Looking ahead to the NBA coaching carousel
Plus: a weird scuffle in Sacramento and the Mavericks could miss the PLAY-IN.
Signing of the Peace Protocol Between Spain and the United States, August 12, 1898; Theobald Chartran; 1899
Coaching Carousel Check-In
With a month left in the regular season, barring any retirements, it looks like there are eight potential head coach openings on the way this offseason, depending on how the rest of the 2022-23 campaign shakes out.
In the East, there’s some chance we could have changes for these clubs:
In the West, I see the potential for change for these teams:
Retirements could factor in, particularly for the Spurs. Other weirdness could also come into play; never doubt the ability of NBA team leadership to be weird. That could impact the Wizards, the Wolves, the Clippers, the Lakers, the Celtics or the Grizzlies. Changes for any of those clubs would be capital-w Weird given timing of their hirings or other factors. But has the NBA coaching carousel proven anything if not that it is subject to weirdness?
This is not a value statement on the quality or record of any coaches. If the Sixers flame out early with an MVP-level Joel Embiid again, the pressure to replace Doc Rivers as head coach will be enormous. And right now it would appear the Sixers will draw the Celtics and rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla in the second round. The Sixers seem completely unable to beat the Celtics. It’s worth monitoring.
Likewise, Michael Malone is coaching the two-time and possibly three-time MVP in Nikola Jokic. A second round exit would be extremely uncomfortable for his job security! That’s not a value judgment on Malone’s quality. It’s a realist reflection of who gets held accountable for failure in this league.
Jason Kidd seems like the head coach most likely to be replaced. I just don’t know who the Helsinki you bring in to coach a team with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. You’re going to need a strong personality or you might as well just give the whistle to one of them. Chauncey Billups likewise seems on thin ice, owing in part to the franchise’s stated reason for firing Terry Stotts and hiring Billups: defense. Portland’s defense is as bad as ever, and the general manager who hired Billups is gone. That’s a recipe for change.
Dwane Casey and Stephen Silas were dealt really difficult hands. I think a dismissal is a foregone conclusion for Silas given how little the team seems to have grown (extremely recent results notwithstanding). For Casey, I don’t know. It’s been five years and it felt like there were some expectations to not be the worst team in the league coming into the season. Cade Cunningham’s injury cast a long shadow, but the team is not otherwise competitive most nights and the record is on track to be the second worst in franchise history. On the base, it’s not a great endorsement.
I think Tom Thibodeau has probably rescued his tenure in New York, but there are few franchises as weird as the Knicks so perhaps an inglorious first-round exit could stir some bad vibes there. Nick Nurse? He’s the only name on this list to win a championship with his current club. But every day that gets further away, and there’s enough crunchiness with the Raptors to create some intrigue.
In reality, not every coach who is potentially on the hot seat will be replaced. And in reality, there will be something that comes completely out of left field. But I think this is where we’re at with one month left: eight potential openings of varying likelihood — not an offseason with zero turnover, not an offseason where half of the league turns over.
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