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NBA Daily: Wave Of Coach Firings Proves How Short Leash Has Gotten

The wave of recent firings shows that the leash has become very short for NBA head coaches, writes Spencer Davies.

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If you’re somebody who gets none of the credit when you do something well and all of the blame when you don’t, you can empathize with an NBA head coach.

The overall outlook regarding today’s team leaders is not so good. Despite not having one firing occur in the 2017-18 season for the first time in 46 years, the field was nowhere near as lucky this time around.

The Phoenix Suns canned Earl Watson three games into the season. The Memphis Grizzlies cut ties with David Fizdale a few weeks after. Twenty-one days following the New Year, Jason Kidd was informed he had been relieved of his duties with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The three mid-season firings were a harbinger of what was to come at the end of the regular season. Front offices all around the league made their mark quickly.

Jeff Hornacek was let go just hours after the New York Knicks’ season finale. The Orlando Magic delivered the same bad news to Frank Vogel the first day after the regular season concluded. Steve Clifford lost his job after a five-year run with the Charlotte Hornets. The Detroit Pistons didn’t give Stan Van Gundy the chance to see his vision through. And of course, most recently, the Toronto Raptors shockingly terminated Dwane Casey despite the progress made since he took over.

There was another change in head coaching, though this was not under the same circumstances as the others. Mike Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks mutually parted ways due to disagreements in philosophy and his desire to win now instead of rebuilding.

So count them up—that’s eight firings that occurred in an NBA year. That’s quite a few names that got the boot from their respective franchises.

We can sit here and argue all day about whether the correct decisions were made in any individual situation, but one thing is for sure—the leash is much shorter and the microscope is much closer on head coaches.

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue spoke in disbelief regarding the firing of Casey at practice last weekend and addressed the difficulties of being in the position.

“It’s very hard,” Lue said. “I think when you have guys getting paid millions of dollars and the players make more than you do, it’s kinda hard to tell a guy what to do. It’s not a lot of jobs where the employees get paid more than the boss. It’s a different atmosphere and it’s a thin line.”

Lue continued to support his evidence by discussing the superstardom that the athletes put forth and how to get those guys to focus on the task at hand.

“We know it’s a players league and they run the league and we understand that,” Lue said. “It’s a tough job, especially when you’ve got stars and superstars and All-Stars. It’s a tough job. You’ve just got to be a people’s person.

“It’s more about managing the egos and personalities than it is about Xs and Os. That’s the hardest part.”

It seems as if that, paired with the high demand to win games consistently, has been the reason for the demise of head coaches. Rarely have front offices given the time and space to let them grow a culture and create an environment conducive to building good team habits.

It’s a huge problem that the wave of non-tenured head coaches face because of impatience from an owner or general manager, or in some cases, both. The sooner the NBA higher-ups realize it takes more than three or four years to work towards the goal of a championship, the better.

Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers are a prime example. Player development and the sprinkling in of veterans have made them a real player in the Eastern Conference for the near future. What if Sam Hinkie or Bryan Colangelo would’ve gotten rid of him after only a few years?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the decisions were warranted. Consistent losing shouldn’t be rewarded, especially with some of the competition levels those lower-tier teams displayed.

But these knee-jerk decisions with ball clubs that take baby steps but don’t take a full step forward are misguided. Organizations have to remember how talented this league really is. The veteran superstars are going to probably run the show when it comes to the postseason, especially when they’re banded together aiming to achieve a common goal.

If they really like the person, it’s on a franchise to ignore the outside noise and trust that head coach to improve this respective team on a game-by-game, month-by-month, and season-by-season basis.

Who knows? Maybe the next superstars may come out of it as a result.

Just ask….well, trust the process.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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