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NBA Coaching Carousel Spinning Out of Control

NBA WallpaperReplacing the head coach has become the basic instinct for any team that has deemed itself as an underachiever.

Seemingly any team that has been eliminated from championship contention immediately begins contemplating if a dismissal of the coach is a necessity.

Since the opening night of the 2016 season, 12 teams have ultimately decided a switch at the helm is the best option for getting a team back on track. And a few other teams are still contemplating making a coaching change. 

Two years after breaking an unwritten rule among the coaching fraternity — pushing for a job that was currently occupied — Jason Kidd is now on shaky ground in Milwaukee.

The Bucks have since given Kidd a vote of confidence, even hinting at a possible contract extension, but few are spared the fate of being fired, as continuity is no longer a top priority in the NBA.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey has set a franchise record for victories three seasons in a row, but his return next season isn't guaranteed.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey has set a franchise record for victories three seasons in a row, but his return next season isn’t guaranteed.

Since the end of 1996, there have been 233 coaching changes, equivalent to 11.7 switches per year.

Only four coaches have been employed by the same team for at least five seasons. While longevity has been elusive for professional basketball coaches, tenure hardly provides comfort when the season draws to a close.

A loss Sunday afternoon to Miami, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, could ultimately be the final game for Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

Casey is the fourth longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle, but another failure to reach the Eastern Conference finals (something Toronto has yet to accomplish in the 21-year history of the franchise) could lead to his removal as coach.

First round exits each of the past two years, along with the possibility of failing to reach the Eastern Conference finals this season, may prompt Toronto to make a coaching change.

The Raptors have blown a lead in post season play seven times in franchise history, as the team let inferior teams comeback in the opening round of the playoffs during each of the past two seasons.

Numerous reasons can be attributed to the short lifespan of NBA coaches: friction with the front office, arguments over reshaping the roster, disagreements with star players or even pursuing another position while still employed.

Shatter the Glass provides a glimpse into each of the 12 coaching changes that have taken place since opening night below.

Houston RocketsHouston Rockets

Houston provides a perfect example of just how fragile coaching jobs are in the NBA. After leading the Rockets to an improbable run to the Western Conference finals in 2015, Kevin McHale was dismissed just 11 games later. The Rockets defense completely collapsed, as MVP candidate James Harden began the season clearly out of shape. J.B. Bickerstaff was named interim coach, but after being swept by Golden State in the opening round of the playoffs, he withdrew his name from consideration for the full time job.

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Cleveland CavaliersCleveland Cavaliers

The first season in the NBA for David Blatt led to an appearance in the NBA Finals, as the team finished just two victories shy of its first championship. The Cavaliers started the year 30-11, the best record in the Eastern Conference, but his insistence on catering to his superstar players led to his demise. Following a dismantling at the hands of Portland, Cleveland appointed Tyronn Lue — the top paid assistant in the NBA — to head coach. The Cavaliers are entrapped in a championship or bust mode, one of the reasons Lue has yet to sign a contract since taking over as head coach. If the team doesn’t win the title, it may once again be searching for new leadership.

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Phoenix SunsPhoenix Suns

A massive losing streak was too much for Jeff Hornacek to overcome in Phoenix, even after he finished as runner-up in Coach of the Year voting just two years ago. The injury-ravaged Suns dropped 14 straight games, part of 19 losses in 21 games, prompted the switch. The team tried to spark something within the organization by opting to fire two of Hornacek’s top assistants in late December, but the move was just a stall tactic. Earl Watson, one of the premier new coaching candidates, was tabbed as interim coach but decided to give him the permanent position without interviewing any outside candidates.

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New York KnicksNew York Knicks

The handpicked option to coach the Knicks by Phil Jackson was ungraciously shown the door just 136 games into his tenure. Derek Fisher was fired not only for how New York preformed on the court, winning just 29.4 percent of the time, but also for incidents away from the court, reportedly involving players on his roster. Kurt Rambis was appointed as the interim coach, but the Knicks went just 9-19 under him to close out the season. Jackson has been pushing to retain Rambis for next season, but the team has yet to officially hire him, or anyone else to patrol the sidelines at Madison Square Garden next season.

