Three coaches on the hot seat this season
The NBA is in the midst of unprecedented coaching stability.
Logically, it’s only a matter until that gets upended.
But, team by team, it’s hard to find situations ripe for change. Still, here are the coaches on the hottest seats entering the 2017-18 season:
Alvin Gentry (Pelicans)
The list must start here. Gentry is coaching a mismanaged Pelicans team with undue expectations. He’s far closer to getting fired than anyone else in the league.
In fact, it’s surprising Gentry has lasted this long.
Monty Williams got fired immediately after leading New Orleans to its first playoff appearance in four years. Gentry’s two Pelicans teams haven’t come particularly close to reaching the postseason.
Now, the pressure intensifies. DeMarcus Cousins is entering a contract year. The clock is always ticking until Anthony Davis becomes an unrestricted free agent. And, of course, the West is incredibly strong.
Gentry doesn’t have much to work with considering the circumstances. Davis and Cousins are excellent players, but they prevent Gentry from implementing his preferred up-tempo style. Jrue Holiday is a fine third wheel, but roster-construction issues shift him to less-than-optimal shooting guard. Those problems are particularly evident at small forward, where Dante Cunningham (ideally a power forward) and Tony Allen (ideally a shooting guard) will split time with Solomon Hill injured.
Gentry’s boss, general manager Dell Demps, also appears on thin ice. If/when things go poorly will Demps fire Gentry to shift blame? Or will the Pelicans clean house completely?
Gentry faces an uphill climb to make those questions irrelevant.
Jeff Hornacek (Knicks)
A whopping 10 (!) coaches work for front-office heads who didn’t hire them: Jeff Hornacek (Knicks), Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Brett Brown (76ers), Frank Vogel (Magic), Luke Walton (Lakers), Tyronn Lue (Cavaliers), Jason Kidd (Bucks), Doc Rivers (Clippers), Nate McMillan (Pacers) and Dwane Casey (Raptors).
Take your pick of which has the hottest seat. The internal politics at play can be far from evident.
Brown, Kidd and Walton face higher expectations than last season. Lue faces the highest expectations this side of Golden State. Rivers, McMillan and Casey have downgraded teams that have not given up hope of winning. Hornacek, Budenholzer and Vogel oversee teams that seem OK with losing in the short term, but poor records always hasten dismissals regardless of context.
The nod for hottest seat goes to Hornacek, who’s stuck in James Dolan’s top-down chaotic franchise. Patience never lasts in New York, and there are already rumors about Hornacek’s replacement and poor relationship with franchise player Kristaps Porzingis.
Fred Hoiberg (Bulls)
Again, you could easily pick one of the nine other coaches from the above section (except maybe Kidd, who might hold power over general manager Jon Horst). In the interest of variety, let’s mention Hoiberg.
The Bulls are a quagmire, knowingly entering a rebuilding stage but with the Gar Forman/John Paxson under increased scrutiny. Does Chicago actually have the appetite for sustained losing?
Hoiberg has already appeared in over his head connecting with established veterans. Maybe teaching young players will better suit the former college coach, but the NBA is still a different animal. If Hoiberg stumbles in this task, what reason will there be to keep him around?
Forman not wanting to admit firing Tom Thibodeau for Hoiberg was a mistake? Maybe. The pesky storyline that Hoiberg hasn’t had his type of players? Few NBA coaches are afforded that luxury.
Otherwise, it’s getting late early for Hoiberg, who’s entering his third season.
The Bulls just hired former coach Doug Collins as an advisor. If I were Hornacek, I wouldn’t feel great about that.