Updated NBA Hot Seat Meter
As we enter the 2013 portion of the 2012-13 NBA season, there are a handful of NBA coaches feeling the stresses of the coaching hot seat. We’ve already seen two head coaches – Mike Brown and Avery Johnson – lose their jobs due to poor team performance. There’s reason to believe that other head coaches around the league may be headed out the door.
The infamous “Black Monday” in the NFL saw seven different head coaches lose their jobs following the final Sunday of the regular season. Although the NBA probably won’t see that many casualties moving forward, plenty of seats are heating up as teams fail to meet expectations.
Using a Scoville Scale heat chart to employ a hot seat rating system, we’ll use the spiciness of various peppers to describe just how hot NBA coaches’ seats are.
Note: All statistics/records in this article are accurate as of Jan. 1, 2013 (prior to games played).
6. Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Overall Record: 12-19
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Through Nov. 21 without Dirk Nowitzki, Rick Carlisle coached the short-handed Dallas Mavericks to a 7-6 record – truly a remarkable feat considering all the offseason changes, and the fact that the Mavs were without their star player.
Although the Mavs had a seemingly impressive 7-6 record, four of those seven wins came against the Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards (four very bad teams). As a result, it should come as no surprise that Dallas has played sub-.500 basketball against better opponents.
The Mavericks have struggled mightily recently, posting a 1-9 mark in their past 10 games. In five of those 10, they’ve been trying to ease Nowitzki back into the rotation following knee surgery.
Carlisle’s job security to this point may seem safe given his coaching pedigree. However, if the Mavericks continue to play uninspired and, quite frankly, selfish basketball, it’s hard to imagine him staying on board through more losing efforts.
Mavericks beat writer Dwain Price had this to say about the team’s struggles on Dec. 12:
That's the risk in signing a bunch of players to one-year contracts. If they become selfish and less team-oriented, it could be a disaster.
— Dwain Price (@DwainPrice) January 1, 2013
If Nowitzki can get back to 100 percent and create some chemistry with the new guys, Carlisle’s job is probably safe. However, there’s an outside chance that Mark Cuban could make a change if the Mavs continue playing well-below par.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Ancho Chile (1,000-1,500 Scoville Units)
5. Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
Overall Record: 11-21
Last 10 Games: 4-6
Alvin Gentry is a great NBA coach. He led the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference finals with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire on board, but the team has understandably struggled with the absence of those two stars going elsewhere.
It’s no fault of Gentry’s that he has a young and inexperienced team to coach. Suns owner Robert Sarver appears to feel the same way. On Dec. 10 despite a 7-15 record, Sarver gave Gentry and the coaching staff a vote of confidence, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
It’s unlikely that Sarver’s viewpoint has changed since then, but the Suns have nearly lost twice as many games as they’ve won (21 losses versus 11 wins). The losses keep piling up for Phoenix, and at some point that has to start becoming a concern for a team that has solid talent (Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, etc.).
Even though the Suns have finally gained some continuity in the playing rotation under Gentry’s guidance, they simply have to start playing better defense and better basketball in crunch time.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Jalapeño Pepper (2,500-5,000 Scoville Units)
4. Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings
Overall Record: 11-19
Last 10 Games: 4-6
The Sacramento Kings rank 24th in the NBA in rebounds per game, 27th in the NBA in points allowed per game and 28th in the NBA in assists per game. The Kings also have an abysmal 1-12 road record and a point differential of minus-five (the second-worst differential in the Western Conference).
There’s truly no aspect of the game that the Kings do well as a team. Frustrations from that seemed to come to a head when DeMarcus Cousins and head coach Keith Smart got in a verbal altercation during halftime of the Dec. 21 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
If Smart were to get fired moving forward, he wouldn’t be the first coach to be run out of town by Cousins and his antics. Paul Westphal was fired following a 2-5 start last season, and he also had a strained relationship with the troubled star, according to ESPN.
Cousins has been a tremendous headache for the Kings’ organization, but he’s also a tremendous talent with loads of potential.
