With the 2013 NBA playoffs rapidly approaching the second round, countless teams are under pressure to close out their respective series. From the favorites who have stumbled out of the gates to the underdogs who appear to be in full control, we've seen it all.
While the teams and players may earn recognition, one thing is clear—the head coaches are the ones under the most pressure of all.
Job security for NBA head coaches is virtually non-existent, as all but the legends are evaluated on a year-by-year basis. While the lengths of their contracts may suggest otherwise, we've seen a lack of postseason success cost coaches numerous jobs in the past.
Even if a head coach is to remain in his position, a damaged legacy is difficult to repair.
P.J. Carlesimo, Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets shocked the world on Dec. 27, 2012, firing head coach Avery Johnson just 24 days after he won the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award. The Nets were 14-14 at the time but won 12 of their next 14 games under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.
Since that stretch of success, Carlesimo has led Brooklyn to a record of 23-23 in the regular season and a 3-2 deficit in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
After appearing to be a coach on the brink of rejuvenating his career, Carlesimo now appears to be poised for the chopping block. Not only have the Nets been disturbingly inconsistent, but they're now on the cusp of elimination.
With a star-studded roster that boasts as much depth as any squad in the NBA, Carlesimo might go home before a title run even becomes a realistic belief.
Deron Williams has been sensational since the All-Star break, and Brook Lopez is doing all he can to earn recognition as the NBA's top center. With former All-Stars Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace rounding out the perimeter, Carlesimo appears to have an elite team.
A first-round exit would all but seal his fate as an offseason casualty.
Vinny Del Negro, Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers entered the 2012-13 NBA regular season as a team praised for their depth and star power. After topping 50 wins for the first time in franchise history and winning the organization's first division title, the Clippers appeared to be finally legitimate.
After falling behind 3-2 during their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, however, head coach Vinny Del Negro appears to be none too safe.
The Twittersphere has no shortage of jokes on Del Negro's behalf, constantly criticizing his coaching ability. The rest of the NBA community appears to share that belief, as countless folks have called for VDN's job.
VDN appeared to have saved himself in April, when the Clippers won seven consecutive games entering the postseason and went 2-0 in the first-round series. Since then, LA has lost three consecutive games and fallen behind 3-2.
If Del Negro and the Clippers lose four consecutive games and are knocked out in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, there's a strong possibility VDN will be looking for a new job.
Larry Drew, Atlanta Hawks
According to John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew is interested in the Philadelphia 76ers' coaching vacancy. This comes as quite the surprise, as Atlanta is in the playoffs and the 76ers are not.
Seeing as Drew has no job security under the Hawks' new general manager Danny Ferry, that shock and awe are limited, to say the least.
Mitchell reports that Drew has not yet entered in talks with Ferry about a contract extension. With Drew's contract expiring after this season, that creates a possibility that he will not return to the organization in 2013-14.
Upsetting the Indiana Pacers and advancing to the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals could go a long way toward changing that, while losing in the first round could confirm that Atlanta needs a fresh start.
Talk about win and you're in.
Lionel Hollins, Memphis Grizzlies
With changes taking place in the Memphis Grizzlies front office, there has been speculation that head coach Lionel Hollins could be let go after this season. After all, Hollins' contract is expiring, and new management often comes with a proverbial cleaning of the house.
Keep in mind, we've already seen franchise player Rudy Gay traded to the Toronto Raptors.
Hollins has had the success necessary to warrant a long-term contract, as Memphis is one game away from its second Conference Semifinals appearance in three seasons. If that's not attractive enough, the Grizzlies were the top-ranked scoring defense in the NBA.
Even still, Hollins has no clue as to what his future holds (via NBA.com).
“Would I liked to have had a contract before this? Of course,” said Hollins, now in his fifth consecutive season and third stint as the Grizzlies coach, a relationship that dates back to the franchise’s roots in Vancouver. “But that’s a decision that’s made and you go and do the best job you can, and it’s not like it had to be done before the season is over. It’s just like players, you can extend players early or you can wait till later. Guys become free agents and they go out in free agency and sometimes it gives you leverage and sometimes it doesn’t.”
As professional of a statement as that may be, we can't help but wonder what the delay is.
Hollins has the Grizzlies playing their best basketball in years and seems to have constructed the best frontcourt in basketball with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The only thing that Memphis appears to lack is perimeter shooting to complement its All-Star bigs, as the Grizzlies were dead last in three-point field goals made per game.
If all else fails, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Philadelphia 76ers will be monitoring Hollins' contract talks in hopes of stealing him away.
George Karl, Denver Nuggets
If the Denver Nuggets lose to the Golden State Warriors, head coach George Karl will not be fired. In fact, Karl will likely be the man taking the least blame of all, as praise for Stephen Curry overwhelms the media.
With that being said, Karl's legacy as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history would take a devastating blow.
Karl has lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs in 10 of his past 12 postseason appearances. With 1,131 career regular-season victories and a win percentage of .599, however, few have complained about his lack of postseason success.
Not yet, at least.
Since reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001, Karl has failed to make it past the first round in nine of his past 10 seasons. That includes 2002, when the Milwaukee Bucks failed to reach the postseason.
That number could be extended to 10 of the past 11 years if the Nuggets lose one more game—that number could damage his legacy.