With Keith Smart no longer in charge of the Sacramento Kings, George Karl getting the axe in Denver, Vinny Del Negro being booted by the Clippers, and then today Lionel Hollins not getting an extension in Memphis, there have been a total of 12 NBA head coaches bounced since the end of the regular season, and I’m left wondering: What does a coach have to do to keep his job?
OK, Smart’s firing I understand. In his time on the throne with the Kings, he was an abysmal 48-93, and often his rotation looked like it was pulled from a hat filled with random names.
But Karl, Hollins and Del Negro. Why?
Here’s how I imagine the final conversations went with the team’s higher ups and these three talented and successful coaches:
“Hey coach, come in and have a seat. First off, thanks for turning this sham organization into a winner, but one quick question. What have you done for me lately?
“Oh, OK that’s pretty darn good, but it’s not enough.”
For Karl, all he did this season was win a franchise record 57 games, get named the NBA Coach of the Year and earn the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Oh yeah, and he didn’t have one all-star selection on the whole squad as he put Denver in the playoffs for the eighth straight year. They did fall in the first round of the playoffs in seven of those eight years, but we all know what happened when the Kings soured on Rick Adelman too early — seven years and counting without a whiff of the playoffs.
That brings me to the Grizzlies parting ways with Hollins. Let’s look at possible reasons Memphis felt the need to move on.
Was it possibly because he led the team to a franchise record in wins with 56, six more wins than any season previously, or was it because they earned their first berth into the Western Conference Finals? Nope, apparently it was philosophical differences. What possible philosophical differences could they be talking about? Bottom line was that Hollins wins with less talent than other teams, but that must not be what the Grizzlies are interested in — winning that is.
Finally, Del Negro got clipped from the Clippers despite leading them to the Pacific Division championship with a 56-26 record. Del Negro was 128-102 in three years with Lob City, improving every season and with 50 of his losses coming in his first year.
Has the NBA really gotten to the point where its championship or bust for all 30 teams? If that’s true, I have a sad realization for all the coaches in the league that aren’t with the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs — your days are limited.
And on that note, best of luck to the new incoming Kings coach, Eric Musselman, oops, I mean Reggie Theus — nope that’s not it — Kenny Natt, no not him either — Paul Westphal, no that’s wrong also — Smart, no that’s the guy who got shown the door — oh yeah, Mike Malone. Go get ’em Malone. I’m sure the Kings will give you a season or so to turn the franchise around.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.