Head to Head: Who Needs a Coaching Change?


Each season a few teams decide they need to make a change to their coaching staff. So far this season, the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns have made some changes, including the removal of Kevin McHale in Houston. In today’s Head to Head, Moke Hamilton and Ben Dowsett discuss which teams need to make a change at head coach.

Lionel Hollins, Brooklyn Nets

Traditionally, I’ve refrained from advocating for the removal of a head coach. Personally, I feel that the increasing disposability with which we treat head coaches is something that has plagued the NBA. In this case, though, I must admit that Lionel Hollins doesn’t necessarily seem to be the right fit for the Brooklyn Nets. That, however, is due to no fault of his own.

Personally, I am a big fan of Hollins. I like his no nonsense attitude and demeanor. I like that he is a straight shooter. I like that he has some traditional basketball values and demands that his players play both ends of the floor hard and that his big man anchor his team on both ends of the court.

What I don’t like is Lionel Hollins being in a rebuilding situation since he doesn’t appear to have the stomach or the guts for it. He has slowly but surely begun to look and sound like a coach who didn’t sign up for what he is being subjected to.

Since Mikhail Prokhorov took over the franchise, the demand for general manager Billy King and his staff has been to—somehow—find a way to win a championship. The team traded away its future assets to acquire pieces that could help in the immediate term, but with the departures of Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Deron Williams, the Nets are now a sinking ship.

Even worse, they are a sinking ship without quite a few of their draft picks. For Hollins, after being shown the door in Memphis, he was eager to re-enter the coaching ranks. Billy King approached him with an opportunity and, feeling that he had a roster capable of accomplishing some good things, Hollins accepted.

Now, less than two years later, instead of leading a fringe contender that was one or two pieces away from contending—which is what Hollins thought he was getting—he is leading a team full of young, inexperienced players and losing a lot of games.

As someone who covers the Nets closely and has been around the team since its arrival in Brooklyn, I can tell you, first hand, that Hollins lacks the patience and poise required of a coach in a rebuilding situation. From what I’ve heard, there have been more than a few instances where his frustration has boiled over with his players in practice, with one of Hollins’ former players telling me that he felt that Hollins spent more time complaining about the things that were going wrong than explaining what he actually wanted from his players.

A good coach in his own right, I think Hollins would be better served by taking over a team that was closer to competing for a playoff spot and perhaps the conference crown than one that was clearly tearing itself down and beginning an extended rebuilding process.

– Moke Hamilton

Byron Scott, Los Angeles Lakers

Saying any NBA coach absolutely needs to go can often be a presumptive exercise which ignores many of the more difficult or unknown elements of their job. The players can’t be fired, as they say, and coaches are often the first to take the hit publicly or even with the actual loss of their job when things don’t go according to plan.

That said, it’s been abundantly clear since well before the beginning of the season, beyond any reasonable doubt or issue of clarity, that Byron Scott isn’t the right man for the job in Los Angeles. None of this is new information anymore; Scott is stubborn to an extreme fault with his old-fashioned style to the detriment of his entire roster, unwilling to develop the franchise’s stated future core due to a badly misplaced emphasis on winning (which he hasn’t done), and, most damningly, simply not in possession of the tactical acumen to compete with his peers.

A list of Scott’s blatant offenses to both common sense and what the Lakers are (somewhat sloppily) trying to accomplish would be longer than a lifetime criminal’s rap sheet, and we won’t rehash them all here today. It would appear Lakers brass is content to retain Scott until at least the end of the season barring a change of heart, with many speculating they’ve quietly realized he’s their secret weapon who can ensure they lose enough games to hold onto their top-three protected 2016 pick.

Whether or not this is the case, the most important question comes down to whether keeping Scott even for another 50 games might be permanently detrimental to the young group the franchise has acquired in the last couple seasons. Guys like Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and especially second overall pick D’Angelo Russell have all had their share of issues with their coach already in their young careers, and it’s evident to the naked eye that many of his approaches either stagnate their future development or outright detract from it. It’s hard to imagine that a different name at the helm couldn’t do a better job prioritizing skill development for the young pieces, even if the team’s record remained mostly similar. It isn’t too late for Los Angeles to look in another direction, though it seems standing pat is their preferred strategy at the moment.

– Ben Dowsett



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