The NBA is a “get wins or get out” enterprise. The business can be callous at times, spurning head coaches who have seemingly earned job security — a lesson Dwane Casey learned the hard way in May. It’s still hard to imagine Casey on the Pistons’ sideline.
It may seem ridiculous to already be speculating about which coaches could be fired this season, but the 2018-19 season is practically upon us, and before we know it, some team will be searching for a new leader. With the preseason already underway, here are 10 coaches on the hot seat.
10. Alvin Gentry, Pelicans
You could argue Anthony Davis’ impressive late-season surge saved Gentry’s job last season. The Pelicans won their first playoff series in the Davis era — an encouraging sign — but the Warriors quickly vanquished New Orleans’ momentum. This seems to be a pivotal moment for the franchise. The Pelicans didn’t have much spending money this summer, as the squad had already dished out hefty contracts to players like E’Twaun Moore, Alexis Ajinca, and Omer Asik. The team allowed DeMarcus Cousins to bolt and signed bargain-basement assets Jahlil Okafor and Elfrid Payton, in addition to Julius Randle. The Pelicans are reliant on Davis sustaining MVP-level production; if he and Jrue Holiday crash back to earth early this season, however, GM Dell Demps — left with little flexibility to add another impact player — may opt to make a coaching change.
Paul George is trying his best to cool Billy Donovan’s presumptive hot seat.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday after the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to 12-14 on the season with a double-digit loss to the Charlotte Hornets the night before, George voiced support for his head coach.
“The respect level is high,” George said of Donovan, per Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript. “No one’s going against Billy. He’s given us an incredible gameplan all season long. There’s a high level of respect for his position and what he wants from us. There’s no line of disrespect at all towards the coach.”
At least one of George’s teammates seemed to be frustrated after the Charlotte loss, and that’s not surprising on a highly-talented team that is still currently on the outside of the Western playoff picture looking in. Donovan in particular has been criticized for his inability to develop cohesion for the Thunder on the offensive end, but it sounds like his players still very much have his back.
The 2016-17 NBA season was a time of peace on earth and goodwill towards head coaches — not a single one was fired, marking the first time that had happened since at least Millard Fillmore’s presidency. But the same cannot be said about the 2017-18 campaign, as Earl Watson and David Fizdale have already walked the plank less than two months in. Here are six more coaches whose seats are rapidly warming and could be in danger of following suit.
Doc Rivers, LA Clippers
A recent report suggested that Medicial Practicioner Rivers is likely safe for this season, citing the rash of injuries that have crippled his team in recent weeks. But the ice still seems to thinning underneath him with the Clippers relapsing into their futility of decades past. Their lack of effort and creativity made for a difficult watch even when Blake Griffin was still healthy, and Rivers’ rotations have largely resembled a dart throw otherwise. Welcome to the starting lineup, CJ Williams! Jawun Evans, come on down! And what’s more is that there’s hardly been a Clipper who has improved their play this season despite the increased opportunity with all the injuries and the exit of Chris Paul … except for maybe Lou Williams and Doc’s own son Austin. Now to be fair, the loss of the team’s best offensive player in Griffin and their best defensive player in Patrick Beverley will probably move Lord Steve Ballmer to show mercy on Rivers. But enthusiasm is quickly waning as “What’s up, Doc?” becomes more of a cry of exasperation than a Bugs Bunny catchphrase.
Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
Billy Donovan is taking the high road in reply to Kevin Durant’s Twitter shade.
Speaking at Media Day on Monday, the Oklahoma City Thunder head coach was asked about Durant’s recent tweets criticizing him.
“We did communicate,” replied Donovan, per Royce Young of ESPN. “I enjoyed my time with Kevin. I felt like Kevin and I had a very, very good relationship. Outside of that I don’t think there’s anything more to say.”
You can see what Durant tweeted about Donovan, who coached him during his final season with OKC in 2015-16, here. While the All-NBA forward did not intend to send the tweets from his personal account, that’s still no excuse for what he said, and he has since apologized for mentioning Donovan and the Thunder by name. Hopefully, this officially marks the end of Burnergate.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were careful to avoid overworking Russell Westbrook during the regular season, but those restrictions are off for the playoffs.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan admitted that Westbrook will almost certainly see more action during the NBA playoffs.
“Yes, I do see his minutes going up in the playoffs,” Donovan said, via ESPN’s Royce Young. “But I see a lot of our guys’ minutes potentially going up.”
Westbrook averaged 34.6 minutes per game during the regular season, a modest total for someone who is so important to his team. He didn’t play 40 minutes in any regulation game all season, either.
Donovan credited the team’s medical staff for helping devise a good plan to manage Westbrook’s minutes.
