NBA Teams Begin Search for New Coaches

Robert Musantry
Sports Business Editor

With the 2019-20 NBA season coming to an end, there is a lot of information to look back and reflect on. The season, which began almost a full year ago, had ups and downs like any other season. What this season featured that no season before ever has was a global pandemic, and the resulting “bubble” (otherwise known as a clean site) the league created to play their games in. Regardless of where teams were in March, when the league stopped due to the virus, what will be remembered most about this season will be the games played in Disney World. But now that the Los Angeles Lakers have emerged from the playoffs as champions, it is already time to look forward and see what changes teams will be making to be more competitive next year.

The roster changes that occur every offseason will come later on in 2020, as the league delayed the NBA draft and the free agency period in accordance with the new schedule. But this does not mean teams have not already been making changes. Teams across the league have been making tough decisions on their staff, with many coaches being let go before the season officially ended. The “coaching carousel” as it is known across sports is in swing for the NBA.

Some teams decided to move on from their head coaches very early on in the season, with the New York Knicks firing David Fizdale in December and the Brooklyn Nets firing Kenny Atkinson in March, right before the season was shut down. These two teams took time in hiring their new staff, with the Knicks hiring Tom Thibodeau over the summer and the Nets announcing in September that former all-star Steve Nash would be their new coach.

Doc Rivers was fired by the Clippers after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, but soon found a new home, being hired by the Philadelphia 76ers (Photo Courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer)

Other teams did not wait nearly as long. The Philadelphia 76ers, after seven years under head coach Brett Brown, let Brown go after their team was eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. The 76ers then hired Doc Rivers in the beginning of October, less than a week after Rivers himself was fired by the Los Angeles Clippers. The quick move from the Clippers to the 76ers is not typically seen in the NBA, but it seems Philadelphia was confident in hiring Rivers mostly based on his coaching history and success, rather than a lengthy interview process. Two other teams that participated in the bubble but ultimately fired their coaches are the Indiana Pacers and the New Orleans Pelicans. These teams saw very different results in where they landed at the end of the season, but both organizations felt they were short of expectations. The Pacers fired Nate McMillan after the team was swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, who were actually the lower seed but made an impressive run to the NBA Finals. The Pelicans missed the playoffs all together but went to the bubble with hopes of qualifying and fired coach Alvin Gentry when this did not happen.

One of the more entertaining aspects of the NBA for fans at this point in time is trying to figure out which coach will land with what team. The Clippers look like the best available job at the moment, since they were the second-best team in the Western Conference behind the eventual champion Lakers. The team suffered a shock elimination in the second round of the playoffs, but with talent like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the roster, this team could be poised to make a real run at the title next season with the right coach.

Another team that finished rather high in the standings but is looking for a new coach is the Houston Rockets. Head coach Mike D’Antoni seems to be leaving the team, as it was reported that he let the team know he was letting his contract expire when the team was eliminated from the playoffs. The team was also eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, and with James Harden and Russell Westbrook leading the way it would appear the organization expected a better result at the end of the year.

Zion Williamson, a rising star in the NBA, will have his second head coach in as many years next season after the Pelicans fired Alvin Gentry (Photo Courtesy of Yahoo Sports)

One other team that could be a valuable landing spot for a coach is the Pelicans. They did miss the playoffs completely this year but have a young core to build around for the future. Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram look ready to play for a contending team, and it will be up to their next head coach to bring in the right players to elevate this team to the next level.

With five NBA teams still without a head coach, a lot is still up in the air. But as the offseason progresses and more contracts are signed, fans of all teams will surely be excited to see how their teams improve on the court in the 2020-21 season.


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