NBA Predictions 2010: 10 Coaches with the Toughest Jobs in 2010-11

Erik LandauCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

NBA Predictions 2010: 10 Coaches with the Toughest Jobs in 2010-11

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    Every year new coaches come in with the promise of a new beginning and success to their new clubs. Only so many teams can have success, which leaves many coaches out in the cold. Even assuming you can pick up one of the 16 Playoff spots, many times that is not enough. One can get a hold of Mike Brown or Mike Woodson if you don't believe so.

    Not every team can have a combination of Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

    This is a list of the 10 current or most accurately current (Don Nelson) coaches who are closest to being released from their positions. Whether at fault for the lack of talent they coach or for their lack of coaching, these 10 are teetering on the brink of being fired or are simply just in the running. Here are the 10 coaches who should be sweating right now.

1. Kurt Rambis

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    Although Kurt Rambis only has one season under his belt as head coach of the T'Wolves, his first year did not show many flashes of brilliance with this club.

    Minnesota went 15-67 and now has lost its best player in Al Jefferson through a trade to the Utah Jazz. Turning to Michael Beasley to replace Jefferson as the man in Minny could be a hard pill to swallow. I don't expect Minnesota to be much better this year even if Kevin Love improves his game.

    This is much a different scene for Rambis who was used to winning titles with the Lakers as an assistant. I could see him back in that role sooner than expected. The Western Conference is still tough and deep which means weaker teams will struggle.

    The incorrect firing of Dwayne Casey after half a season and the inefficient coaching methods of Randy Wittman might leave Rambis on a short leash.

    Speaking of Dwayne Casey, this is a coach that needs to get another chance and any of these 10 teams should be looking his way.

2. Don Nelson

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    We keep thinking he's going to retire, but it just doesn't happen. This past season he became the league's all-time leader in wins. He also decided for the first time since Chris Webber that it might be a good idea to get a big man. At least, management felt that way.

    One has to wonder how much the mini war with Chris Webber made him averse to picking up a true big man over the last 15 years. He never had a great big man in Dallas and the Warriors need David Lee to step up for their inside presence. The management now under new owner Joe Lacob, are still looking into prospective coaching choices.

    There have been rumors that they want a young, energetic coach which does not fit the description of Nelson.

    If they do decide to keep Nelson, they can only hope he lights a fire under the millions of point guards he has and can get the NBA D-Leaguers he brought in to continue to improve.

3. John Kuester

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    John Kuester is the 27th Head Coach in the Detroit/ Fort Wayne Pistons franchise history. Unfortunately for him, he is not reminding anyone of Chuck Daly. In his first season with Detroit, Kuester led the Pistons to a 27-55 record or a winning percentage of .329.

    During the 2009 offseason, the Pistons were big in Free Agency by landing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to monster contracts after letting Chauncey Billups go for Allen Iverson during the prior season.

    Kuester spent 14 years as an assistant and if the core of the Pistons does not begin to mesh quickly, it could be a quick exit for John. He has players who are past their peak in Ben Wallace and Richard Hamilton who are still starters. He also has Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, and Villanueva who are underperforming.

    I think there will be a 28th coach in Pistons history pretty soon. This is one of the three coaches I am most confident in being removed from their duties this season. We can only hope he lands back on his feet back in an assistant position.

4. Flip Saunders

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    Flip Saunders has coached 1,065 games in his career to a 613-452 record. Not a bad overall winning percentage of .576. He has coached the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals and led the Pistons to three straight Eastern Conference Finals.

    He had a pretty smooth ride through coaching until arriving in Washington this past season. The incident between Javaris Crittenden and Gilbert Arenas was just part of the dysfunctional setting that was the Washington Wizards.

    Like Arenas, the Wizards might have to get rid of Saunders just to start over. They have a Wiz of a kid named John Wall that might be able to lead them into positive conditions; but the wear of the prior season is still visible within range.

    Saunders might be able to resurrect things and take advantage of the deep point guard/ shooting guard combos he has on the team. I still see the chemistry on this team being an issue as Josh Howard and Gilbert Arenas combined could be too much drama for Flip to contain.

5. Erik Spoelstra

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    Can you see it? The grin that has evolved into the death sentence of a coaching career in Miami. Stan Van Gundy didn't see it the sentence coming. Erik Spoelstra be warned: Pat Riley is on the hunt.

