With the new season, many teams and fans have hope. Some teams have new coaches or new players that could work out really well. However, every team reaches the point where they have expectations, and falling short could mean major changes, including a coaching change. Below I list eight coaches who I think are, or should be, on the hot seat if they fail to meet expectations. Some of these coaches are good coaches, but that doesn’t mean their job is secure.
- Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)
Terry Stotts has done some great things with the Blazers. In his second year, they made the second round of the playoffs. Later, after Aldridge left, they made the second round again. The Blazers only failed to make the playoffs in his first year. However, the team has failed to make any real strides under him. Every time after the team seems like they might finally break through, he figures out how to blow it. After their first second round appearance back in 2014, they lost in the first round the following year. Two years ago, they snuck into the playoffs with a 0.500 record. Last year, they had 49 wins and the three seed, but managed to get swept. Terry Stotts seems incapable of turning the Blazers into even a pretend contender.
- Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets)
After firing George Karl, the Nuggets have yet to make a playoff appearance. The Nuggets now have a good collection of younger players with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamaal Murray. Last year, they were one win against the Timberwolves away from making the playoffs for their final regular season game. That being said, they should set their bar at making the playoffs this year, because getting close doesn’t count. I think that if they get off to a rough start, or fail to make the playoffs again this year, the Nuggets need some major changes, which probably includes a coaching change.
- Dave Joerger (Sacramento Kings)
Unfortunately, I am only looking at coaches on the hot seat here. If I could say that an entire NBA organization needs to disappear and start over, that would be the Sacramento Kings. There was probably only one person in the world who thought Buddy Hield could be better than Demarcus Cousins, and that person was the GM, Vlade Divac. The Kings have been a complete joke for a long time, and that hasn’t changed under Joerger. Firing Joerger won’t fix the issue, but being a bottom dweller again might mean his job is in danger.
- Fred Hoiberg (Chicago Bulls)
The Bulls decided to fire a coach who has been nothing but successful with them when they fired Tom Thibodeau. To replace him, they got Fred Hoiberg, who in three years only made the playoffs once as an 8 seed (when they had Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Rajon Rondo). Right now the Bulls are rebuilding, but there is no reason to think that Hoiberg is the right man to coach a rebuilding team, as his tenure thus far has been a disaster.
- Luke Walton (Los Angeles Lakers)
This might unfair but Luke Walton, but we have to face the reality. He has been the head coach of the Lakers for two years now, and they haven’t been close to a playoff appearance. In his defense, the Lakers were a rebuilding team and not expecting to compete. Now, they have Lebron James, which can be really tough on coaches. Winning alone doesn’t guarantee job security in this case as David Blatt was fired in the middle of the season with a 30-11 record after making the finals the year before. Luke Walton has to coach this team to be a top team in the west, and Lebron needs to approve of the job he’s doing for his job to be secure. Otherwise, he could get fired by the end of this year.
- Tyronne Lue (Cleveland Cavaliers)
The fact that Tyronne Lue still has a job is mind boggling to me. The last play in regulation of game 1 in the 2018 NBA finals shows just how awful of a coach he is. His failure to recognize the situation and call a timeout shows he doesn’t understand anything about basketball. The Cavs had a lot of issues this last year. Isaiah Thomas not working out is probably the biggest one. There is certainly a lot of blame to go around, but I blame the coach more than anyone because it should be his responsibility to make the players play well together. Other players such as Dwayne Wade and Jae Crowder also didn’t mesh in well despite them being proven players who are really good contributers. When all that fails, the coach has to be the one to blame.
- Billy Donovan (Oklahoma City Thunder)
When a player decides to care about their stats as much as (if not more than) winning, I think that’s a huge problem. When the coach decides that the entire team should rally around this player to help him stat pad over the course of a season, the coach needs to go. That is what happened with Billy Donovan over the past two years, especially two years ago when Russell Westbrook got 42 triple doubles in one season. He led the league in uncontested rebounds, which is a category usually dominated by big men. It’s good to have a rebounding guard, but there is no reason for him to average 10 a game. Although he has successfully molded the team into a perfect stat padding machine for Westbrook, he has failed to deliver on what actually matters: playoff success. They lost in the first round the last two years, and had a lot of issues putting the team together. If they fail to make the second round again this year, I think Billy Donovan will be looking for another job.
- Tom Thibodeau (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The Timberwolves finally made it back to the playoffs. They have a great star in Jimmy Butler, a younger (but now not so young) star in Karl Anthony Towns, and a player who many have high hopes for in Andrew Wiggins. However, their window is really short, because if things don’t workout very quickly, Jimmy Butler could leave, and the team could fall apart. Last year they were in the top four before Jimmy Butler was injured, and barely got in with the eight seed at the end. There were team chemistry issues last year, as Jimmy Butler seemed unhappy with the defensive effort put in by Towns and Wiggins. Should the team not make huge strides this year, I think chemistry issues will get much worse, and Thibodeau will be out at the end of the year.
It might not be fair for some of these coaches to be on the list, but they have to deal with the cards they were dealt, and the team has to move on to a different coach if things aren’t working out. However, I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all of them, would find work elsewhere.
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