Sunday, December 07, 2008

All professional, and major college sports, for that matter are coaching carousels. Owners, management and fans have no patience to wait for winning to development, and every year there are 5, 6, 7 openings in any of the leagues. Rarely are there Bobby Coxs and Jerry Sloans and Jeff Mike Shanahans that are with their team for over a decade.

It's hard however to find a time that compares with the end of January in 2004, in which no coach in the entire Eastern Conference of the NBA had been on the job for more than thirteen months (most obviously for a lot less than that). I thought I'd take a quick look through the coaching situation for all those Eastern Conference teams and what happened to cause that insane period.

(Even though the current divisional format was not in place at the time, we're going to go through it that way for purposes of avoiding unnecessary complication.)

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics: Along with Byron Scott of the Nets, who we'll get to shortly, Jim O'Brien's dismissal on January 27 of 2004 was the last which led to the perfect time of full thirteen month coach turnover of the entire conference. O'Brien actually resigned, when he and Danny Ainge did not see eye-to-eye on the team's philosophy. The team was struggling at 22-24, below .500, but still good enough for second place in the horrible division. John Caroll thus became the interim coach and lasted just until the end of the season, when he was replaced by Doc Rivers.

New Jersey Nets: We get to Bryon Scott so soon. Just one year ago, Scott had led the Nets, who had been hapless for many years, to the second of consecutive NBA finals apperances. But that was not enough for team president Rod Thorn who gave Scott the hook just a day before O'Brien resigned from the Celtics. The Nets led the Atlantic Division, albeit with a record just two games above .500, but the real problem may have been complaints from the team's leader, Jason Kidd; while he claimed he said nothing to management, reports said either. Replacing him was interim coach Lawrence Frank, who has been there ever since, getting a far longer leash than Scott was ever granted. No need to cry for him though - he's got his cushy gig coaching Chris Paul in New Orleans.

New York Knicks: Isiah Thomas pulled out one of the first of what would be many surprises (second, essentially, after acquiring Stephon Marbury, which really set the done for bad decisions), most of them terrible, in his tenure as General Manager and President of the Knicks. On January 14 of 2004, Thomas fired Don Chaney and hired Hall-of-Fame and all-time victories leading coach Lenny Wilkens (after Larry Brown was hired, the Knicks incredibly employed four of the top five winningest coaches in about a decade long period - Wilkens, Brown, Don Nelson and Pat Riley). Already, so early into Isiah's mercilessly far too long tenure, people didn't understand his moves. Lenny Wilkens lasted just about a season's worth of games before being fired himself, when Herb Williams finished off the year before two giant coaching debacles, Larry Brown and Isiah himself. Interesting fact: If you follow the link to the ESPN article, there are two charts - coaches who coached for the most teams, and coaches with the lowest winning percentages, who coached at least 500 games. Seventies-through-early-nineties coach Kevin Loughery is the only man on both lists.

Philadelphi Seventy-Sixers: The Sixers provide us a little bit of flexibility with this list. Depending on whether we want to move it from the end of January to the beginning of February, we can get two different acceptable head coaches. They hired assistant coach Randy Ayers to replace Larry Brown over the summer of 2003, and then when they were unsatisfied with their midseason progress, promptly fired him and hired his assistent Chris Ford as interim head coach for the rest of the season. From there, they would hire recently resigned Celtics coach (and current Pacers coach) Jim O'Brien for a season before bringing in Mo Cheeks.

Toronto Raptors: More coaching carousel fun! The same Lenny Wilkens who the Knicks hired midseason was neither fired nor resigned but somehow left the Raptors to leave with a year left on his contact after the end of the 2002-03 season. The Raptors hired Kevin O'Neill, only to fire him after less than one full season, in April, and replace him with Sam Mitchell, who would stay on as coach until earlier than season.

Central Division:

Chicago Bulls: Noted disciplinarian and hard-line coach Scott Skiles was hired by the Bulls on November 28, 2003 to replace noted useless former Bulls center Bill Cartwright after a slow start. Skiles lasted all the way until 2007 when he was deemed too strict and didn't work well the Bulls young crop of players who had first surprised, then, when expecatations rose, disappointed big time. Minorly interesting, an assistant coach by the name of Pete Myers coached two games in the interim between Cartwright and Skiles, and then one game after Skiles before Jim Boylan. Skiles, of course, landed on his feet, ending up as current coach of the Bucks.

Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers hired notable NBA player, two-time All Star Paul Silas to coach them in the summer before the 2003-04 season began. The most notable thing about Silas' coaching career was calling Carlos Boozer a cunt after he fucked the Cavs over, by reaching allegedly an implicit understanding with them that he would resign if they let him out of his contract, and then signing with the Jazz. Silas was fired after the 2004-05 season, after which, after an interim stint by original Raptors coach Brandon Malone, current coach Mike Brown took the reins. Alas, perhaps better things away Silas - he has as good as even a chance to snag another head coaching job someday.

Stay tuned, we finish off the Year-of-the-Coaching-Change tomorrow.

1 comment:

AndrewEberle said...

Calling Bill Cartwright useless is ridiculous, nobody ever had a more awesome free throw shooting style than Big Bill!