Ranking the Job Security of Every NBA Head Coach

Garrett JochnauCorrespondent IINovember 4, 2012

Ranking the Job Security of Every NBA Head Coach

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    Every year, several NBA coaches fail to last throughout the entire season. Last year, Randy Wittman, Paul Westphal, Mike D'Antoni and Nate McMillan fell victim to the pink slip, and this year, we will undoubtedly witness a few more firings.

    Whether it be poor performance or issues in the locker room, several coaches won't last throughout the season.

    Some coaches entered the 2012-13 season in the hot seat, while others will suffer midseason declines.

    Here is a ranking of every NBA coach—from 30 to one—based on the security of their job and the likelihood that they're forced to find a new one by the season's end.

30. San Antonio Spurs: Gregg Popovich

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    Gregg Popovich has established himself as one of the all-time greats since appointing himself coach in 1996, and during his tenure, has led one of the most successful franchises in all of sports.

    The respect he receives from both his own team, as well as the Association as a whole, is unmatched by any other coach in the league.

    His team is well past its prime, but still remains contenders due largely in part to Pop's coaching.

    Last season, his efforts were rewarded with the Coach of the Year award, making him a two-time recipient of the honor. 

    There are a lot of great coaches in the league, but Pop is undoubtedly the best, and with such a rich history with the team, Pop's position within the organization is about as secure as it gets.

29. Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau

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    As far as great coaches go, Tom Thibodeau is one of the best.

    Since winning the Coach of the Year accolade in 2011, Thibodeau has been recognized as one of the most elite sideline bosses in the league.

    The Chicago Bulls signed him on for another four years, expressing their desire to keep their beloved coach within the organization for the long run.

    Even if the Bulls were to struggle, Thibodeau can hardly be used as a scapegoat, as the Derrick Rose injury would be used as reasoning.

    However, even without Rose, the Bulls remain a playoff-bound team, so seeing Thibodeau fired would be shocking, to say the least.

28. Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers

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    Doc Rivers has built up quite the resume coaching the Boston Celtics.

    Since 2004, Rivers has suited up as the Celtics head coach, and now—eight years later—he is nowhere near losing his job.

    He, like the aforementioned, is one of the most celebrated coaches in the league, and at this point in his career, has full control over the Boston franchise.

    His players love him, as does the city of Boston. The veteran coach has simply built up too strong a reputation to be in jeopardy of losing his job.

27. Philadelphia 76ers: Doug Collins

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    Doug Collins is one of the more veteran coaches in the league, and at this stage of his career, it would be hard to dismiss him.

    The Philadelphia 76ers have a new star in Andrew Bynum—though the talented big man is yet to make his Philly debut due to injury.

    Collins—being the talented coach that he is—will use Bynum, as well as the deep supporting cast that they have garnered, to put together a strong regular season run and will be in contentions to win the Atlantic division.

    He is a consummate professional, and with one of the more talented rosters in the league, Collins should remain the Sixers head coach until he retires.

26. Denver Nuggets: George Karl

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    The Denver Nuggets seem to be everyone's sleeper team this year, and it isn't hard to see why.

    Their roster is among the most deep in the league, and despite lacking a superstar, they have their fair share of above-average players.

    Last year, they exploded onto the scene late in the season, following the emergence of JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried as a strong frontcourt, as well as a perennial All-Star in Ty Lawson.

    The reason for their rapid maturation into stars? George Karl.

    The veteran coach—though often left off of a list of great coaches—is certainly worthy of the "elite" title that NBA gurus have labeled him with.

    This year, the Nuggets will have another borderline star to work with in Andre Iguodala, so it is expected that their late success last season will continue into this one.

    As long as everything works out as planned, Karl's job is in no way in jeopardy.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Scott Brooks

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    Though Scott Brooks is one of the newer head coaches in the NBA, he has already established himself as an elite talent at his position.

