.
Avery Johnson's situation in Brooklyn is similar to that of Randy Wittman: In no time at all, he's leading a team very much on the rise.
The 2012-13 season was always going to be pivotal for the Nets. The franchise has to make a big splash in its first season in Brooklyn after several years of irrelevancy in New Jersey.
Despite missing out on Dwight Howard, owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King have done their parts by assembling a roster that comfortably should be a playoff team.
Johnson's job is to make them more than that.
At his disposal, Johnson has the league's best guard duo in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Alongside them, the team has managed to keep Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez together, forming a powerful starting five. Rising star MarShon Brooks, who was expected to be included in many of the Nets' transactions at the trade table, also was retained.
The 2006 NBA Coach of the Year now has to deal with enormous expectations for his team. In an instant, on paper, the Nets have transformed from Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers to contenders. However, turning that into real success is going to present its challenges.
Williams must fire. Johnson must quickly slide into an off-the-ball role. Wallace needs to show why they call him "Crash." Humphries and Lopez need to form a potent frontcourt partnership, and Brooks must shine off the bench.
Coach Johnson quickly will be under pressure if this doesn't occur. While he may be spared more time than others on this list, the clock is definitely ticking.
For Mike Brown it's as simple as this: If he's any chance to coach this team in the 2013-14 season, then the Lakers have to make NBA Finals (at least) this year.
However, even that might not be enough.
Given what the Lakers have achieved this offseason, it could be championship or bust for Brown in L.A.
His first season with the league's most marquee team was underwhelming. The stamp he put on the Lakers turned them into a grafting defensive team that couldn't score with the league's elite. Rumblings occurred throughout the year regarding his relationship with the players, but here we are approaching the new season, and he's still there.
However, with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash now ready to play alongside Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Brown is under more pressure than any coach in the league to make his team win.
The defensive-minded coach will be helped on offense by new assistant coach Eddie Jordan, who brings with him the renowned Princeton offense. After struggling to orchestrate a successful offense in his first season with the Lakers, Brown will be hoping that the Princeton offense is quickly adopted by a team familiar with the somewhat similar Triangle offense of Phil Jackson.
Brown's management of personalities also will be critical, given that Bryant will be unwilling to hand over his dominance of the team to Howard just yet.
If, as expected, the Lakers dominate the NBA this year, then Brown is safe. Anything else, and it's almost certain that someone else will be appointed to replace him.