It sounds crazy, but the 2019-20 NBA regular season is in the home stretch, as the playoffs start in just under six weeks. We are starting to get to a point now where it’s like, “Let’s just get to the playoffs already,” because it seems like we know who is contending and who isn’t and who stinks and who doesn’t.
That also means we have a general idea of which coaches may be in trouble once this season concludes. There could be a good amount of NBA coaching turnover this offseason, so here are five coaches on the hot seat, interim coaches not included.
5. Scott Brooks
Yes, everyone expected the Washington Wizards to stink this season with John Wall being out and all, but let’s be honest: people have talked about Scott Brooks being on the hot seat here before.
Since taking over in 2016-17, Brooks has really had one solid season, which was that first year when the Wizards won 49 games and lost to the Boston Celtics in a classic seven-game second-round playoff series.
The following year, Washington won 43 games and got bounced in the first round. Last season, the Wizards went just 32-50.
I’m not sure how much better Washington would be even with a healthy Wall (maybe the No. 7 or No. 8 seed), but it wouldn’t be good enough to seriously contend. The Wizards’ defense has been a total train wreck and wouldn’t be that much better with Wall, and Brooks has become noticeably frustrated with his team’s effort.
Brooks shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame for this, but we have seen enough to know that the veteran coach should be on the hot seat going into the summer.
4. Lloyd Pierce
Some had the Atlanta Hawks pegged as a potential playoff sleeper in the Eastern Conference this season. Clearly, that has not come to fruition, as the Hawks are wallowing near the bottom of the NBA standings.
Perhaps we simply overrated Atlanta’s young talent, particularly on the defensive end where the Hawks have been absolutely abysmal. But the problem is that, as a collective, Atlanta has shown little progression from last season, and that reflects rather poorly on Lloyd Pierce.
Pierce has only been the coach in Atlanta for two years now, but he has gone just 49-99, so it’s certainly possible that the Hawks may have seen enough. It doesn’t help that there were rumblings of discord in the locker room earlier this season when things were really going bad.
Again, you can’t pin the Hawks’ lack of success this season totally on Pierce, because it seems pretty obvious that this roster is still growing and is a bit flawed. John Collins’ 25-game suspension also didn’t help matters.
However, it’s the fact that Atlanta hasn’t moved forward at all that may end up sealing Pierce’s fate.
3. Mike D’Antoni
We know Mike D’Antoni is a wizard during the regular season.
He will probably be leading the Houston Rockets to their fourth straight 50-plus-win campaign under his direction, and he has done a fine job leading an offense led by a combustible tandem of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
But we know how the story ends for D’Antoni.
Since becoming a head coach for the Phoenix Suns all the way back in 2003-04, D’Antoni has never taken a team to the NBA Finals. Yes, he has tallied three 60-win seasons, and he has made it to three conference finals.
However, due to his lack of commitment to defense and his somewhat gimmicky offensive schemes tending to get exposed in the playoffs, he has never gotten over the hump. This season, Houston is going all in on the super-small-ball experiment.
If the Rockets lose early in the playoffs again this spring, could it mark the end of the D’Antoni era in Houston? There was already drama with his contract extension negotiations before this season, so this could be the end of the line if Houston flops again in the postseason.
2. Jim Boylen
This is a similar situation to Pierce.
Like the Hawks, the Chicago Bulls were looked at as a possible playoff contender by some going into the season, as they had a very nice stable of young talent and actually played pretty well at points during the second half of last season.
Well, the Bulls have fallen flat in 2019-20, as they are just 21-43 and will not be heading to the postseason.
It’s not just that Jim Boylen hasn’t done a great job as far as X’s and O’s are concerned; the players seem to genuinely dislike him, which almost always ends in a dismissal. The coach has also become something of a laughingstock around the NBA with his bizarre timeouts and comments to the media.
Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg in the middle of last season, and even then, there were some problems. (Remember the attempted mutiny?) The embattled front office has stood behind Boylen, but it’s still hard to imagine Boylen making it to next year, especially with the rumored changes coming to management.
If he does stick around, Bulls fans are not going to be happy.
1. Brett Brown
Imagine a scenario where a team enters a season as an NBA Finals contender and ends up losing in the first round.
That is exactly what may end up happening to the Philadelphia 76ers this season, and even if it definitely wouldn’t all be on Brett Brown, he would end up taking the heat.
At this point, it would be surprising if the Sixers made any sort of playoff run. Their roster is flawed and injured, and the players seem to have lost respect for Brown.
Brown is an incredibly nice guy, but similar to Boylen: once you lose the players as a coach, you’re basically done.
Some were calling for Brown’s job two years ago, so if Philadelphia ends up bowing out early in the playoffs this season, it would be a surprise if he is back on the bench next year.