Which NBA head coaches are on the proverbial hot seat?
Being an NBA head coach is a tough gig.
Not only are there so few NBA coaching opportunities, the industry is highly volatile and in many instances, the results are out of the control of the coach.
Every season there is talk about which NBA coach is on the proverbial “hot seat”. In many cases, the coach on the “hot seat” ultimately loses his job during or after the season. The 2016 offseason set a record for coaching turnover as 10 teams named new permanent head coaches per Hooprumors.com.
However, no team has changed coaches since then.
San Antonio Spurs icon Greg Popovich is the longest tenured coach, having been hired in December 1996. Popovich is currently the seventh winningest coach in NBA history though he is second in winningest percentage among coaches with over 1,000 games coached (fourth overall).
The 68-year-old has posted an overall record of 1,150-506 (.694) and won five NBA championships. Popovich needs just 21 victories this year to move up to fifth place on the NBA wins list.
Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra and Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle are the only other current coaches hired last decade. Both were hired during the 2008 offseason.
The rest of the article will look at how much pressure (i.e. how hot is their seat) each of the 30 coaches will face to perform this year. The coaches will be ranked by how “hot their seat is” and will also include their hiring date in parentheses.
1. Alvin Gentry, Pelicans (May 2015): New Orleans dragged their feet on their decision to keep Gentry this offseason according to Pro Basketball Talk.
Reading between the lines if the Pelicans don’t get off to a strong start this upcoming season Gentry’s seat could get hot quickly. Gentry is 64-100 in two seasons in New Orleans. The Pelicans has its most talent in years with Jrue Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
2. Fred Hoiberg, Bulls (June 2015): Hoiberg and the Bulls sneaked into playoffs this past season and won two playoff games. Hoiberg could feel a little less pressure with Chicago looking to rebuild. But if there is no improvement, don’t expect Hoiberg to back next year.
3. Jeff Hornacek, Knicks (June 2016): Hornacek will likely be given a little rope but not too much as a new regime is running the Knicks organization – Steve Mills and Scott Perry. Mills, who is now the President of the team, was previously the Knicks general manager and vice president. Perry was previously an executive with the Sacramento Kings. The Knicks finished the year 31-51, which included losing 38 of their last 53 games.
4. Doc Rivers, Clippers (June 2013): Rivers has done a fairly good job in Los Angeles though the Clippers have not reached the Western Conference finals in any of his four seasons. In fact, the Clippers have seen their win total decrease in each of the four seasons and have been booted from the playoffs in the first round. Rivers, who lost his role as the team’s GM, won’t have Chris Paul running the show this year.
5. Stan Van Gundy, Pistons (May 2014). Van Gundy is an excellent coach though it may be time for him to give up his dual role as president of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy is entering his fourth season in Mo-town and this year could decide whether he is back next season. The 57-year-old has missed the playoffs three times in 11 years as head coach with two of those times occurring in the last three seasons.
6. Michael Malone, Nuggets (June 2015): Malone has been an NBA head coach for four seasons – two in Sacramento and two in Denver – and has yet to make the playoffs. He has compiled a 112-158 record. Denver has made some intriguing moves this summer, but they still play in the Western Conference.
7. Brett Brown, 76ers (August 2013): It is time for Brown to start winning. Brown has done a whale of a job in his first four seasons given the circumstances. Philadelphia won 28 games in 2016-17, which was the Sixers most since he took over the job. Brown doesn’t have to make the playoffs this year necessarily, but the Sixers need to make a significant improvement.
8. Tyronn Lue, Cavaliers (January 2016): There are major questions whether Lue can coach. Lue has been to two NBA Finals, winning one championship, and has posted a 78-45 record. Lue’s fate could ultimately depend whether Lebron James support of him sways in the other direction.
9. Steve Clifford, Hornets (May 2013). Clifford has done a good job in his four seasons in Charlotte, reaching the playoffs twice and posting a 160-168 record. The Hornets went 36-46 last season after concluding the season 1-5. Clifford could face a little pressure if the Hornets get off to a poor start.
10. Jason Kidd, Bucks (July 2014): Kidd has led Milwaukee to the playoffs in two of his three years though he has compiled just a 116-130 overall record. The Bucks will likely need to make significant strides this year for Kidd to stay off the hot seat as several Eastern Conference teams took a step back or did not improve during the offseason. Kidd will likely rely heavily on budding star Giannis Antetokounmpo this season.
11. Dwane Casey, Raptors (June 2011): Casey has done a fantastic job in Toronto, leading the Raptors four straight playoffs — including three Atlantic Division titles in the last four years. But the franchise’s all-time wins leader could feel a little pressure if the Raptors take a step back this year as the Cavs appears a little vulnerable. The thing is the Raptors didn’t do much this offseason besides re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
12. Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves (April 2016). Thibodeau had a disappointing first season in Minnesota, posting a 31-51 record which included a fifth-place finish in the Northwest division. Thibs is regarded as a top-notch coach and the Wolves have a lot of young talent. But if things go south once again this year, Thibodeau’s seat could get a tad bit hot heading into next season.
