NBA's hot seats for coaches might have cooling-off period

OTHER VOICES

May 01, 2006|By IRA WINDERMAN | IRA WINDERMAN,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

Depending on the whims of Charlotte Bobcats coach/president Bernie Bickerstaff, something remarkable could happen on the NBA sidelines this offseason.

Nothing.

A league that changes coaches more often than the Heat changes playoff color schemes could wind up returning each of the 30 who ended the season on the bench.

Almost all of those in the most tenuous positions - from Golden State's Mike Montgomery to Atlanta's Mike Woodson to Toronto's Sam Mitchell to Minnesota's Dwane Casey to Seattle's Bob Hill - have received recent votes of confidence.

And those who had been mulling over their options - such as Utah's Jerry Sloan, Boston's Doc Rivers and the Heat's Pat Riley - have said they'll be back.

Beyond Bickerstaff, who is taking time to deliberate whether his second-year team would be better served with his full-time attention in the front office, there appear to be only two question marks.

In New York, health and stress issues have left Larry Brown somewhat up in the air. Brown said he wants to return. Knicks president Isiah Thomas said he wants Brown back. But since they're Larry and Isiah, no one knows what to think.

Then there's Sacramento, where another early playoff demise could rekindle questions about Rick Adelman's future.

But considering how much the Knicks have invested in Brown, and considering how Adelman helped push the Kings back to late-season respectability, even those two departures are long shots.

Then compare the overall situation to last summer, when Mike Brown took over for Brendan Malone in Cleveland; Larry Brown took over for Herb Williams in New York; Flip Saunders took over for Larry Brown in Detroit; Terry Stotts took over for Terry Porter in Milwaukee; Casey took over for Kevin McHale in Minnesota; Brian Hill took over for Chris Jent in Orlando; Maurice Cheeks took over for Jim O'Brien in Philadelphia; Nate McMillan took over for Kevin Pritchard in Portland; Bob Weiss took over for McMillan in Seattle; and Phil Jackson took over for Frank Hamblen with the Lakers.

Beyond those 10 changes in the 2005 offseason, three current coaches took over during the course of 2004-05: Avery Johnson from Don Nelson in Dallas, George Karl from Jeff Bzdelik in Denver and Mike Fratello from Hubie Brown in Memphis.

In all, 12 of the league's 30 coaches have just completed their first full seasons with their teams and two more, Seattle's Hill and the Heat's Riley, in his return season, haven't even made it that far.

But now, finally, the revolving door has lost some of its momentum.

Only one coach, Seattle's Weiss, was fired during the regular season. Another, the Heat's Stan Van Gundy, stepped aside for personal reasons, replaced by Riley.

If anything, it's as if the league is catching its breath.

While O'Brien, Porter and Paul Silas certainly loom as viable retread candidates, and while Kentucky's Tubby Smith has been linked to a potential Charlotte opening should Bickerstaff kick himself upstairs, the NBA appears to be tiring of its quick-change ways.

So, instead, teams such as the Warriors, Timberwolves, Raptors, Hawks and Sonics have accepted their growing pains and put the onus this summer on personnel procurement instead of the coaching carousel.

As it is, only three coaches, Adelman (who just finished his eighth), Sloan (18th) and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (10th) have been with their teams more than three consecutive seasons.

At a time when fans have to deal with a revolving door with players because of free agency and trades, there is something to be said about sideline stability.

Ira Winderman writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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