National Basketball Association
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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
How warm is the hot seat?
(L-R) Mike Woodson, Jason Kidd and Randy Wittman The expendable nature of the coaching fraternity is nothing new.
Philadelphia, PA ( - Isn't it ridiculous to discuss coaching changes just three weeks into an NBA season?

One would think, but that seemingly unfair notion has become reality. Mike Brown was fired five games into last season and Avery Johnson lost his job on Dec. 27, so time is no longer an affordable luxury for head coaches.

Nor is it for general managers and owners, some of whom have come out before the season and put unrealistic mandates on winning now. Some of those proclamations vary in terms of what winning means. For a few teams, winning means NBA titles and for others, it's just making the postseason.

However, it's not just about preposterous expectations any more. Coaches have been let go at an alarmingly high rate lately for reasons other than X's and O's.

George Karl won Coach of the Year last season -- fired because ownership thought he'd be a pain in the posterior with just one year left on his contract.

Lionel Hollins took the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference finals last season -- fired because he didn't embrace the statistical analysis way of thinking the Grizzlies adopted.

P.J. Carlesimo earned the Brooklyn Nets the Eastern Conference's fourth seed after Johnson was let go early -- fired because, despite an outstanding beard, he wasn't a sexy enough choice for billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

The expendable nature of the coaching fraternity is nothing new, but this season offers even more reason for early termination based on the above names and more.

There are some truly amazing coaches sitting on the sideline, or an ESPN studio, waiting for another opportunity.

Phil Jackson is of course at the top of anyone's list, although his availability seems far-fetched unless he dates one of the executives for the team.

Karl, Hollins, Johnson, Byron Scott, Nate McMillan, Alvin Gentry, Doug Collins and either Van Gundy -- just pick a Van Gundy, any Van Gundy -- are all willing, able and in some cases, better than what a current team has.

Contracts have something to do with it as well, just ask Karl. Lame-duck status is not good for anyone involved. This is a business after all.

So whose seat sits hottest?

That would belong to New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson.

The team won the Atlantic Division last season and owner James Dolan put out a dreaded win-now edict. According to reports, Dolan met with Woodson after a 31-point blowout home loss to the San Antonio Spurs and in a weirder report, Dolan apparently has someone tailing Woodson. That's normal, right?

It's impossible to discount the Dolan factor in this equation, but let's try. On the court, the Knicks are 3-8 and have dropped six in a row in Madison Square Garden,

The Knicks are 25th in scoring and tied for 15th in opponents' scoring. They are doing nothing right.

Does Woodson deserve the questions about his job? Probably not. The Knicks are without All-Star center Tyson Chandler, who is a premiere defensive player and rebounder. J.R. Smith provides more headaches than bad tequila and some players, Raymond Felton in particular, have regressed this season.

If Woodson doesn't turn it around quickly, Dolan will fire him. Yes, Dolan is a little goofy, and the Knicks' roster is not constructed to win a title now, so the blame shouldn't fall completely on Woodson.

However, this is an underachieving lot and when that happens, the coach is the one to go.

I guess, to sum up, Woodson isn't the one to blame totally, but he is not blameless either.

Across town, the Brooklyn Nets are dreadful. Jason Kidd is a first-year coach and there are growing pains associated with that.

So that begs the question: why hire a man with no experience, who you yourselves became interested in when he expressed interest in the job, to coach a team with a championship-caliber roster? It's profoundly dumb and the Nets are 3-8 because of it.

(And, because Kevin Garnett looks done and Deron Williams can't stay healthy.)

Kidd is not getting fired. But his hiring was a bad idea that looks worse every day.

Randy Wittman of the Washington Wizards was Vegas' favorite to be first coach fired. The Wiz were one of those teams that had some playoff expectations before the season and are just 4-7.

Wittman is in some trouble. Based on Washington's play in the second half last season, a postseason berth was certainly possible. The Wizards are in the bottom-third of the league in defense. He does not have a contract for next season and that does not add up to a promising situation.

Utah's Ty Corbin has this year left on his contract and his Jazz are a league- worst 1-12. The team went with a youth movement this season and less than no expectations. Trey Burke, the point guard of the future, hasn't played a second because of a fractured hand. Corbin won't get fired imminently, but hopefully, he only has a one-year lease.

Dwane Casey was my choice as first coach fired. He doesn't have a deal next season and people thought the Raptors were a playoff contender, so those delusions could hurt him. Toronto is 5-7 so that's not great except that record puts them atop the horrendous Atlantic Division. You can't really let go of the guy leading his division, can you?

Those are the names that are in a wee bit of danger at this point. You may think it's too soon, but someone will be fired before Christmas. It's not merry, but that's what's become of the head coaching profession.


- Kobe Bryant will be back before December. All the Lakers needed to do was stay near .500 and they've sort of done that. Can he get them into the playoff mix? He's a free agent next season and people think he won't be the same, so I'm betting on Kobe.

- Is there a better franchise in sports than the San Antonio Spurs? A record of 10-1 and nary a mention of them.

- Chris Paul has opened the season with 12 straight games of 10-plus points and 10-plus assists. The only other player to ever to do that ... no one. No one did that in NBA history prior to Paul.

- Jimmy Butler will be out of action for at least a week as the Chicago Bulls go on their annual Circus Trip. Kirk Hinrich will fill in nicely, but they weren't the deepest team in the league, so they're going to be a tired group of seven guys when this sojourn ends.

- I smiled about Vince Carter telling Dwight Howard, "you're the biggest crybaby I know."

- The premature nails in the Memphis Grizzlies' coffin can be officially removed. They went 4-0 on a recent western trip and knocked off both the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. Give them time, the Grizz will still be really good.

- Movie moment - I'm probably not going to see the "Entourage" movie.

- TV moment - I didn't like "Entourage" in the end.