NBA Coaches Who Will Be on the Hot Seat Next Season
The offseason is almost officially upon us, but that doesn't mean that the seats of a handful of NBA coaches are going to cool down anytime soon. Hope springs eternal, and moves made in the draft and free agency can help renew some optimism, but it might not be long before these coaches are on the chopping block.
While the following five coaches have survived the initial cuts made at the end of the season, the speculation as to how long they'll be able to hold onto their jobs isn't going to slow down until substantial results are produced.
Whether it's coaches in high-profile jobs expected to have their teams compete for championships, or coaches saddled with bad rosters that aren't being maximized, the hot seat doesn't discriminate. No one is truly safe in the NBA, and these coaches may be able to attest to that sooner rather than later.
Here are the coaches with the hottest seats in the league heading into next season, ordered by temperature.
5. Michael Malone, Sacramento Kings
Is it fair that Michael Malone might be on the hot seat after just one season? Of course not, but fair hardly matters in the NBA world.
Malone was given an incredibly flawed roster full of young and/or selfish players, and the Kings played that way despite Malone's best efforts. After a rough 28-54 campaign, you have to wonder how patient Sacramento's ownership will be if next year brings more of the same.
With that said, here's what Kings owner Vivek Ranadive told Jared Dubin of ESPN.com about Malone earlier this year:
He was the 21st century kind of coach that I wanted. The style of play — we want to be like the Spurs, but exciting. We want to create a winning franchise that is a perennial contender, and we also want a strong defense, combined with up-tempo play. Malone is a coach’s son, and there was high demand for him. I knew that I wanted him, so I made a deal with him that once I bought a team, he would be my coach.
That honeymoon could certainly end, particularly if the Kings don't start defending well. That's supposed to be Malone's primary calling card, but Sacramento still finished 23rd in defensive efficiency last year. There's a lot of work to be done.
The issue, of course, is that Sacramento could easily be a luxury-tax team depending on what happens with Rudy Gay. Truth be told, Gay has gotten more than one coach and general manager fired before, and it's not hard to see that happening again.
You'd like to think Ranadive and the Kings front office will be patient with Malone, but with the price of the roster, he might not have that luxury for long. If Sacramento doesn't start flirting with .500, Malone could easily take the fall.
4. Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets
If you're a bit surprised that Kevin McHale retained his job as head coach of the Houston Rockets, you're not alone. Here's Alex Kennedy at BasketballInsiders.com with his take:
While this was a disappointing season for Houston and many critics felt that McHale was outcoached in the first round against Portland, he will have at least one more season to see if he can turn the Rockets into an elite team in the Western Conference. If Houston fails to go on a deep postseason run next year, the Rockets will likely try to bring in a new coach who can take the team to the next level.
At least schematically, McHale leaves a lot to be desired. The Rockets failed to improve much defensively even with Dwight Howard, and too often the offense didn't seem to run the action in the half court that you'd like to see with a team sporting two superstars.
McHale will definitely go into this year with plenty to prove, as he's now on the last year of his contract. It's possible that general manager Daryl Morey will help him quite a bit with a new power forward acquired via trade, so the talent and fit of the roster should both improve.
If the Rockets don't improve in the standings and get well past the first round, however, McHale will almost certainly be out. While a midseason firing seems unlikely, if Houston really struggles out of the gate, it could be a possibility.
McHale is still improving as a coach, but with James Harden and Dwight Howard in the primes of their careers, wasting another year won't be an option. For McHale, it's win big or go home.
3. Frank Vogel, Indiana Pacers
How often do you see the head coach of a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals under such massive scrutiny? Not all that often, but that's the situation Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is in.
Here's Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
Indiana management has never considered replacing him, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Vogel's job status had become fodder for debate because of an unsteady late-season slide that extended into the playoffs, but Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard have remained strong believers in him, sources said.
Most of the stories surrounding Vogel's possible removal as coach, league sources told Yahoo Sports, had been coming from unemployed coaches trying to angle themselves into contention to replace him.
Indiana's commitment to Vogel makes sense. He's led the team to deep playoff runs, and the defense has been one of the best in the league during that time.
There are issues, though, and if Indiana suffers a collapse to start next season similar to the one it went through toward the end of this past year, Vogel is as good as gone. The leash here won't be very long, particularly if talks of locker-room troubles and chemistry bubble up again.
Vogel is a good coach that would land on his feet somewhere, but he's running out of time in Indiana. No losing streaks will be watched more closely than Indiana's next year.
2. Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
Although he was once considered one of the best young coaches in the game (Chris Paul certainly helped with that), New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams has failed to do anything with a young, injury-prone roster over the last few years.
With Anthony Davis now looking like one of the very best players in the whole league, however, there will be limited excuses left for Williams.
Here's Zach Lowe at Grantland with more:
Folks around the league have been wondering for weeks whether the team would bring back Dell Demps, the GM, for the final year on his deal after a disappointing 2013-14 season. The consensus is growing that Demps is likely safe, though ownership needs to see progress next season — and perhaps a playoff berth in the ultracompetitive West.
But Demps and Monty Williams haven’t always seen eye to eye, according to several league sources, and ownership is more committed at this point to Williams as a long-term organizational pillar.
A good season could render all this speculation moot, but another trip to the lottery will have the vultures circling both Demps and Williams.
Williams has gone 128-184 in his four years as head coach, so he won't have a strong past to help carry him. His teams play painfully slow, and his defenses have fallen off, but you'd like to think Williams can turn it around with a full deck next year.
If the Pelicans once again struggle and fail to compete, though, there will be no shortage of coaches champing at the bit to pair up with one of the league's brightest young stars. This is a make-or-break year for Williams.
1. Larry Drew, Milwaukee Bucks
All the writing appears to be on the wall. The Milwaukee Bucks are coming off a brutal season. There's a new ownership group. The rebuilding process has likely started. So why does keeping a retread coach like Larry Drew around make sense?
If the reason is that winning isn't the first priority right now and that Drew can serve as a placeholder for another coach, then he might be safe. That just seems like a strange thing for new owners to accept, though, and it seems worth the risk to gamble on a Brad Stevens-type and hope you land a great young coach to pair with a young core.
Eric Buenning at Brew Hoop brings about an interest point:
Finally, if Drew does get another year or two to prove himself, will he deserve it? What would you say his highlights and lowlights have been as coach of the Bucks? Is one of those more critical than the other to you?
While he may get some credit for the improvements of guys like Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, or Nate Wolters, he probably deserves some portion of the blame for the lack of development from John Henson, the trades of unhappy veterans (Neal, Ridnour, Butler), or the disappearance of O.J. Mayo, maybe.
It seems unfair to place all of that on Drew, but issues like that generally don't appear as much or as rapidly on well-coached teams.
After last year, you have to believe Drew is on the chopping block should the losses continue to pile up while the stock of the veteran players plummet. If guys like Larry Sanders don't rebound back to normal form and the young Bucks don't continue to show improvement, Drew should be let go, even if his contract has three more years on it.
That might be the only thing saving Drew at this point, but Milwaukee's new ownership might make a statement at some point next year if it all stays ugly. Drew doesn't have the attached expectations of others on this list, but there are plenty of justified reasons for Milwaukee to let him go.