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NBA AM: Is Doc Rivers Next, How About Vogel?

With the Grizzlies firing David Fizdale, who is the next coach to watch?

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Is Doc Rivers Next, How About Vogel?

The Memphis Grizzlies abruptly put an end yesterday to a situation that’s been brewing for quite some time.

Head coach David Fizdale and Memphis center Marc Gasol had been at odds for several months going all the way back to the end of the season last year. Fizdale had one more year remaining on his deal and was owed some $3 million in addition to his team option. The Grizzlies were going nowhere fast, so the decision was a fairly easy one, especially after it seemed Fizdale and Gasol were not going to come together.

The Grizzlies have named assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff as interim head coach and will let him coach out the season.

With Fizdale joining former Suns coach Earl Watson as head coaches fired before the new year, the question becomes who is next?

Orlando’s Frank Vogel can’t be sleeping well after his team dropped a ninth straight loss last night in Indiana. The prevailing thought around the Magic is Vogel is still fairly safe, although nine straight is a tough hill to climb, especially with the Thunder and Warriors headed to Orlando this week, which could reasonably put Orlando at 11 straight losses this time next week.

Few NBA coaches survive 12-15 loss stretches, so time will tell if the Magic turn the page on Vogel, who has two years and some $11 million remaining on his contract, a contract that pays him roughly $5.5 million per year.

While the Magic still seem more than committed to Vogel, LA Clippers coach Glen “Doc” Rivers continues to be a name to watch not just in terms of the hot seat, but where could end up if he is indeed gone from the Clippers.

Like the Magic, the Clippers endured a hefty stretch of nine losses, dropping the Hawk last week to end the skid. Still, that hasn’t ended the speculation that of all the coaches on the so-called bubble, Rivers could be the guy to watch.

Rivers has one more year on his deal worth what’s believed to be almost $12 million. The Clippers underwent a massive front office overhaul this past summer, removing many of the personnel responsibilities from Rivers and setting the stage to make an exist less traumatic for the organization.

With the news last night that Clippers star Blake Griffin may have suffered a significant knee injury – although he left the building last night under his own power and without a brace or crutches – the question becomes whether there’s anything gained in an in-season coaching change if the Clippers have indeed come off the rails.

It seems more likely than not that this should be Rivers last season with the Clippers; the writing has been on the wall for some time that he may not be the coach that turns the tide of the team. The question becomes how much longer will he remain at the helm of the team.

The Clippers have lost seven of their last 10 games and have not looked very effective against comparable talent. There is little doubt the Clippers have endured some crazy injuries in the early part of the season, but if Griffin is going to miss extended time, things could go from bad to worse.

There is a prevailing belief that Rivers doesn’t have much of an appetite for a rebuilding situation and given that the Clippers don’t have a lot of youth to lean on, things with the Clippers could get murky fast.

The Chicago Bulls find themselves in a similar situation as the Clippers, having dropped five straight games and nine of their last 10. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is also a name to watch, although league sources contend its far more likely Hoiberg finishes the season, mainly because the Bulls were constructed to lose games as they embark on a rebuild and there isn’t much to be gained in replacing the coach.

Hoiberg was hand-picked by the Bulls front office of John Paxson and Gar Forman and have remained committed to him despite the results suggesting he may not be the right guy for the NBA. Hoiberg agreed to a five-year deal in May of 2015 and has two years remaining on his deal.

Historically, most teams give their existing staffs at least 20 games before making big decisions like coaching and roster change, however with some teams circling the NBA drain already, there seems to be more coaching volatility on the horizon.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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