As of Tuesday, June 11, there were five NBA teams who had a head coach vacancy. The five teams were: the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers. Of those five teams, the Nets, Grizzlies, Nuggets and Clippers all made the playoffs this past season. They didn’t just squeak into the playoffs as a higher seed in their respective conferences, either. The Nuggets were ranked the number 3 seed, Nets and Clippers the 4th seed, and the Grizzlies were the 5th seed, with a final regular season record of 56-26, which was the best record in their franchises history.
Those four playoff teams combined for a 218-110 record, symbolizing that the expectations from those NBA organizations, and in general all other organizations in the NBA, are now through the roof. I think ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said it best during the Game 3 of the NBA Finals when he said, “Coaches use to get fired for losing. Now they get fired for winning and losing.”
I will tell you what the future potential head coaches from those 4 NBA teams who made the playoffs the previous season can expect going into their situation.
Brooklyn Nets- 49-33 (2nd in the Atlantic Division)– On Wednesday, June 12, former Nets player Jason Kidd was named the new head coach of the Brooklyn nets. The Brooklyn Nets made the playoffs this past year for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, as the 4th seed in the east, and that was still not enough for interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo to keep his job. Carlesimo led the Nets to a 35-19 record after former head coach Avery Johnson was fired on December 27, 2012, after starting the year 14-14.
The Nets moved from New Jersey to the new Barclay’s Arena in Brooklyn in 2012. They have a roster full of big name players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez. The Nets are not only in a battle to compete for a NBA title , but are also competing with the New York Knicks to being the best team in the state of New York. That battle was won by the Knicks in 2012, but Brooklyn feels like they are one or two pieces away from being New York’s finest. Maybe the acquisition of center Dwight Howard could be the difference?
Memphis Grizzlies- 56-26 (2nd in the Southwest)– Having the best record in franchise history, taking the team to three straight playoff appearances, and a trip to the 2012-2013 Western Conference Finals, was not enough for former head coach Lionel Hollins to keep his job in Memphis. From the five teams currently without a head coach, I think Memphis has the most potential with having the rare commodity of a front court now in the NBA. Zach Randolph and defensive player of the year Marc Gasol led the way for Memphis this year averaging 29 points and 19 rebounds combined during the regular season. That might not sound like much, but Memphis was looking to be the first team since the 2004 Pistons to make it to the NBA Finals who did not have a player averaging over 18 points. Talk about a real gritty team. Memphis has been on the rise, so whoever replaces Hollins as the head coach will need to exceed expectations or he’ll be cut loose also.
Los Angeles Clippers-56-26 (1st in the Pacific)- If you thought Lionel Hollins was in an unfortunate situation in Memphis, wait until you hear what former Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro had to deal with in Los Angeles. Del Negro led the Clippers to the best season in the franchise’s 43-year history. The Clippers notched a franchise-record 17-game winning streak, including a perfect 16–0 mark in December. They won a franchise-record 56 games, their first 50-win season ever, as well as their first Pacific Division title. The title was clinched after defeating the Lakers on April 7, which also completed a season sweep of their crosstown rivals, 4–0. The franchise had not swept the Lakers since 1974-75 when the Clippers were the Buffalo Braves. But after getting beat by Memphis in the first round of this years playoffs, the Clippers decided to part ways with Del Negro after three seasons. Whoever replaces Del Negro as the head coach of the Clippers has a big question mark coming in to the season; which is if 6-time NBA all-star Chris Paul will resign with the team or opt-out to free agency. Obviously the acquisition of Paul in the summer of 2011 made this Clippers team into real contenders in the west. I think resigning Chris Paul should be the number one priority for the Clippers organization. Next should be the coach.
Denver Nuggets- (57-25) (2nd in the Northwest)- George Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 2013, only to find himself looking for a job less than a month later. Karl is ranked 7th all-time as the most winningest coach in the NBA during the regular season. He is the only coach on that top-ten list who is still currently coaching in the NBA. In the nine seasons he was the coach for Denver, Karl led them to a 423-257 record. He took the Nuggets to the playoffs in each of those 9 seasons. I understand Denver was upset in the first round of this years playoffs by the exciting and electrifying Golden State Warriors, but the Nuggets should have offered Karl the extension he sought after. The Nuggets are the 4th youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.7. If there was a coach who was perfect for the Nuggets, it’ll be George Karl because of all of his coaching experiences in the NBA. We tend to take things for granted at times, and I think Denver organization took Karl for granted. They are a fun team to watch because they have a roster full of young talented players. I hope whoever replaces Karl understands the opportunity he has in front of him. But eclipsing 57 wins is not an easy task for anyone to overcome.