    Last year, he managed the Western Conference champions—the Oklahoma City Thunder—and while they ultimately succumbed to the Miami Heat in the Finals, their run was impressive, to say the least.

    They turned the tables against the San Antonio Spurs, coming back from a 0-2 start to win four straight, after Brooks implemented changes that eventually led the Thunder to victory.

    Of course, having two All-Stars on your team helps, especially when one is Kevin Durant.

    Still, Brooks is a well-respected coach and in no danger of losing his job.

24. Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle

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    Since replacing Avery Johnson as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in 2008, Rick Carlisle has verified himself as an above-average coach.

    In each of his four seasons with the team, Carlisle's Mavericks have finished with winning records, winning 50 games in each of them, excluding last year's lockout-shortened season.

    In 2010-11, Carlisle brought the Mavericks to the NBA Finals, where they won their first championship, beating the Heat in six games.

    This year, the Mavericks squad will be forced to begin the season without their star, Dirk Nowitzki.

    However, the team began the season with a hot-start, beating the hyped Los Angeles Lakers despite Nowitzki's absence.

    Carlisle has garnered major respect during his time as an NBA coach and will remain the head coach of the Mavericks for the entirety of the season.

23. Miami Heat: Erik Spoelstra

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    Erik Spoelstra is not an outstanding coach in any way, and had this list been produced last year, Spoelstra's name might very well be headlining it.

    However, fresh off a championship, the Miami Heat's head coach has little to worry about when it comes to losing his job.

    The Heat finally won their championship in the LeBron James era last season and have the look of a contender yet again this season.

    While Spoelestra's name may seem out of place with the other elite names whose jobs are secure, nobody in their right minds would fire their coach after winning a title.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rick Adelman

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    Despite the injury to superstar, Kevin Love, the current Minnesota Timberwolves roster is about as strong as it has been in recent history.

    Headlined by Love and Ricky Rubio, many are predicting the Timberwolves to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004—when Kevin Garnett was on the team.

    Rick Adelman, though only in his second season with the squad, has been coaching in the NBA since 1989 and is one of the highest regarded coaches in the league today.

    The Timberwolves are in a situation where they can only improve, and when the team returns to full health, it may very well contend for a playoff spot.

    Adelman's coaching will be one of the causes, if in fact they do escape the lottery, especially if he can guide them to success during Love's absence.

    Even if the Wolves miss out on the playoffs again, they will still likely improve from last year, and Adelman's position will not be threatened.

21. Indiana Pacers: Frank Vogel

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    Frank Vogel is by no means a veteran coach, having only joined the Indiana Pacers last year, but the way he presents himself and runs his team is very professional.

    The Pacers are in store for a great season, and while their roster lacks a superstar, they are very well balanced.

    Roy Hibbert has emerged as an All-Star, while Danny Granger remains a top talent. Paul George and George Hill are both on the rise, while David West provides strength and scoring at the power forward position.

    Vogel's job is to bring them all together, which he did fantastically last season. Now with a season of experience behind him, as well as a weakened division—due to Derrick Rose's injury—the Pacers should finish near the top of the Eastern conference, allowing Vogel to keep his job. 

20. Memphis Grizzlies: Lionel Hollins

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    Ever since beating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies have been viewed as potential contenders.

    They don't necessarily have the talent the Heat or Thunder have, but they are strong enough to make a strong push every year.

    Because of this, head coach Lionel Hollins, remains one of the most secure coaches in the league. He isn't necessarily a top-tier coach, but his team has enough talent that his job isn't threatened.

    The team's core revolves around Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol, and as long as those three remain on the roster, the team will have enough talent to remain relevant, giving Hollins plenty of security despite lacking a top-notch rating.

19. New Orleans Hornets: Monty Williams

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    Like Rick Adelman and the Minnesota Timberwolves, the New Orleans Hornets are in a situation where they can only improve.

    The team's dismal 2011-12 campaign awarded it the first pick in the draft, which it used to select Anthony Davis.

    Davis has shown great potential in only a few games, with teammates Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu also beginning the season with a bang.

    The team will likely find itself in the lottery once again, but a large improvement is expected. Coach Monty Williams will likely stick around with the team for the long run, but especially throughout the season.

    The team can only go up, and while Williams is in no way an elite coach, there is no reason to dismiss him during the Hornets' rebuilding stages.

18. Cleveland Cavaliers: Byron Scott

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    Though they are still suffering the effects of losing LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers have taken colossal steps in the right direction, having found a franchise player in Kyrie Irving.

    His supporting cast isn't half bad either, with Anderson Verejao having established himself as an adequate center, while Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters could potentially be stars.

    The team seems to love its coach, Byron Scott, and while he may not possess the greatest coaching skills, as long as the team is on the rise, he can sit comfortably in his seat knowing his job is secure.

    The team's star, Irving, is only in his second year, making him too young to develop a big enough ego to force a coach out, so from that standpoint, Scott is safe too.

    Furthermore, the team recently extended his contract, giving us more reasons to believe that his position is secure.

17. Portland Trail Blazers: Terry Stotts

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    Terry Stotts is in a very unpredictable situation.

    There is little to make you believe that his job is fully secure, but at the same time, there is little to make you think otherwise.

    The Portland Trail Blazers are a very average team, and even after acquiring Damian Lillard through the raft, they'll still remain nothing more than average.

    They'll improve due to their acquisition, but the increased difficulty of the Western Conference will cause them to once again miss out on the playoffs.

    They won't take any steps backwards, but they aren't going to suddenly transform into contenders. They'll remain in a similar situation as last year, so Stotts should remain the coach because there isn't any valid reason to fire him.

16. Toronto Raptors: Dwane Casey

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    Dwane Casey presents a similar situation. The Toronto Raptors are definitely on the rise following the additions of Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, but they aren't yet good enough to make the playoffs.

    However, not too much is expected from the Raptors, who have been lottery-bound for quite some time.

    Casey is fairly new to the Raptors organization, and under him, the team has not been great. At the same time, it has definitely showed signs of improvement, so firing him would be inconsequential.

    He isn't the greatest coach in the league, but he hasn't impacted the franchise in a negative way, giving the Raptors few reasons to fire him.

15. Charlotte Bobcats: Mike Dunlap

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    Usually when a team performs sub-par, the coach's job is mildly threatened. However, when it's the Charlotte Bobcats and nothing is expected from them, the coach is fairly secure.

    The team fired coach Paul Silas last year after the team's poor record earned it a place in NBA history, replacing him with Mike Dunlap.

    With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist now joining the roster, the team will improve significantly from last year's dismal campaign, meaning Dunlap's job is fairly secure.

    Still, with a team like the Bobcats, nothing is certain, but after winning his first game, Mike Dunlap's job isn't in jeopardy.

14. Utah Jazz: Tyrone Corbin

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    Tyrone Corbin took over as the Utah Jazz's head coach after Jerry Sloan resigned midway into the 2010 season. In Corbin's first full season, he led the team to the playoffs, where it was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. 

    However, a return to the playoffs this year is anything but guaranteed. The Western Conference is even deeper, and there are plenty of other teams who will compete for the eighth seed.

    Corbin—despite making the playoffs last year—has not been the most successful coach during his tenure with the team, with an overall record of 44-50 (prior to this season's start).

    He isn't on the hot seat yet, but if Utah struggles, Corbin's job could be in jeopardy.

13. Atlanta Hawks: Larry Drew

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    The Atlanta Hawks are always a playoff team, although they never contend for a title. This season, however, the team will be forced to play without Joe Johnson, who was recently traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

    Their coach, Larry Drew, is in the final year of his contract, and while the team extended him another year last year, there is no guarantee that it will do so again.

    With Johnson gone, the Hawks may have difficulties regaining their spot in the playoffs, especially when new teams—such as the Brooklyn Nets—pose a threat.

