Geltzeiler: Which NBA Coaches are on the Hot Seat?

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Randy Wittman in Washington has actually been saved thus far by John Wall’s injury and by the fact that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is still paying his last coach, Flip Saunders.

For the 2nd time since 2008, Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld decided the Wizards were ready to compete before they had enough talent to do so.  Between last year’s trade deadline and the offseason, he brought in expensive (overpaid) veterans in Nene, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza.

None of the three were going to help this team make the playoffs whether Wall was healthy or not.

However, Grunfeld had established that as the expectation, so Wittman has been doomed to fail.

If they don’t turn it around when Wall comes back, Leonsis might be embarrassed enough to pull the trigger on Wittman, who doesn’t exactly sit on the high end of the salary scale.

 

 

I would also keep an eye on Byron Scott in Cleveland.

It’s his 3rd year in Cleveland and he truly started from ground zero.

With Anderson Varejao out for the next 8 weeks, it will be rough sledding. The Cavs already dealt with losing their star point guard, Kyrie Irving, for a couple of weeks, which didn’t help matters.

Scott is not going to the playoffs with this team, and lord knows that Irving’s habitual injury problems are nowhere close to being Scott’s fault.

However, what could be perceived as Scott’s fault is the slow development of the young guys.  Dion Waiters is talented, but nowhere near being an NBA player from a mental and emotional standpoint.

Tristan Thompson is starting to get a little better offensively but for a kid with his athleticism and size, he should be better at this point.  Rookie center Tyler Zeller appears to have no concept whatsoever on how to defend or rebound on an NBA level.

Ultimately, this won’t be hung on Scott at this point because two of these three kids are rookies — but the clock is ticking.  Waiters was a reach at #4, and they traded up for Zeller so the personnel department is high on these kids. They will strike in one place and one place only if these kids don’t start to show more promise soon.

When the season began, I speculated that Andrew Bynum might cost Philadelphia coach Doug Collins his job.

With the way the Sixers are playing, the situation may play out as the polar opposite. After a surprisingly strong start, the Sixers have grossly underachieved lately.

Collins has seen a good learning curve from both Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, which has been a big help.  Holiday is already signed to a contract extension and Turner is extension eligible after the season.

However, that’s where the improvement ends.  Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen have both taken big steps backwards.  Collins has two interesting young wings in Nick Young and Dorell Wright and hasn’t gotten more out of either of them than prior coaches.

I know Young is nuts and hates things like passing and defending, but Doug hasn’t exactly gotten through to him. This may sound like unfair scrutiny, but Collins has two big things working against him.  The first is that ownership is expecting better in spite of Andrew Bynum’s injury.

The second is something that’s happening with Orlando. Part of what the Sixers gave up in the Bynum trade was second- year center Nicola Vucevic, who has been an absolute animal for Orlando this season, even setting a single-game rebounding record (29) for the Magic.

Collins had him last year when he showed flashes, but did not make a big impact because he was not allotted much playing time.

Granted, Vucevic has improved year over year, but there’s no doubt he could have made a bigger contribution if he had been given the opportunity.  The one thing that probably saves Collins’ job is the absence of Bynum. But if they keep losing when (if?) the big man comes back, it will be sayonara.

(RELATED: An Open Letter to Rob Hennigan)

The last coach on my hot seat sort of brings us back full circle.

Mike D’Antoni took over the Lakers job 10 games into the season.  He’s already put Lakers ownership in a horrible spot.  D’Antoni employs an uptempo system that emphasizes perimeter shooting in an open floor setting.

The Lakers do not have that type of personnel.

The Steve Nash that D’Antoni has as his point guard right now is not the 31- and 32-year-old version who was winning MVP awards. This is the 38-year-old version who is still a brilliant player, but isn’t beating guys up the floor like he used to.

D’Antoni has two highly skilled big men in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol but employs a system that only utilizes one.

As opposed to tailoring the system to utilize this type of personne, D’Antoni has Gasol playing out at the 3-point arc, the same Gasol who almost beat the U.S. team on his own in the low post 6 short months ago in the Olympic gold medal game.

Because D’Antoni is unwilling to change his system enough to put four Hall of Famers in the best spot to succeed, the Lakers really only have two choices:

They can make some kind of trade to break up the Howard-Gasol-Bryant-Nash core to bring in a few guys who are better fits playing The D’Antoni Way.

The other option is fire their 2nd coach of the season and go back to their interim coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, who went 4-1 after Brown was fired.

It is far from conventional, or even smart, to pay 2 coaches $ 7 million a year to not coach, but this entire Lakers’ situation is unconventional.

“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” D’Antoni said after the Lakers were trounced by the Thunder on Friday night for their sixth straight loss. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it.”

Brian Geltzeiler is the executive producer and co-host of SheridanHoops radio, and the editor of hoopcritic.com. His father, Burt, was an elite college basketball player for Newark Rutgers in the late 40′s and was drafted by the Tri-City Hawks (now Atlanta) in 1950 by their GM Red Auerbach. You can follow Brian, who lives in Livingston, N.J. with his wife and 4 children, on Twitter.

 

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Comments

  1. Jayson Lowry says:

    You put way too much on the ‘Lakers ridiculously short time with Mike Brown’ section. I’m not sure if you’re a sports writer or what, this is the first I’ve been to this website. But you know Mike Brown coached the Lakers last season right? And their short playoff run was due in thanks to Mike Brown. He should have been gone in the off season anyway. His rep is over rated anyways because of Lebron James when they were both in Cleveland. He can’t do much with multiple superstars. He also can’t do much with no superstars, seeing as how as soon as Lebron left CLE Brown was fired. But yeah, Browns firing was gonna happen, only a matter of time. Do a little more research though next time.

  2. Agreed, but are you really calling Brooke Lopez the best player on the Nets? I can name two and arguably three better players on his team than him.

  3. Brian:

    Agree about Nets (Prokhorov, with Billy King not defending his friend Avery Johnson) being rash to fire Avery so soon. However, the reason it has worked out, and will continue to be considered the best decision, is that Avery was confident enough to name PJC as his top Assistant. Billy King must have known that Avery was losing his team, and that PJ would do a good job. Otherwise, without a suitable replacement, it would have been a terrible decision.

    Disagree about Nets not being a top 4 team in the East. It will all depend on injuries. Besides Lopez, Nets lost 2 close games due to Wallace being out, at beginning of season, and at least one other loss due to other injuries.

    With Wallace (and maybe DWill) injured again, expect “Fire PJ” rants to appear in coming days.

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