The Kings need to do everything in their power to keep Cousins motivated and on the roster. If that means axing yet another head coach to find the right fit, don’t be surprised if that happens yet again.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Serrano Chile (5,000-15,000 Scoville Units)
3. Lawrence Frank, Detroit Pistons
Overall Record: 11-22
Last 10 Games: 4-6
The Detroit Pistons have twice as many losses as they have wins. They have a 3-14 road record and are only a .500 team at home (8-8).
Given the fact that the Pistons are nowhere close to competing for a playoff seed (much less a championship), it’s odd that Lawrence Frank has only played Detroit’s 2012 lottery pick Andre Drummond at a 19.5 minute-per-game clip.
Coupled with Greg Monroe on the Pistons, Drummond is meant to lead the team forward with a great frontcourt. Since the Pistons are not going to make the playoffs this season, it makes sense to play Drummond as often as possible to get him valuable experience at the NBA level.
Instead, Frank has continued to start the 29-year-old Jason Maxiell in Drummond’s place. Maxiell is having one of his best seasons this year, but 8.1 points and six rebounds per contest isn’t much to gloat about. He’s a solid role player at best and Drummond is the future of the franchise, so shouldn’t Drummond get more chances?
The Pistons have improved after an 0-8 start to the season, even beating the Miami Heat on Dec. 28. Despite that, they simply have to start developing Drummond if they plan to be contenders in the coming years.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Cayenne Pepper (30,000-50,000 Scoville Units)
2. Byron Scott, Cleveland Cavaliers
Overall Record: 7-25
Last 10 Games: 2-8
The Cleveland Cavaliers are just 3-10 at home, 1-8 in division games, 5-17 in conference games and 2-8 in their past 10 contests. Even though the Cavs have had a multitude of injuries to marquee players – Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters – that’s just plain bad.
Cleveland has fewer wins than the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, which is truly telling.
Despite the fact that the Cavs have a top-10 NBA point guard in Irving and the league’s leading rebounder in Varejao, they’re on pace to be just as bad as they were last season (if not worse).
It’s hard to argue that outside of the Cavs big three of Irving, Varejao and Waiters, there isn’t much talent on this squad at all. However, there’s no excuse for the Cavs ranking dead last in the NBA in assists per game at 19.3 per contest.
With less talent, Cleveland needs to move the ball and play as a unit to get good looks. Instead, they’re depending upon isolation plays for their guards, leading to stagnant offense.
Byron Scott may get the opportunity to play out the remainder of the season. If nothing else, he should get a chance with the full roster when they’re finally healthy. But the truth of the matter is the Cavs have enough talent to be better than they were last season. Unfortunately, they’re still a long way from competing despite their great assets.
If Varejao comes back healthy and the Cavs continue to lose without any semblance of chemistry, Scott's seat could get even hotter.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Habanero Pepper (100,000-350,000 Scoville Units)
1. Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards
Overall Record: 4-25
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Prior to the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, some members of the NBA community (myself included) thought that the Washington Wizards had a chance to be a surprise team in the Eastern Conference.
With the trade that brought in Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, it appeared as if the Wizards would be vastly improved on the defensive end of the court. Add in the fact that they got Bradley Beal to help the offense via the 2012 NBA draft, and Washington had the makings of a surprise team.
As it turns out, John Wall has yet to play a single game this season due to injury, and the trio of Ariza/Beal/Okafor has played well below expectations.
Without Wall, it’s understandable that the Wizards would be a bad team. However, I don’t think anyone expected Washington to be this bad.
Given Washington’s laughable 4-25 record, it’s logical to think that Randy Wittman will have an incredibly short leash when Wall returns to the court.
If the Wizards don’t start to show improvements with the return of their young star, a coaching change could be on the horizon. Considering the Wizards haven’t even hit five wins yet, a new head coach moving forward may be inevitable.
Scoville Scale Hot Seat: Ghost Pepper (855,000-2,100,000 Scoville Units)