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Home - NBA Coaches - One Month Gone but who’s under pressure?

  NBA Coaches - One Month Gone but who’s under pressure?

The new NBA season is a month old and patterns are already emerging. The West looks much stronger than the East. The Southwest Division is brutal, where New Orleans currently sit in last place with a 7-6 record at time of writing. The East looks to be quite open as the favourites, Cleveland Cavaliers have got off to a slow start, while the Bulls are already dealing with injuries (wrapping Derrick Rose in cotton wool, sitting him more often than he is playing).

There are teams who have got off to really disappointing starts and might start feeling the heat from owners and fans for the performance so far. It has to be said that in-season sackings are not frequent in the NBA. Last season saw one dismissal mid-season – Maurice Cheeks was fired by the Detroit Pistons – although 2012-13 saw a bit more in-season blood-letting with four coaches losing their jobs during the regular season. The time to dismiss is usually after the season finishes. Coaching turnover at the end of last season saw nine coaching positions change.
Who could be on the hot seat at this time? Let’s look at the East in this piece, where there are a number of struggling teams.

Traditionally Impatient

phil jacksonNew York Knicks & Brooklyn Nets – Both changed coaches at the end of last season, and the Knicks have installed Phil Jackson in the front office who will preach stability, even if Derek Fisher is off to a slow start. The Nets had a stormy relationship with Jason Kidd (who left for Milwaukee) and Lionel Hollins may not be enough of a marquee name for a franchise with big ambitions, although major problems with an ageing staff and salary constraints should be taken into account when judging him. I don’t believe either coach is in difficulty at this stage.

Unrealistic Ambitions?

david blattCleveland Cavaliers were many people’s favourites for the Eastern Conference, and with Lebron and Love joining a young core of talent, things looked optimistic. However they have had a slow start. Fingers might be pointed at the coach, David Blatt, if this continues, as there is a fervent fan base demanding success by the shores of Lake Erie. Blatt is new to the NBA, coming in from Europe and international basketball, and he may be deemed the easiest to dump if things don’t work out. It is really early to point fingers, but Blatt will feel the pressure.

The Difficulties of Expectation

There were high hopes for the Charlotte Hornets, but the season hasn’t started well in Carolina. Steve Clifford got a lot of praise for taking the Bobcats – as they were - to the Play-Offs last season, but now may have to deal with the rise in expectations that came with it. At the moment, Charlotte are bottom of the SouthEast Division, on a seven game losing streak and looking like losing touch with postseason contention , even at this early stage. It doesn’t pay to raise hopes. This may be Clifford’s downfall.

Can They Get Any Worse?

The Philadelphia 76ers are bad. Very bad. Historically bad. At time of writing they are 0-15. They can lose by 50, they can pull defeats from victories. How much of this is blamed on the Head Coach, Brett Brown? Well, not a lot given the roster the Front Office have put together. That doesn’t stop the coach getting fired though, even if the people putting the team together are not doing their jobs. Brett Brown was an assistant at the San Antonio Spurs, and may wish he was still there. This won’t end well for him.

Win Now

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I have a feeling that if the Chicago Bulls don’t make the Finals, the Thom Thibodeau era may be over in Chicago. The knock on Thibs is that he works the players too hard, and that as a result, come the play-offs, they are spent. This isn’t particularly fair, as the only season he had his star player with him for the whole play-offs they were beaten by the Miami Heat in the Conference Finals. In others, they’ve almost over-achieved. This season there doesn’t seem to be as formidable a foe for the Bulls as the Heat, and Chicago is a deep team. A failure to make progress may mean the Chicago tide turning against Thibodeau. One to watch for.

The Rest

Detroit are off to a terrible start, but this is a rebuilding project for Stan Van Gundy, and it would be harsh to pin much of the blame on him at this time. Toronto and Washington are the two good news stories in the East, so no problems there. Indiana are hamstrung by the loss of key players through free agency and injury and their fall from the top of the East shouldn’t be pinned on Frank Vogel. The Celtics, Hawks and Magic are all where they should be with the squads they have, while Milwaukee have started well under Jason Kidd. Also, keep an eye on the job Eric Spoelstra is doing without LeBron. The Heat have a better record than the Cavaliers at this early stage. Who would have thought that after this summer's events?

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