Updated Rankings for NBA Coaches on the Hot Seat
It's not a good year to be an NBA coach. With Mike Brown being fired by the Los Angeles Lakers early in the season and Avery Johnson recently being let go by the Brooklyn Nets, seats in the NBA are getting a bit hotter than normal.
Scott Skiles is the latest coaching casualty, as he and the Milwaukee Bucks recently chose to part ways. Despite being in the thick of the Eastern Conference race, the team had lost four straight and had little stability due its lack of a consistent rotation.
The saddest part is that those three coaches are all great at what they do, losing their jobs through a combination of being in the wrong situation and plain bad luck. Other sideline generals have done far worse jobs this season, yet they remain at their current posts.
This could all change now that the season is more than two months in. Despite lasting this long, some coaches' seats definitely got a little warmer in the last 24 hours.
Note: All records and statistics accurate as of January 8, 2013.
No. 6: Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks
Record with Dallas: 211-136
Rick Carlisle is not a bad coach by any means. In stints with the Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks, he has been to the playoffs in all but one season. In 2011, he helped lead Dallas to its first NBA championship.
Since then, Carlisle's team has been in a downward spiral. The Mavericks have lost the majority of the key pieces of their championship team to free agency, leaving only Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. The rest of the team is primarily made up of youngsters who do not lack for talent, but could stand to get better in several facets of the game.
Carlisle is thus stuck in the worst type of rebuilding phase. Rather than restructure by adding key free agents or making a blockbuster trade, team owner Mark Cuban is banking on the potential of untested youth. Should this group of players fail—the Mavs are currently 12th in the West—Carlisle will likely shoulder the blame.
Barring a major turnaround in Dallas, Carlisle could soon be looking for work elsewhere.
No. 5: Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
Record with Phoenix: 157-139
Gentry's time in Phoenix has been something of a roller coaster. He first took over in 2009 after Terry Porter's defensive approach failed with the offense-minded team, and he was able to find a happy balance between both styles. The following season, he led the Suns to the Western Conference finals.
Star big man Amar'e Stoudemire has since left for the New York Knicks, and the Suns missed the playoffs in 2011. They just missed out on the postseason in 2012, but then star guard and team leader Steve Nash headed to the Los Angeles Lakers.
This season, Gentry's Suns are a complete and utter mess. Goran Dragic has done a decent job in replacing Nash, but he is not the same dynamic playmaker. Michael Beasley has been nothing but a disappointment, despite signing a long-term contract over the summer.
It's clear that some changes need to be made, and one of them may be cleaning house. In that instance, Gentry could find himself going from manning the sideline to standing in the unemployment line.
No. 4: Lawrence Frank, Detroit Pistons
Record with Detroit: 38-64
Frank is best known for being the unknown assistant who replaced Byron Scott as head coach of the New Jersey Nets, only to become a staple for the next five-plus seasons. His tough defensive approach seemed like a good fit for the mess that was the Detroit Pistons, but there has been little progress since he took over.
In Frank's defense, Detroit is a young team without a veteran leader. Second-year point guard Brandon Knight is capable of fulfilling this role down the line, but he has a hard time balancing his scoring and passing games. Sure enough, Detroit's offense suffers as a result and currently ranks 22nd in points scored.
To Frank's credit, however, Detroit is one of the league's better defensive squads. Thanks to center Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond, the Pistons rank sixth in rebounding and eighth in points allowed.
However, this is also where Frank's hot-seat status comes into play. For some reason or another, he refuses to inject Drummond in the starting lineup. The Pistons tend to play better with Monroe and Drummond on the floor at the same time.
This adjustment alone could make the Pistons all the more dangerous on defense, which could also compensate for their fairly anemic offense.
Depending on how Detroit does the rest of the season, don't be surprised if team ownership chooses to go in another direction.
No. 3: Keith Smart, Sacramento Kings
Record with Sacramento: 33-61
It's hard not to feel bad for Keith Smart. He coaches an extremely young team, but Sacramento ownership does little in terms of trying to lure top talent. This is particularly detrimental because without a veteran leader, the Kings are doomed to be mediocre at best.
That isn't to say that Smart is without blame. Instead of trying something new with his rotation, he persists with one starting lineup that has yielded uninspiring results.
He has a fine prospect in Thomas Robinson sitting on his bench, but he only gives him 15.6 minutes per game, which essentially prevents him from developing into the star big man he can be.
Even worse is that Smart has two capable point guards in Isaiah Thomas and Aaron Brooks, but he allows them to be shooters rather than coaching them to be pass-first players.
Oh, and let's not forget about the attitude nightmare that is DeMarcus Cousins.
Smart is a player's coach, but that's not what the Kings need with this group of players. They need an experienced sideline general who is used to working with players of all ages and will whip this young group into shape.
This means that, barring a miracle, Smart could soon find himself walking out the door.
No. 2: Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors
Record with Toronto: 35-65
Casey does not have much head coaching experience, so it's hard to say whether or not he is a good coach. Aside from Toronto, his only other time at the helm came in Minnesota, where he spent one-plus seasons and went 53-69.
Casey then spent three years as an assistant in Dallas, where he won a championship with Rick Carlisle in 2011, which helped land him his current job. Unfortunately, the Raptors are a young team that, save for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, is very hit or miss.
Andrea Bargnani has been a scorer, per usual, but he still doesn't play nearly enough defense. Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and Ed Davis can all be defensive contributors, but Johnson has peaked while his two younger teammates still have much to learn.
That isn't to say that Casey has been a complete and utter failure in Toronto. The team has gone 8-3 in its last 11 games and appears to be inching closer to turning a corner.
However, Casey must first prove that the team can win without a pair of key players in Valanciunas and Bargnani (currently out with injuries). Otherwise, there will likely be yet another coaching change north of the border.
No. 1: Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards
Record with Washington: 23-59
To this day, I have no clue why Wizards management chose to keep Randy Wittman on board as head coach. His career record entering this season was 118-238, and he was continuing to run a young team that not even the legendary Flip Saunders could whip into shape.
This season has been no different, minus the fact that star point man John Wall has yet to play due to a knee injury. Washington is a mess of a team that, despite the veteran leadership of Trevor Ariza and Nene, would be best suited starting completely from scratch.
And with a head coach that actually has a winning record.
Even though the Wizards have a pair of upset wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat this season, Wittman still must be shown the door. Though his knowledge of the game may be respectable, the NBA is all about results.
Wittman has not been able to do win in Washington, and team management will likely take notice at season's end, if not sooner.
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