    Drew has the year to prove himself worthy of a new contract, but the Hawks' situation is less than favorable, endangering Drew's position as the head coach.

12. Orlando Magic: Jacque Vaughn

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    You can't help but feel sorry for Jacque Vaughn. He was placed in an unfavorable situation this season as the new head coach for the Orlando Magic.

    After superstar Dwight Howard forced his way out of the organization, the Magic quickly fell to the bottom of the power rankings and were immediately projected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA.

    There is little that Vaughn can do with the current roster, as the team is already lottery-bound.

    They did start the season with a win, but there is little evidence that the team can continue its winning ways, and if it is to struggle, Vaughn may be in danger of losing his job.

    The fact that he is a young, new coach doesn't help, but the little leeway room that he has comes from the small expectations for the team prior to the season's start.

11. Phoenix Suns: Alvin Gentry

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    Like Larry Drew, Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry is entering the final season of his contract. However, his future is even more uncertain. 

    He will not be offered a contract extension, as reported by the Arizona Republic, and has this year to prove himself worthy of a new deal.

    However, like Drew, the upcoming season will be difficult, and the obstacles standing in Gentry's way are substantial.

    The team lost future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash over the summer, as well as veteran small forward Grant Hill.

    Though Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Goran Dragic give the team hope, without Nash, the team could suffer. The Western Conference is deep and difficult, so a playoff appearance is unlikely. Though nothing is certain, Gentry's days as the Suns coach are numbered.

10. Detroit Pistons: Lawrence Frank

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    Before joining the Detroit Pistons, Lawrence Frank was the head coach of the New Jersey Nets.

    The team struggled under him, and Frank was fired after a slow start one season, though the team failed to improve after his dismissal.

    Now, in Detroit, a similar trend is forming. The team has been faced with adversity recently, and should it continue, Frank may be given the pink slip before the season's end.

    Now that Andre Drummond has joined Greg Monroe in the frontcourt, the team has higher expectations, though it may not live up to them.

    Frank isn't a fantastic coach by any means, and if he doesn't last the season, nobody should be surprised.

9. New York Knicks: Mike Woodson

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    In New York, nothing is guaranteed. After a hot start with the New York Knicks, coach Mike D'Antoni was fired last season, upon Carmelo Anthony's request.

    However, many wonder whether or not D'Antoni was the problem, or whether the real issue was Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire's inability to coexist.

    Now, under Mike Woodson, the team has once again started the season strong, though Amar'e is yet to return from injury.

    If late season struggles do occur, we may very well see a repeat of Melo's episode with D'Antonio; only this time, it will be Woodson who will be let go.

8. Sacramento Kings: Keith Smart

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    Keith Smart keeps getting second chances, though I honestly don't know why.

    He was named the interim coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but only won a total of nine games before being let go. He then was named the Golden State Warriors head coach, but was fired from that job too.

    Last season, he took over as the Sacramento Kings head coach after Paul Westphal was fired, and finished the season with a 20-39 record.

    However, much like his previous jobs, this one could also end in ruins.

    The Kings aren't a very good team, though they seem to have plenty of pieces. However, the team constantly struggles, and like his predecessor, Smart may not last the entirety of the season.

    He may be given some leeway due to the team's small expectations, but it wouldn't surprise me if he is fired before the season's end. 

7. Washington Wizards: Randy Wittman

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    Like Keith Smart, Randy Wittman's history of a coach isn't comforting. 

    His tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers was unsuccessful, as was his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he was fired after a slow start in his second season with the team.

    He was named the coach of the Wizards early last season after the team dismissed Flip Saunders; however, his season—like the rest—was unsuccessful.

    The Wizards entered the 2012-13 season with decent expectations, though an injury to star point guard John Wall has given critics to believe otherwise.

    Wittman brings very little to the organization, and with his contract winding down, a future with the team is unlikely.