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Brooklyn NetsBrooklyn Nets

The pursuit of an NBA championship prompted the Nets to spend nearly $200 million in salary and luxury tax during the 2013-14 season. Ever since, Brooklyn has slowly dismantled the entire organization that contributed to the bloated payroll, as the team severed ties with Lionel Hollis midway through the year. Atlanta assistant Kenny Atkinson was selected a month ago to replace interim coach Tony Brown after he solidified himself as a player-development coach during his time in New York and Houston and became an elite coaching prospect under Mike Budenholzer during his time with the Hawks.

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Memphis GrizzliesMemphis Grizzlies

Both sides were scared to commit to one another so the Grizzlies opted to part with Dave Joerger. The Grizzlies still claimed the seventh best record in the Western Conference despite the loss of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley midway through the season. Two years ago, Joerger engaged the Timberwolves about their coaching vacancy, and when he expressed interest in another job this summer, the team fired him without a replacement candidate in place. According to a report, the Memphis front office grew tired of Joerger’s veiled digs in the media.

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Sacramento Kings logoSacramento Kings

Sacramento simply couldn’t bring back George Karl for one more game, even if it would have been his 2,000th as an NBA coach. Immediately after being hired, Karl reportedly began shopping All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, leading to tension neither side could overcome. Cousins criticized Karl through the media and even drew a one game suspension for arguing with his coach during a timeout. Instead, the team tabbed former Memphis coach Dave Joerger for the difficult job of leading the worst defensive team in the league (Sacramento surrendered a league-high 109.1 points per game) to a playoff berth for the first time in 10 years.

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Minnesota TimberwolvesMinnesota Timberwolves

The death of Flip Saunders prompted Minnesota to scramble for a candidate, leading to the appointment of assistant Sam Mitchell for the position. Minnesota is blessed with one of the most talented young rosters in the NBA, with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns winning Rookie of the Year honors in each of the past two seasons, but Mitchell was unable to generate more than 29 wins this year. The Timberwolves wasted no time in appointing Tom Thibodeau into a dual role, serving as both the head coach and president of basketball operations for the franchise.

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Washington WizardsWashington Wizards

Washington is doing everything possible to increase the odds of convincing Kevin Durant to return to his hometown. The team failed to qualify for the 2016 playoffs, leading to the firing of Randy Wittman, so the team brought in Scott Brooks, Durant’s coach in Oklahoma City during the first seven years of his career. Wittman was fired hours after the regular season ended, leading the Wizards to find a candidate capable of guiding a roster featuring John Wall and Bradley Beal back into playoff contention. The tactic of hiring Brooks was much more than a method of gaining leverage in free agency, as he led the Thunder to three Western Conference finals appearances and was named Coach of the Year in 2010.

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Los Angeles LakersLos Angeles Lakers

A refusal to adapt to the new style of the NBA led to the end of Byron Scott‘s tenure with the Lakers. Los Angeles finished as the 30th and 29th ranked defense in the NBA during each of the past two seasons, as the team finished last in assist rate and 3-point shooting percentages, two staples of winning teams in this era. Once again the team is hoping a former player can restore the team, as Warriors assistant Luke Walton has been hired to help transition the team into a legitimate threat on both ends of the floor. Walton posted a 39-4 record in place of Steve Kerr, as he missed the first half of the season recovering from back surgery.

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Indiana PacersIndiana Pacers

Frank Vogel turned a flawed Pacers roster into the third most efficient defense in the league. Only president of basketball operations Larry Bird was hoping for an elite offensive squad. After compiling a record of 250-181 during his five seasons in Indiana, Vogel is one of the most sought after candidates, but the Pacers must find someone fulfilling the demands of a front office expecting to be in title contention. Landing a prolific scorer to play alongside Paul George will be a challenge, as the team owns the 20th overall selection in next month’s draft, and landing free agents has been a difficult task for the organization.

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Orlando MagicOrlando Magic

For the fourth time in the past four years, Orlando has to select a new coach. This time, the team was forced into making a change. After his first season with the team, Scott Skiles unexpectedly resigned, opting to quit before being fired for the fourth time in his coaching career. Even though he led the Magic to a 10-win improvement from the previous season, Skiles abruptly left as his opinion about developing young players — specifically point guard Elfrid Payton and rookie Mario Hezonja — with general manager Rob Hennigan prompted the resignation.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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