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News » Six coaches fired so far

Six coaches fired so far

Six coaches fired so far
The Great NBA Coaching Purge has gotten so bad that six teams made changes in the first seven weeks of the season; 14 have had a switch since the end of last season; Erik Spoelstra took over in Miami in the summer and already is tied for 17th in tenure; and Mike Woodson, in his fifth season in Atlanta, has the longest active run in the Southeast Division by four seasons.

It has gotten so bad that Monday, the day Reggie Theus was fired, coach Kevin McHale stood inside Arco Arena a few hours before his Timberwolves faced the Kings and joked that he was a few weeks from catching up to 20-year-man Jerry Sloan on the longevity list.

McHale had been on the job seven days.

It's that kind of gallows-humor world for coaches these days. One team short of half the league has undergone a sideline transformation since the end of last season, and the six already in 2008-09 doubles the previous pre-Christmas record.

"Yeah," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told the San Francisco Chronicle, "it's more than a little stunning.

"Once it starts, it's easier for the next guy because it doesn't seem so ridiculous to fire your coach early in the season because somebody else did it. Now five other teams have just sort of jumped on the bandwagon."

So that's one explanation. Momentum.

What about defense? Offense has always been more about skill and defense more about determination. It's not an umbrella explanation -- a roster with mostly players who can't or don't defend will not be good on defense, period, as the Kings have found -- but coaches regularly take the fall when their charges have that yawning look.

The Kings, Timberwolves, Thunder, 76ers, Raptors and Wizards have done the firing. As of Monday, the day Theus joined the ever-expanding list, they were 28th, 26th, 29th, 14th, 20th and 30th, respectively, in shooting defense, the best barometer of stopping the ball. Maurice Cheeks in Philadelphia paid more for having one of the league's worst offenses despite the presence of Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller and a losing record amid expectations of a long playoff run.

Said expectations? It's not the major cause this season, at least not so far.

Cheeks with the 76ers and Sam Mitchell with the Raptors have been the only real victims of preseason hype. Eddie Jordan was canned in Washington with the Wizards flailing away, but they could only have realistically expected to be passable until Gilbert Arenas returns from injury, not among the Eastern Conference leaders.

The three others were on a fast track to the lottery after being routinely projected for the lottery: the Kings, Thunder and Timberwolves. Oklahoma City has been the worst team in the league, just as most predicted. The case easily could be made, though, that the Kings and Thunder, in particular, were underachieving even in that light.

Players ruling the world? They know when a coach is vulnerable, and they know they can do something about it, one way or another. Play hard, he often stays. Roll over, he often goes.

"Players know when a coach is in trouble -- whether they want to play or they don't have to play, and their agents know what's going on," said Sloan, who recently marked his 20th anniversary with the Jazz. "When that happens, it's pretty difficult to pull out of, unless you have the support."

Utah owner Larry Miller, conscious of not exposing Sloan to the same uncertainty, has a policy of not letting his coach enter a season as the final year of a contract. The Kings have had two of their previous three coaches -- Rick Adelman and Theus -- work in the last season of a deal.

The Knicks? The trigger point. Once a welcome sight for any struggling club, New York this season is the grim reaper.

When New York scored 122 points on the Wizards even though the Knicks had only seven players available in the aftermath of two trades that shipped out their two leading scorers, Jordan was fired about 36 hours later. When the Knicks tore through Arco Arena, Theus met the same fate. And P.J. Carlesimo got pink-slipped in Oklahoma City seven days after losing at Madison Square Garden.

The world? "I think you're going to see more and more shorter-term stuff in our league just because of the access now," said McHale, the personnel boss in Minnesota before giving that up to replace Randy Wittman on the sidelines Dec. 8. "There's so much media availability and everything else. Bloggers. Everybody's got an opinion. There's all kind of stuff going on. Sometimes that starts forming the opinion of people in front offices and stuff, too, and owners."

Except that the Internet and talk radio existed last season and one coach got fired the entire six months of the regular season, Scott Skiles by the Bulls the day before Christmas.

This year, the holiday week has yet to arrive and already six teams have made changes, only the sixth time in league history that number has been reached for an entire season. The record is nine in-season firings, set in 2004-05. At least for now it is.

Call The Bee's Scott Howard-Cooper, (916) 321-1210.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 21, 2008


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