13. Terry Stotts, Trail Blazers (August 2012): Stotts has done a fabulous job in his five seasons in Portland. Stotts has led the Blazers to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, which includes two playoff series wins.
Although Stotts has three years left on his contract, the Trail Blazers have seen their victory totals decrease in each of the last three seasons despite having one of the best backcourt combos in the league.
14. Earl Watson, Suns (February 2016): Watson only has been a head coach for 115 games. Phoenix won 24 games last year after going just 9-24 under Watson after he took over for Jeff Hornacek. The problem is that Phoenix is kind of in purgatory in the tough Western Conference.
15. Mike Budenholzer, Hawks (May 2013): Budenholzer is the Hawks all-time winningest coach since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968 with a .576 winning percentage. Budenholzer has posted a 189-139 record in four seasons, which includes four straight playoff appearances with the Hawks. The 2014-15 NBA coach of the year led the Hawks to 60 wins that year an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
16. Dave Joerger, Kings (May 2016): The big question is what are the Kings trying to do? Sacramento traded DeMarcus Cousins and did not re-sign Rudy Gay. But they added free agents Vince Carter and Zach Randolph. Sacramento went 32-50 in Joerger’s first season.
17. Frank Vogel, Magic (May 2016): Vogel had a successful run with the Indiana Pacers, reaching the Eastern Conference finals in two of the five years that he was with the team. Vogel, who is 279-234 overall, endured his worst season as a head coach with Orlando (29-53) last year.
18. David Fizdale, Grizzlies (May 2016): Fizdale, a long-time NBA assistant coach, got his first head coaching gig with Memphis — guiding the Grizzlies to a 43-39 record in 2016-17.
19. Nate McMillan, Pacers (May 2016): McMillan guided Indiana to a 42-40 record last season though the Pacers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Cavaliers. Indiana has taken several steps back with the trade of star Paul George.
20. Scott Brooks, Wizards (April 2016): Brooks had a highly successful seven-year stint with the Thunder before being fired, and continued that success during his first season with the Wizards (49-33) last year.
The 49 wins were the most by the franchise since the 1978-1979 campaign. The Wiz also won their first division title since then. Expectations will be high for Wizards this year.
21. Kenny Atkinson, Nets (April 2016): Atkinson did an admirable job leading Brooklyn to 20 wins in his first season last year.
22. Luke Walton, Lakers (April 2016): Walton is a highly energetic coach who also is a player’s coach. He will be an NBA coach for a long time.
23. Mike D’Antoni, Rockets (June 2016): D’Antoni worked his magic with Houston last year, leading the Rockets to the Conference finals. The Rockets won 14 more games (55) than they did in 2015-16. They also were the second-highest scoring team in the league and had the third most assists in 2016-17. D’Antoni was named NBA coach of the year last season.
24. Billy Donovan, Thunder (April 2015): Donovan is 102-62 in two seasons in OKC. He did a fabulous job leading the Thunder to the playoffs this past season despite losing Kevin Durant in free agency.
25. Quinn Snyder, Jazz (June 2014): Utah has improved in each of its first three seasons under the direction of Snyder. Snyder is 129-117 with the Jazz, which includes 50 wins last year – reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
26. Rick Carlisle, Mavericks (May 2008): Owner Mark Cuban appears to admire the job that Carlisle has done during his tenure and the Mavs are currently in a rebuilding mode. Carlisle took over for Avery Johnson on May 9, 2008 and won 50 games in his first season.
Carlisle is the franchise’s all-time leading wins leader with a 413-309 record (.572 winning percentage). He has led the Mavericks to the playoffs seven of his nine seasons, which includes the club’s lone championship (2011).
27. Erik Spoelstra, Heat (April 2008): Spoelstra is the second longest current head coach as he has been with the Heat since 2008. It appeared that the Heat needed a new voice last year as they got off to a 10-31 start to the season.
However, the Heat turned things around during the second half of the season finishing the season with a 41-41 record. Spoelstra is the winningest coach in franchise history with a .609 winning percentage. He also has the second most wins with the franchise (440-282) just 14 fewer than Pat Riley despite coaching in 123 fewer games. In addition, Spoelstra was Riley’s hand-picked successor.
28. Brad Stevens, Celtics (July 2013). Stevens is one of hottest coaching commodities in the NBA and he is still only 40. The C’s have improved in each of Stevens four years on the sidelines and they reached the Eastern Conference finals last season for the first time since 2011-12.
29t. Steve Kerr, Warriors (May 2014): Kerr has won two NBA championships in three years, enough said. The only question is how long his back will hold up?
29t. Gregg Popovich, Spurs (December 1996): Popovich, who was the Spurs general manager and vice president at the time, took over head coaching duties after firing Bob Hill 18 games into the 1996-1997 campaign. And as they say, the rest is history. Popovich has earned the right to be on the sidelines for as long as he desires.