6. Golden State Warriors: Mark Jackson

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    After a late-season tank job last year, the Golden State Warriors appear to be all in for the 2012-13 campaign.

    The roster is healthy, and with Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry finally playing together—along with David Lee, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes—the expectations for the Warriors are fairly high.

    However, the West is strong this year, and the team may not live up to the hype that surrounds it. It does not have the look of a playoff contender, and while all hope is not lost, it is very unlikely that the team escapes the lottery again.

    Jackson's coaching history is very brief, and he hasn't done anything tremendous during his time with the Warriors. Should the team experience another season of failure—which it very well might—Jackson could be forced out the door by the end of it.

5. Milwaukee Bucks: Scott Skiles

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    There were rumors last year that Scott Skiles was going to be fired, and while he survived the 2011-12 season, he may not be so lucky this year.

    The Milwaukee Bucks are a borderline playoff team, so it's not like the lottery is expected every year; however, there is no guarantee that they will make it.

    The team failed to make the postseason last year, and now that the East is even deeper, a change isn't expected this season.

    Skiles' contract expires at the season's end, and he simply has not done enough for the franchise to be deserving of a renewal.

    If he guides the team to the playoffs, he'll be given a new contract, but that possibility is unlikely, and Skiles' career in Milwaukee may be coming to a close.

4. Houston Rockets: Kevin McHale

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    The Houston Rockets' acquisition of James Harden has dramatically increased their expectations this season, although a playoff appearance is not necessarily guaranteed.

    Kevin McHale, the team's coach, is currently in the hot seat, as a less-than-productive 2012 campaign resulted in discontentment from the team as well as the city of Houston.

    The entire roster was reshaped, although a huge improvement isn't expected. The brand-new backcourt is certainly hyped, but Jeremy Lin is notoriously inconsistent, and Harden is bound to return to Earth eventually.

    If the team experiences another losing season—which very well may happen— McHale will be the first to go.

3. Brooklyn Nets: Avery Johnson

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    Avery Johnson has struggled with the Brooklyn Nets since he was named their head coach in 2010, winning a total of 46 games over two seasons as head coach.

    In his defense, the teams that he coached were absolutely awful, and now that the Nets appear ready to re-establish themselves as a playoff team, we'll finally see whether or not Johnson can bring them there.

    However, we all know what happens to the coach when a team's expectations are too high. Unfortunately, Johnson may be in store for just that.

    On the flip side, if the team lives up to the hype, Johnson could be in contention for Coach of the Year. However, as soon as the team struggles, fingers will be pointed directly at Johnson, limiting his days as the Nets head coach.

2. Los Angeles Clippers: Vinny Del Negro

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    The fact that Vinny Del Negro made it through last season came as a complete surprise to me, so words can not describe how befuddled I will be if he lasts throughout this one.

    The Los Angeles Clippers are on the verge of becoming a contender, and at this point, Del Negro may be the only thing holding him back. The team doesn't lack leadership, as Chris Paul has taken full control of that role, with Chauncey Billups adding his veteran experience.

    Many will refer to those two as the team's true coaches, as Del Negro has expressed an inability to lead the team from the sidelines.

    His days are numbered, especially if the Clippers really want to make a strong run at at title. The players on his team—especially Chris Paul—have a larger effect on the franchise than him, and should they want him out, Del Negro's pink slip will come almost immediately.

1. Los Angeles Lakers: Mike Brown

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    As the losses begin to pile up, Mike Brown's days as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach slowly tick away.

    To be fair, too much was expected from the Lakers' revamped roster before the season even began, but with the most star studded roster in the league, you can't help but wonder where everything went wrong.

    Honestly, the team's difficulties may not be Brown's fault at all, but when a team suddenly underperforms, the coach is usually the first to go.

    Brown is implementing the wrong offense with the team, as a pick-and-roll set would be much more effective.

    A complete turnaround is expected from the Lakers, though one can only wonder whether or not Brown will be present when it happens.