Likeliest NBA Coaches to Be Done at Season's End
At this point in the season, every NBA coach should be safe the rest of the way.
Even teams with nothing left to play for stand to gain very little by giving their head coach the ax now, as there are so few games left in the season for an interim coach to accomplish anything. Unless someone really phones it in, teams are better off just riding out the rest of the year and collecting more lottery balls.
Once the regular season ends, however, firing season will begin.
It's doubtful we'll see as much turnover as we did last year, when 13 head coaches took over new teams. All those guys should still have long-enough leashes to retain their jobs, but here's the list of the other NBA coaches most likely to be let go this offseason.
Ty Corbin, Utah Jazz
To his credit, Utah Jazz head coach Ty Corbin is doing a pretty decent job in what's basically a no-win situation.
Corbin was allowed to enter the season as sort of a lame-duck coach, as he's on the last year of his coaching contract and it's been quiet on the extension-talks front.
It didn't help that Corbin was handed one of the most talent-deprived, inexperienced rosters in the league, either. In a moment of candidness earlier this year talking to Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune, Corbin summed up Utah's problems fairly well:
Asked recently why his team struggles so much when any starter is absent, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "Just look at our roster."
Truth be told, Utah should probably be worse off than they are, and Corbin deserves some credit for keeping the team playing hard.
That being said, the Jazz remain one of the worst teams in the league, and the opportunity to bring in a big-name coach this offseason will likely be too much for Utah's brass to pass up. Corbin has been serviceable, but with his contract expiring, it's probably time to move on.
John Loyer, Detroit Pistons
As is the case with most interim head coaches, John Loyer will face an uphill battle to remain head coach next season.
That may be especially true if the Detroit Pistons are looking to aim for a big candidate who wants roster control as well, considering that current general manager Joe Dumars is on an expiring deal and likely on his way out.
Leaving the door open for a Stan Van Gundy type or a highly sought-after general manager who would want to tab his own coach makes sense, even if Loyer is well-regarded by his peers. Former Pistons head coach and Brooklyn Nets assistant Lawrence Frank is just one supporter of Loyer's abilities, as he told Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
"John is a star. He's really good. Total anti-politician. Doesn't play the game. He's just into getting guys better, helping the team."
Although Loyer is a respected young coach, barring an unlikely postseason appearance and at least one playoff series win, he'll likely be given a pink slip at the season's end. Detroit looks primed to clean house.
Mike Woodson, New York Knicks
There aren't many seats hotter than the one New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson occupies, as the media scrutiny and spotlight burn much brighter in New York than anywhere else. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post recently echoed a popular sentiment surrounding Woodson in a column advocating for his dismissal:
And if you can’t lay it all at Woodson’s dress shoes, you can lay a lot of it there: his stubborn defensive schemes, his bland offense, and the very clear fact his players no longer give maximum effort. They acknowledge as much. They seem to feel bad about it. And then lay down dead the next game anyway all over again.
While it is a bit surprising Woodson hasn't been fired yet during this disastrous season for the Knicks considering the generally impatient approach of owner James Dolan, Woodson may be protected by his ties to CAA, the same agency of Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, among others. If keeping Anthony in New York is the prime objective, perhaps the Knicks believe keeping Woodson helps in that regard.
With that being said, here's guessing Dolan and company can sell Anthony on another coach this offseason, especially if the Knicks miss the playoffs this year. It would be a pretty big surprise to see Woodson roaming the sidelines again next season after this failed campaign.
Larry Drew, Milwaukee Bucks
It may be tough for Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl to justify firing Larry Drew after signing him to a four-year deal worth $10 million this offseason to be the team's head coach, but losing to this degree hasn't been stomached in quite some time.
More important than the wins and losses, however, is the development of the players on the roster. Drew simply hasn't been able to maximize the existing talent, so firing him may actually be the most cost-effective move, as ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh explains here:
Not working in Drew's favor: O.J. Mayo, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova have taken a collective big step backward under Drew's watch, and they're due $76 million going forward. Drew's contract is a drop in the bucket, by comparison.
With a top pick coming in the draft and a few promising young talents like John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the roster, it's probably time to get a coach in Milwaukee who is a proven developer of young talent.
Essentially, Drew has failed by just about every measure imaginable this season. It may pain Milwaukee to pay two coaches at once, but the future of the Bucks is at stake here, and it's hard to say that Drew is anywhere near the best head-coach candidate going forward.
Rick Adelman, Minnesota Timberwolves
While it seems unlikely that the Minnesota Timberwolves would fire a coaching legend like Rick Adelman, even despite the team's disappointing performance this season, it's not out of the question that Adelman and the team will come to an agreement to part ways this offseason.
Adelman is getting up there in age at 67 and has been around the game for a long time, and he'll be entering the last year of his deal. If the Timberwolves fail to make the playoffs for the third-straight season under his watch, both sides may agree that they're better off looking elsewhere.
That may be particularly true because the Timberwolves have very limited means to upgrade this offseason, since no cap space is on the way and Minnesota's first-round pick will either be late lottery or conveyed to the Phoenix Suns (the pick is top-13 protected). When the players on an unsuccessful team can't really be changed, usually it's the coach who goes.
That being said, it's hard to imagine that the Wolves would find a more capable coach than Adelman. With Kevin Love's future up in the air, though, maybe Minnesota will see the writing on the wall and begin to make some changes for the future.
While it seems more likely that Adelman will return next season, keep an eye on how the rest of the year and Love's situation play out in Minnesota.
A lot of the attention this offseason will be on Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Brown may seem like an easy candidate to be cut loose, but the Cavs have played better as of late and might have a shot at sneaking into the eighth seed. Perhaps more importantly, Brown is on the first year of a five-year deal worth $20 million, which would be a lot of coin for owner Dan Gilbert to pay someone not to coach going forward. Brown's leash may not be very long, but he should have the first half of next season to try and get things turned around before he's let go.
As for D'Antoni, the Lakers have at least been entertaining this season. He's helped play and develop a few diamonds in the rough like Kendall Marshall as well, which is all you can really hope for in a lost season like this one.
D'Antoni's future will likely depend on which coaching candidates are available out there and what the plan in free agency is this year. If the Lakers are content to wait until the 2015 offseason to go get a max player, perhaps keeping D'Antoni for the last guaranteed year of his contract will be palatable. D'Antoni is by no means safe, but it seems unlikely that the Lakers would let him go without a clear-cut upgrade willing to take over.
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams could also feel a little pressure, but he still has time left on his deal, and it's hard to hold him accountable for the mistakes made by general manager Dell Demps and the massive amount of injuries the roster has suffered. It wasn't all that long ago that Williams was considered one of the best young head coaches in the league, so it would be a surprise if New Orleans looked elsewhere given the current circumstances.
Although they looked like surefire candidates to be let go at the beginning of the year, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman may have both won future contracts thanks to improved play and likely playoff appearances.
While neither coach will get "fired," since both are on expiring contracts, it would be a bit of a surprise to see either team go elsewhere this offseason, particularly if either coach manages to win a playoff series. The standards in Washington and Toronto probably aren't much higher than that for right now, you would think.