    It seems as if any time Pat Riley can pull together a great collection of players in Miami, he decides to coach them himself. I think some people have already forgotten that Spoelstra is still the coach. They have already assumed Riley took the position back.

    Erik needs to get off to a hot start with the new additions of LeBron James and Chris Bosh or he could feel the heat up against his back. There are just very high expectations of this team and any faults or stalls could bring Riles out of the clubhouse. Spoelstra should stay where he is currently as Head Coach. That is with a very tenuous feel at this point.

    I give it a 65/35 chance Spoelstra is still coach at the end of the season.

6. Jay Triano

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    Jay Triano actually improved the Raptors record from 25-40 in 2008-2009 to 40-42 in 2009-2010: an increase of 15 wins over the past season. This would make you believe that he is well on his way to being the coach of the Raptors for a substantial time.

    There is, however, the problem named Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. The Raptors did swing a trade of Leandro Barbosa for the inefficient Turkoglu while in Toronto. While this should help the Raptors, there is no replacement for losing your franchise player in Chris Bosh.

    The East should be more competitive and therefore, the Raptors should realistically suffer. We could see another 25-40 season out of the Raptors this year and that could be the hook for Triano. The commitment Bryan Colangelo has to Jay Triano will be the determining factor whether he stays or goes after this season.

7. Rick Carlisle

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    This former Virginia Cavalier, actually had a five-year pro career before coaching came into his life. Carlisle has coached eight seasons and has had a solid coaching career in Detroit, Indiana and now in Dallas.

    The last two years in Dallas he has had 50 win seasons, but been unable to get the Mavericks deep into the playoffs. Mark Cuban, the rambunctious owner that he is, wants a winner. Carlisle might have led the Indiana Pacers to a 61-21 record; but the playoffs are what count.

    Carlisle can continue to win in the regular season as that is what is expected of him every year. What he needs to do is actually go deep in the Playoffs. If he loses to a San Antonio or another team as a very high seed again this coming year, I see Cuban ousting him quickly.

8. Jim O'Brien

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    The first knock that can be found in O'Brien's resume is his 286-300 overall record as a head coach. He did have the 2001-2002 year where his Celtics squad went 49-33 and made the Eastern Conference Finals. Other than that, it has been a mediocre struggle at best. That could also be said of his time with the Indiana Pacers.

    During his three years in Indiana, his teams have continued to become worse over time. They also haven't been bad enough to get a high draft pick stud to go alongside Danny Granger. They have solid players in Roy Hibbert and Troy Murphy; but not guys who are going to lead them deep in the Playoffs. How much of that is O'Brien's fault is debatable, what's not debatable is that Larry Bird can only stand for so much losing.

    I see a very strong possibility of this being Jim O'Brien's final year in Indy.

9. Paul Westphal

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    During his first season as a head coach, Paul Westphal and Charles Barkley took the Phoenix Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals. The next two seasons he was able to rack up 56- and 59-win seasons with the Suns. He was let go of the following season and then spent three seasons with the Seattle Supersonics. It would be another eight years until he was given his next opportunity.

    The Sacramento Kings went 25-57 this past season, which was an improvement over their prior 15-67 season. It helped having Tyreke Evans in his backcourt to gain 10 extra wins. They should continue to grow and prosper with more wins this year. That is assuming that the team continues to improve. The Western Conference is still deep and that could still limit any growth if not some recession in Kings' wins.

    If they struggle, I could see a chance that the Kings release him from his duties. I expect this change to be on the smaller side of chance.

10. Mike D'Antoni

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    Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni: a winning couple? Maybe, well maybe not. When Mike D'Antoni came in, the Knicks were expecting to be the run and gun team of the East comparable to the Suns. Unfortunately for them, they haven't had Steve Nash. The Knicks have struggled record-wise and have been looking for a bright future.

    They might have that bright future now with Amar'e Stoudamire and Raymond Felton in the lineup. This could put more pressure on D'Antoni as not only Walsh, but Knicks fans have grown in their expectations.

    D'Antoni might be the headline of realistic coaching changes since the Knicks have grown tired of failure. If the Knicks don't at least capture the No. 8 seed this season, it could be canning time for Mike.

    Donnie Walsh I believe already has in place an idea of what he wants to do and what he now expects of this franchise. The one saving factor for D'Antoni could be if they can pick up Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul sometime during this season or the offseason.