This NBA off-season had its fair share of major transactions, from the Dwight Howard saga finally coming to an end, or the re-signing of Deron Williams. This will be a consistent theme throughout the NBA season for me: This season is the start of the NBA we will see for the next five years. All of the major pieces have dropped,
except for possibly James Harden, and many teams have determined their core for the foreseeable future. With that comes a new pressure being shifted from the General Manager’s to acquire talent, to the head coaches to manage that aforementioned talent. Many coaches now have weapons that were nonexistent to their roster prior to this off-season, and with that, comes pressure to succeed.
That being said, here are five NBA head coaches that really can’t afford to disappoint, for the sake of their employment:
5. Doug Collins- Philadelphia 76ers
Collins’ presence on this list comes with a slight asterisk, and that asterisk is in the form of Andrew Bynum. If Bynum goes down (which may already be happening) for a long stretch, as he has been known to do, then Collins will get a pass in Philadelphia.
However, here is why Collins may be in a little trouble. Philadelphia is no longer the up-and-coming young guns trying to make a splash. The move for Bynum catapulted them as a team that is looking to win sooner rather than later. Collins has made a career out of taking teams from the gutter, and bringing them back to a respectable level, but has always struggled in that next step. If that trend continues for the veteran coach, his track record may actually work against him, especially in Philadelphia, where they are known to turn on you rather quickly.
If you don’t believe me, ask this guy. And no, that link is not to Donovan Mcnabb’s career stats.
4. Scott Skiles- Milwaukee Bucks
It seemed like the Golden State/Milwaukee blockbuster trade last year at the deadline that sent Monta Ellis to the Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut (other pieces were involved), was management giving Skiles one more crack to make this thing work as the man in charge. I really liked what the Bucks did, and their roster is pretty well put-together. The Jennings/Ellis combo is certainly intriguing, but if Skiles can’t figure out a way for it to work, the Bucks may go out and find someone else who can.
And by work, I clearly mean make the playoffs, which doesn’t seem unrealistic at all in the East. The Bucks are sure to at least be in the hunt for one of the last spots in the race. As long as they make the playoffs, I think Skiles extends the inevitable firing by another year or two, but being beat out by another young team, like the division rival Pistons, may make Skiles’ fifth season in Milwaukee his last.
Side note: I may or may not have just looked at the Bucks roster, and looked up their odds to win the division. Chicago hurt, Indiana’s chests puffed out a little bit. Could it happen? Probably not. But at +2200, it may be worth ten bucks..
3. Vinny Del Negro- Los Angeles Clippers
It’s almost like Donald Sterling can’t even get out of his own way.
You see, Vinny Del Negro was hired before Chris Paul fell into the Clipper’s lap, and now the poor guy looks outmatched by his plethora of talent. Pretend that Del Negro is not the coach right now -queue every Clipper fan thanking God for this blessing-, and the Clippers coaching spot were vacant, does Del Negro even get an interview?
Let’s go through this really quick:
First move is the new trendy NBA move where you call Phil Jackson while he’s fishing in North Dakota, and beg him to instead travel all around the country with you for 82 games, and work his magic. After he tells you to eff off, like he has said to the last 47 GM’s that have called him, you are probably going down the usual list of suspects.
First, you’d see how Jerry Sloan is holding up post-Utah. Then, you’d bring in the Van Gundy’s for a dual interview session, unless David Stern vetoes that too. Next? Call Nate McMillan, who could be a dark-horse to coach Team USA in 2016, see what Larry Brown has been up to lately, have a booster slip John Calipari a note to meet you in a back alley, and close it out with Patrick Ewing, or some other former player who thinks he can coach, just for some good PR.
I think I may get a ring before Del Negro did, and he’s their head coach right now. Here’s the worst part about this scenario for Del Negro: If I’ve figured this out, Chris Paul and the rest of Lob City have as well.
2. Avery Johnson- Brooklyn Nets
With their move to Brooklyn now complete, Nets coach Avery Johnson no longer has a depleted roster, and that aforementioned move to hide behind. As I wrote in my Nets preview last month, it’s put-up or shut-up time for the coach. That’s not to dismiss the legitimacy of those excuses. The Nets were savaged by injuries in the lockout-shortened year, and playing in Newark was a joke. I am pretty sure there were more Bobcats fans present in Newark during a Net/Bobcat game than there were Net fans.
However, all of that has changed. Nets GM Billy King has done his part, and equipped Johnson with a complete roster that can realistically contend. There really are no more built-in excuses for failure, and Brooklyn will bring high expectations, and much pressure on the Nets to succeed NOW. Just making the playoffs may not be good enough for Johnson to keep his job; the Nets will have to impress, and grab a top-5 seed. Depending on how competitive of a first round series they play may be the determining factor of whether the Nets coach will survive the off-season.
If not, the Nets may be circling those usual suspects I stated above. You know, except Jerry Sloan.
1. Mike Brown- Los Angeles Lakers
Throw in everything I just said about Avery Johnson, and add the fact that you are the coach of one of the most storied franchises in the history of sports, and you have Mike Brown. Oh, and did I forget to mention that you have a superstar whose prime is about to close (ie. Kobe isn’t going to be very patient as the team “builds chemistry” or “adjusts to the offense”,) and your GM didn’t just put a quality team together like Billy King had, but GM Mitch Kupchak acquired the best point guard on the market in Steve Nash, and coupled that with a minor transaction where he got you the best center in the league.
And oh yeah, YOU ARE COACHING THE LAKERS. Lakers fans aren’t exactly the most patient bunch you will ever meet. On our official twitter page (@RealSportsKings, since I knew you were dying for that shameless plug,) we follow a bunch of Lakers fans, and let me tell you, every game is a roller coaster of emotion. That’s just by each possession, imagine a five-game losing streak?!
If Mike Brown isn’t going head-to-head with Erik Spoelstra and the Heat come June, he may as well just pack his office then. It’s the Finals or the pink slip, which doesn’t necessarily seem fair, but neither does the fact that the Lakers somehow got Dwight Howard, and only had to give up a crybaby with one knee.
Of all the possible scenarios I presented, I think Del Negro is most likely to fail, mostly because I think he stinks. Also, I see the attraction of better, more proven candidates paving the way for the Clippers to explore other options. Also, my love for Kevin Durant and the OKC Thunder makes me think the Mike Brown scenario will come to fruition, and he will be packing up as well. You know what that means? Somewhere on a boat in North Dakota, Phil Jackson may be flipping a coin to see which LA team he will coach in 2013.
By: Frank Santos- Sports-Kings Assistant Site Manager