“The medical staff does a great job with all his data throughout his entire career, how many minutes he’s played, all those kind of things,” Donovan said. “And you also want to help him in his minutes, putting him in a position where he can be an efficient and effective player. Thirty-five, thirty-four, thirty-six minutes, somewhere in that range we felt like was a really good number, just based on the medical staff looking back on his career.”
Westbrook has been on the floor for the pivotal moments. It’s a credit to him and the team that he was able to put up such ridiculous numbers and still be managed well.
It seems that Billy Donovan won’t be returning to the college ranks anytime soon.
The Oklahoma State Thunder coach, who has been linked to the vacant Indiana job, shot down those rumors Sunday, saying he’s very happy in the NBA.
Donovan told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that he is “very, very happy in the NBA and in Oklahoma City — and is committed there.”
Donovan was one of the most successful coaches of the last two decades in the collegiate ranks, winning two NCAA titles and making four Final Four appearances with the Florida Gators. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, Donovan, like another former college coach who has been linked to the job, simply doesn’t see any reason to leave the NBA.
If postgame press conferences were a game of poker, the chips would have been pushed all-in on Billy Donovan because the OKC Thunder head coach was so clearly bluffing with one of his answers.
All anyone could talk about after the Oklahoma City Thunder escaped with a 98-97 victory over the San Antonio Spurs was the incredibly wild ending, which included Dion Waiters pushing Manu Ginobili; Ginobili stepping on the out of bounds line; Russell Westbrook having his jersey grabbed; and a Spurs fan holding Steven Adams’ arm. There were so many angles to that nutty play there’s no way someone who watched the game — much less coached in it — wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
Yet that’s exactly what Donovan tried to convince the media of:
C’mon, Donovan. Who do you think is actually buying that?
The Oklahoma City Thunder have lost five of their last seven games and are slowly losing ground in the Western Conference. A lot of physical mistakes have contributed to the poor stretch of play, but head coach Billy Donovan sees more to it than that.
After Wednesday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, Donovan said he wants to see his team “sacrifice” more.
“I think the biggest thing we need to do is make a decision, collectively as a group, from an accountability standpoint, of what type of team we want to be,” he said, per Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. “In order to do that, there has to be a high level of sacrifice by everybody.”
The Thunder and Clippers could very well wind up meeting in the postseason, and Donovan hinted that a close loss to a good team like that could be a positive for his team if they handle it the right way.
“The best thing for this team is adversity,” he said. “They need adversity. They don’t need it to be easy. And today was an adverse situation. So what do we do from here?”
Oklahoma City scored just 98 points Wednesday night, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for a whopping 48 shots. They converted just 20 of them.
With rumors swirling that Durant could be heading to another team in the West this summer, the Thunder desperately need to rediscover their winning ways down the stretch. If they come up short in the playoffs yet again, Durant might start giving serious thought to leaving OKC.
The recent dominance and run of success for John Calipari at Kentucky helped push Billy Donovan to the NBA, according to a report.
Donovan, 49, coached at Florida from 1996 through 2015 before accepting the head coaching job with the Oklahoma City Thunder this week. Though Donovan won two national championships at Florida (2006 and 2007) and reached four Final Fours — including one in 2014 — he has expressed interest in the NBA in the past and even accepted the Orlando Magic job before deciding to return to the Gators in 2007. This time around he decided to leave for good, and that might be because of the difficulty competing with Kentucky.
This was not too hard to figure out. Calipari came to Kentucky for the 2009-2010 season and has had four dominant seasons during his time there. He has won one national championship, reached four Final Fours, and generally has been the top team in the SEC. With Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl and Avery Johnson joining the conference and Calipari running things, now was a good time for Donovan to get out.
Things will be tough in the ever-competitive Western Conference, but at least Donovan will have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on his side. That’s a darn good starting point.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly set to announce the hiring of Billy Donovan as their next head coach.
News 9 in Oklahoma reports that a deal has been finalized and should be made public in the very near future.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Donovan signed a five-year contract with the team.
The Thunder job was Donovan’s to lose all along, especially after UConn coach Kevin Ollie removed his name from consideration. It quickly became obvious that something unexpected would have to happen in order for Donovan to not be named OKC’s next coach.
Donovan has been the head coach of the Florida Gators since 1996. He won back-to-back championships with the school in 2006 and 2007. He has no coaching experience at the NBA level.
Kevin Durant reportedly called some of Donovan’s former players earlier this week and developed a “generally positive” attitude toward the hiring. That likely made the Thunder’s decision even easier, as Durant is set to become a free agent at the end of next season. If OKC wants to keep its franchise player from returning to a place like his hometown to play, he’ll need to get along with the head coach.