NBA Coaches Fighting for Their Jobs in Postseason
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The NBA coaches fighting for their respective jobs this postseason all share an unknown future heading into 2013-14.
For coaches like P.J. Carlesimo, the interim tag he earned in replacing Avery Johnson for the Brooklyn Nets is set to expire just as soon as the 2012-13 campaign concludes.
Could a strong run in the postseason secure the Nets' job for Carlesimo on a permanent basis? How far might he need to lead his team in order for that run to qualify as strong enough?
Similar questions also surround other coaches who have guided their team into the postseason on the final year of their current contract.
Despite winning 50-plus games for the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies, for example, Vinny Del Negro and Lionel Hollins are also among others who are fighting for their jobs this postseason for various reasons.
Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis Grizzlies' Lionel Hollins
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Since 2009-10, Lionel Hollins has led the Memphis Grizzlies to a regular-season record of 183-129.
His Grizzlies won 56 games in 2012-13 after posting a winning percentage of .621 in 2011-12.
Hollins also successfully managed to get his team to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, despite a midseason trade that sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors.
With his contract set to expire, however—along with not being originally hired by Grizzlies owner Robert Pera or CEO Jason Levien—Hollins' future in Memphis remains in doubt.
On April 11, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal reported, with respect to Hollins' future,
There is a growing perception that the organization could be waiting to see whether the team advances past the first round after losing an opening-round Game 7 at home to the Los Angeles Clippers last year.
The 2013 postseason opened for the Grizzlies with a Game 1 loss to those same Clippers on Saturday, 112-91.
If he is ultimately not retained, though, I wouldn't expect Hollins to be out of work long.
As evidenced by a defensive rating of No. 1 overall in opponents' points allowed, Hollins' teams have always given themselves a chance to win by consistently excelling defensively.
P.J. Carlesimo, Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets' P.J. Carlesimo
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P.J. Carlesimo was named interim head coach of the Brooklyn Nets when Avery Johnson was fired on December 27.
Despite leading the Nets to a 35-19 record since, along with the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, Carlesimo is yet to shed the interim tag.
After starting extremely slow in scoring 15.7 points on 38.8 percent shooting during the month of November, Deron Williams is among those players who have elevated their production under Carlesimo.
Heading into the postseason, Williams improved during the month of April to 24.6 points on 52.4 percent shooting in his last nine games.
On April 18, Barbara Barker of Newsday quoted Carlesimo's response to questions about what he might have to accomplish during the postseason in order to keep his job as saying, "I have no idea what I have to do, no inkling whatsoever.''
While it certainly wouldn't guarantee Carlesimo the permanent position in 2013-14, advancing to at least the second round may be a likely requirement.
Following Saturday's 106-89 win, Brooklyn is up 1-0 against the Chicago Bulls heading into Game 2.
Larry Drew, Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta Hawks' Larry Drew
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Larry Drew has taken the Atlanta Hawks to the playoffs during all three of the seasons he's served as coach.
Drew has compiled a 128-102 regular-season record along the way, while advancing to the second round of the postseason twice.
Similar to the situation with Lionel Hollins in Memphis, though, Drew wasn't the hire of current Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.
He is also in the final year of his contract and yet to receive an extension, despite helping the Joe Johnson-less Hawks earn the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
To Drew's credit, he has also kept his locker room focused enough to stay on course for a playoff berth amidst the trade speculation surrounding Josh Smith at the deadline earlier this year.
Increasing the likelihood that Drew may not be retained, however, is the 11-15 record his Hawks posted in March and April, along with the 107-90 Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.
Jim Boylan, Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks' Jim Boylan
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Jim Boylan replaced Scott Skiles as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks on January 8.
Like P.J. Carlesimo with the Brooklyn Nets, Boylan has also carried the interim tag into the postseason.
During 50 games in 2012-13, Boylan amassed a 22-28 record while holding off the ninth-place Philadelphia 76ers by four games in the Eastern Conference.
This also comes after compiling a 24-32 mark during the 2007-08 campaign in relief of Skiles again on an interim basis—that time at the request of the Chicago Bulls.
Boylan was not brought back by the Bulls in '08, however, and it's anyone's guess as to if he will be this time in Milwaukee.
After Game 1 on Sunday, though, Boylan and the Bucks trail Miami, 1-0, after losing 110-87.
Vinny Del Negro, Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers' Vinny Del Negro
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On April 6, ESPN's Marc Stein wrote the following regarding the future of Los Angeles Clippers' head coach Vinny Del Negro.
Could a deep playoff run save him? Even that might not be enough entering the most critical summer in the Clippers' history, with Chris Paul becoming a free agent July 1 and Clips management having always planned to let Paul have a big say (assuming he wants one) before any coach gets another long-term deal from them.
Since Chris Paul's arrival in Los Angeles just prior to the 2011-12 campaign, Del Negro has posted a 96-52 record. The 56-win mark this season was good enough to earn the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference as well, despite his team appearing to peak sooner rather than later.
From November 28 to December 30, the Clippers went a perfect 17-0 under Del Negro. During the month of March, however—despite closing the regular season on a six-game winning streak—Los Angeles went only 7-7 for the month.
If the Clippers are able to build on their 101-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1, though—fueling a deep run in the postseason—Del Negro's chances of sticking around only increase.