SAN ANTONIO — Front offices across the NBA seem to be panicking a bit these days. Job security has long been an oxymoron for coaches in this league, but even by that what-have-you-done-for-me-lately standard, this offseason has been a particularly volatile one.
Twelve coaches have been fired since the season ended, including the coach of the year and five others who led teams to the playoffs.
Setting franchise records for victories in a season gets you fired these days. Leading your team to the Western Conference finals gets you fired these days. One tough season coaching a roster full of dead-legged journeymen and still-learning rookies gets you fired these days.
“Coaching has never been valued less and blamed more,” said ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, former coach of the Knicks and Rockets. “Failure gets you fired and success gets you fired.”
While the ground all around them has never been more unstable, the last two coaches standing this season have found the kind of level footing that has become increasingly rare. The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, tied 2-2 in the NBA Finals heading into Sunday night’s Game 5, have become the models for stability and managed to rise above the chaotic fray engulfing much of the rest of the league.
“I think it’s a terrible state for the profession right now,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We see it differently, the San Antonio organization and the Miami Heat organization. (To have) true success in the NBA you must have consistency of culture. When you see that type of turnover over and over and over, it’s impossible to create any kind of sustainable consistent culture.”
The Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Bucks, Nets and Hawks all fired their coaches after playoff runs this season. The Bobcats fired Mike Dunlap after one season on the job, while Mike Brown made it all of five games into his second season with the Lakers before he was run out of town.