The 2014-15 NBA season is coming up on the midway point for most teams. Some teams have already hit the 41-game mark on their season while others are just a couple of games away. The halfway mark of the season is a good time to see how a team is progressing and what changes need to be made to further improve. Sometimes the changes that need to be made are relatively small, while other times the changes are drastic such as replacing the head coach.
The bar for head coaches across the league has been set very high in recent years and there has been plenty of turnover. There have been 10 coaching changes made within the past eight months alone, with the most recent move coming last month when the Sacramento Kings fired Mike Malone. At this point in the season, teams either find themselves in the playoff race or in the lottery race. Coaching changes are often made when a coach has proven that he can’t further improve his team, when he’s lost the locker room or simply because the team needs a new direction.
Here are five coaches who are on the hot seat:
Jacque Vaughn, Orlando Magic (15-29)
If there’s one thing that’s been clear in Orlando, it’s that the Magic have not lived up to expectations. Vaughn was hired two seasons ago with the expectation that the team would be building from the ground up after parting ways with Dwight Howard. With that also came an expectation that Vaughn would eventually have to put it all together and show that his team is capable of winning games and it seems that time has come for Vaughn in Orlando. To be fair, Vaughn is working with a really young team and has had to deal with several injuries to key players, but a 15-29 record just over the halfway point can’t be blamed entirely on inexperience and injuries.
Vaughn has shown flashes of becoming a successful head coach, but he has been inconsistent. Also, some of his rotations and decisions have been questionable. The Magic have accumulated just five wins at home and are ahead of only the Timberwolves, Knicks and 76ers on their home court. The team has suffered some embarrassing losses like the 127-99 home defeat against the Thunder on Sunday night or the 101-84 loss to the Lakers earlier this month and the 96-88 home loss to the 76ers back in December. It appears that Vaughn may not have the full approval of the front office, as general manager Rob Hennigan recently seemed non-committal about Vaughn’s job security.
Ty Corbin, Sacramento Kings (16-24)
It seems as though Corbin will remain the team’s head coach for the duration of this season, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll remain on board much longer after that. The Kings signed Corbin through the end of this season, but failed to share that with the players as most of them found out the news via Twitter.
Since the Kings opted to fire Mike Malone, the team has gone 5-10 under Corbin and has looked lost. The players seem uninterested in Corbin as their coach and seem to feel betrayed by the firing of Malone. Rudy Gay has said as much and questions the team’s direction.
“I feel lost,” Gay said, via the Sacramento Bee. “I feel like I’ve changed my game to be more of a playmaker. I’ve made an effort to do that. At times I get lost out there. But everybody is lost. There is no movement, no offensive movement, no defensive movement. We get very stagnant. That’s a big part of our problem.”
DeMarcus Cousins has also been critical of the team’s recent play and seems upset with the coaching change. Further reason to believe that Corbin will be out is that team has been linked heavily to free agent head coach George Karl. If the team is serious about hiring Karl, they could be waiting to make a move during the offseason when Karl has an opportunity to hire his own coaching staff and make improvements to the roster. The team has also been linked to Mark Jackson and talked about hiring Chris Mullin from within the organization, but it appears Karl is their main target.
Brian Shaw, Denver Nuggets (18-23)
Coming into the season, the Nuggets were pegged as a team that could be a dark horse playoff contender. The team brought back Arron Afflalo in a trade with the Magic and were returning a healthy squad after a 2013-14 campaign in which they were decimated by injuries. Even in the tough Western Conference, many thought the Nuggets would be able to compete.
After 42 games, the Nuggets have picked up just 18 wins and are currently sitting 11th in the West – five and a half games out of the last playoff spot. This is a veteran-laden team that should be winning now, as they have one of the most underrated point guards in the league in Ty Lawson who is currently leading the league in assists and a shooting guard in Afflalo who is a talented two-way threat, a very good forward in Kenneth Faried who signed a four-year, $50 million extension in October and is coming off of a productive summer with Team USA. With complementary players in Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari Randy Foye and J.J. Hickson, the Nuggets should be better than their record currently reflects and it could be Shaw that pays the price.
Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans (20-21)
The Pelicans are another team that should be better than their record indicates. Like the Nuggets last season, the Pelicans also suffered a lot of injuries. However, the Pelicans have remained relatively healthy this season with Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Omer Asik all playing at least 35 games. Still, Monday’s loss to the Knicks dropped the Pelicans three and a half games out of the last playoff spot.
As past moves indicate, it’s clear the Pelicans want to win right now. They have traded away multiple first-round picks to bring in veteran contributors such as Holiday and Asik. Williams might have been given a pass due to the amount of injuries last year, but he is under the microscope in New Orleans. The front office likely wanted to see what Williams could do with the team when they were healthy and hovering around .500 may not be enough. It’s too early to tell whether or not Williams’ job is safe, as that decision will likely come at the end of the season. If the team can stay alive in the playoff hunt for the rest of the season, that might buy Williams another season. However, it’s clear that the Pelicans pieces, specifically Davis, aren’t being utilized to their full potential.
David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers (21-20)
It seems like each time a rumor surfaces about Blatt being on the hot seat in Cleveland, there’s an immediate answer downplaying it. If it seems like something is wrong, something is probably wrong. Heading into this season, the Cavaliers had an enormous amount of expectations on them and they just haven’t seemed to put it all together yet. LeBron James’ first season in Miami started off rocky too, but not like this. The HEAT started off 9-8 that season, but then rattled off 12 straight wins and began to look like the team everyone expected them to be.
At this point of the season, the Cavaliers don’t look like they’re in a position to win 12 games in a row any time soon. In fact, the team has gone 3-7 over its last 10 games. Perhaps the expectations were too high on the first-year NBA head coach. It seems like, at the very least, the team is going to stick with him for the time being, but an early exit in the playoffs could change that decision. It also doesn’t help Blatt that Tyronn Lue (who received consideration for the head coaching job over the summer) is on the bench as a possible interim head coach should they make a change.
Firing a coach during the season usually doesn’t help a team much. Teams can’t bring in their long-term coach during the season and have an effective run. Coaching candidates are usually brought in after the season when they can assemble their own coaching staff and bring in players that best fit their system. The five names mentioned should be monitored for the duration of the season and could be on their way out.
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