NBA PM: Head Coaches Feeling the Pressure


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Over the past couple of years, there has been a lot of turnover at the head coaching position in the NBA. When things begin to head south, it’s often easier to part ways with a head coach than to overhaul an entire roster.

Since the start of 2016, there have been 12 head coaches hired by NBA teams. Looking at things even further, there are only four head coaches who have been with their current teams for at least five seasons: Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Carlisle and Dwane Casey.

Heading into last season, for instance, there were a number of head coaches who were said to be on the hot seat. Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, George Karl, Randy Wittman and Dave Joerger were among those coaches on the hot seat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that they were all among those whom were let go last season.

Given that there are a lot of coaches in new positions, there doesn’t seem to be too many who are on the hot seat entering this season. Some of the new coaches are being tasked with building from the ground up and others will be trying to adjust to a new situation. While there doesn’t seem to be too many coaches who will be coaching to keep their job, there are a number who will be under increased pressure.

Here are five coaches who will be under pressure to perform well next season (in no particular order):

Frank Vogel, Orlando Magic:

The Orlando Magic invested serious money into their roster over the offseason. They opted to add several veterans to their young roster in an attempt to return to the playoffs. Bismack Biyombo highlighted the Magic’s spending spree this summer as they signed him to a four-year, $68 million deal. In addition, they also added Jeff Green, D.J. Augustin and re-signed Evan Fournier. The team acquired Serge Ibaka on draft night and also added Jodie Meeks from the Detroit Pistons as well. As a result, the team’s payroll is over $100 million.

Vogel was hired by the Magic shortly after Scott Skiles opted to resign from his position as head coach. Many thought the Vogel hiring was a blessing in disguise for the team since Skiles wasn’t viewed by some as the long-term answer at the position. Vogel’s prior success with the Indiana Pacers has many hopeful for the future of the Magic. The reality is Vogel will be tasked with getting the Magic back to the playoffs, after missing the postseason in each of the past four seasons.

Vogel has been extremely confident in press conferences thus far in terms of how successful the team can be next season. He has stated repeatedly that he believes the team can return to playing at a high level of basketball and he even guaranteed the team will win next season. Given the financial investment into the team and Vogel’s expectations, it’s clear that he will be under increased pressure to help the Magic return to the postseason.

Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz:

The Utah Jazz have steadily improved over the past couple of seasons under the watch of Snyder. The Jazz are often on the shortlist of teams with some of the best young players in the league. The team improved from 25 wins the year before Snyder took the job to 38 wins in his first year as head coach. They improved by another two games last season and narrowly missed the playoffs in the Western Conference.

It seems as though the pressure will continue to mount on Snyder next season to get the Jazz back into the playoffs. The team has missed the postseason in each of the past four seasons and will be looking to return next season. The Jazz looked to be in good position last season to make the playoffs, but inconsistent play down the stretch led to the team missing out by one game.

The inconsistent play could be by nature of the team’s younger players learning to play in big moments. The team seems poised to take that next step in their development after adding veterans like George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw this offseason. They added a solid point guard in Hill and a scorer in Johnson. With those additions, and their young players continuing to develop, expectations for the Jazz will surely be higher this season.

Alvin Gentry, New Orleans Pelicans:

Gentry’s first season with New Orleans didn’t quite work out as well as the team would have liked. The team posted 15 fewer wins that they did during the year prior, in which they appeared in the postseason for the first time since 2011. The reality for Gentry and the Pelicans was the team was completely battered by injuries. Several key players like Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon all missed time due to various ailments. The team’s injury concerns were so bad that Gentry joked that the team had more players in their team picture than were on the New Orleans Saints’ roster.

Next year, the pressure will be on Gentry and the Pelicans to have a better season. Obviously, suffering as many injuries as they did was a matter of some bad luck, but the team will be expected to perform better with a healthy lineup returning. They added Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore through free agency and drafted Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo. With a healthy cast of players, Gentry and the Pelicans will be under pressure to return to the playoffs.

Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers:

The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough 2015-16 campaign. They lost Blake Griffin for more than half of the season after Griffin broke his hand after punching a team equipment member and suffered a groin injury. Then, Griffin re-injured his groin and would miss the remainder of the playoffs. The team also lost Chris Paul during the playoffs after Paul broke his hand. After losing two of their top scorers in Griffin and Paul, the Clippers were eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

Next season will be a big one for the Clippers. Griffin and Paul can both opt out of their contracts and become unrestricted free agents next summer. There have been rumors surrounding Griffin’s future with the team after his incident with the equipment member. The team has maintained that they’d like to keep Griffin, but it seems as though his future is still uncertain. With Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan on the roster for at least one more season, the pressure will be on the Clippers to perform at a high level this season.

The Clippers have made the playoffs in five-straight seasons, but have failed to advance past the second round in each year. If they fail to live up to expectations again this season, the team could look to make big changes to the roster and possibly the coaching staff. Rivers also serves as the team’s president of basketball operations, so it remains to be seen if the team would look to move on from him.

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors:

It may seem odd to see Kerr on this list after everything the Golden State Warriors were able to accomplish over the last two seasons. He won a ring, and the team was this close to winning a second consecutive title. But, by virtue of signing Kevin Durant in free agency, the pressure will be on Kerr and the Warriors to perform at a high level again this season. After winning 73 games last season, advancing to the NBA Finals and adding Durant, it’s safe to say that it’s championship or bust for the Warriors next season.

Adding Durant next to the Warriors’ talented core will no doubt raise expectations to an all-time high. If the team isn’t able to live up to the hype, the season could be viewed as a complete loss. The Warriors performed very well under pressure last season, and there is no reason to think that they won’t able to continue that, but it’s worth stating that the team will be under the microscope next season.


While most of these coaches listed seem to be relatively safe in their current positions, they’ll still enter next season with high expectations. The status of head coaches seem to change on a week to week basis, so a down season could prove to be detrimental to their future with their respective teams.


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About Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer entering his fourth season with Basketball Insiders. He covers the league out of Orlando and Miami, focusing on the Southeast Division.

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