Monday, April 28, 2008

All aboard the coach's carousel

The playoffs are normally a time for teams, fans, players and coach's to feel a level of achievement. After all, regardless of where your team finished the regular season and regardless of what the experts say, as long as you qualify for the playoffs, you're got reason to hope that maybe, just maybe your team can win it all this year.
But, for all but 1 team each year, everyone goes home empty handed and the repercussions start. Fans usually don't care who gets the chop, just as long as there are changes so the owners show that they care & that they do actually listen to the fans. The coach often takes the initial brunt of fans wrath, followed by ownership who can sometimes be seen to be rich men just running another business deal...aslong as they are making money, it's a good investment for them and their cronies. Fans want quick, decisive, George Steinbrenner type trigger pulling. Just aslong as someone, anyone gets fired.
As this season moves closer to it's climax, impatient GM's & owners won't wait until all the trophies have been handed out to start the rebuilding process for next year, indeed, some have already started !
Let's take a look at who's already in the hot seat and who might still be depending on what happens in the next couple of weeks.
Sam Vincent's first & only season as coach in Charlotte ended on Saturday. He was once a teammate of GM Michael Jordan, but it wasn't enough to save him. Charlotte are undoubtedly talented and they need success just to stay alive in this city, so look for an experienced coach to take the reins next year. Larry Brown looks favourite for this job.
Avery Johnson - In 2006, Dallas were on the brink of winning the championship. Up by 13 points with 6 minutes to play in game 3, a win would have given them a 3-0 series lead against Miami. The NBA crown looked certain to be staying in Texas, just at a different address, finally. Owner Mark Cuban had even started planning his celebration route through Dallas. Since then, Dallas has fallen a long, long way. Cuban has clashed often with Johnson and the trade that brought Jason Kidd back to big D, looks now like a major error. If Johnson can somehow get his team to the Western Finals, he'll probably keep his job but both of those scenarios seem wildly unlikely right now.
Flip Saunders - So far, Flip has flown below the radar. But you only need to cast an eye over to Detroit's series with Philadelphia, currently tied 2-2 to see that things aren't going quite to plan for the Pistons. Saunders has always had a question mark over his ability as a playoff coach and seeing Detroit struggling against Philly will not help that assessment. Detroit have been very successful for a lot of years now, but each year that championship window of opportunity comes a little closer to closing and Joe Dumars will not want Flip to flop again this year.
Sam Mitchell - With a decent roster for the first time in his 3 seasons as Raptors coach last year, Sam Mitchell did well and won the NBA's Red Auerbach award for coach of the year & took the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs. They went out to New Jersey in 6 games but they had arrived. This year the Raptors were expected to build on that success and seriously contend for the Eastern conference crown. Mitchell hasn't failed, but the team has taken a step back and with an expectedly large pool of coach's to choose from, GM Bryan Colangelo may decide it's time to bring in his own man.
Mike D'Antoni - Mike D'Antoni has done an excellent job in his 4-and-a-half years in charge of the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix are a fast-paced, high scoring team that are always fun to watch & D'Antoni has never won less than 54 games in a season. But, despite this success, his teams have failed to make the NBA finals once during his time and the feeling is that perhaps the party is over for D'Antoni. It's unlikely he'll be unemployed for long though as his resume still makes for impressive reading & his former boss Bryan Colangelo could come calling for him if Colangelo decides that current Raptors coach, Sam Mitchell's time is up.
Isiah Thomas - Thankfully, Isiah Thomas' time in New York has come to an end. As a player, few have been as good a leader or as courageous a player as Thomas was. On the court, Zeke punched well above his weight, never taking a backward step to any opponent, never ducked any challenge and he carried the Detroit Pistons to the promised land, not once but twice. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to transfer his on court success into the boardroom.
I was a huge fan of Isiah as a player, he gave hope to any kid who was told that basketball was a 'big mans game'. He may return as a coach in the NBA one day, but given the circus of events that went on in NY during his time, it won't be for a long, long time.
Former Knick Mark Jackson appears to be the front runner to take the hot seat in MSG, although Donnie Walsh may look for an experienced coach with Jackson serving as an assistant.

No comments: