Why Fire A Coach?

23 01 2009

Job security has never been an NBA head coaching perk.

Some folks call the yearly coach hirings and firings the “coaching carousel.”  Although it’s more like a coaching drop zone: the head coach gets in the saddle with three of his friends, they slowly rise to the top when suddenly the cable’s cut on them.  They fall, hit rock bottom within seconds and he’s left wondering, that was it?  That was quick; what do I do now?

I really am starting to wonder why newly-minted NBA head coaches even bother accepting the job proposal.  I’m talking more about the Marc Iavaroni’s of the world (not recycled hacks like the Larry Brown’s).

What exactly do they think they can gain by taking a team that went 22-60 before they joined the organization?

Iavaroni is a career NBA man.  He’s spent seven seasons as a player before working the assistant coach circuit. So it’s understandable that he’d take a head coaching shot.  But after dropping another 22-60 record in his first year, he goes 11-30 in his second year.  So the Grizzlies fire him.

The Memphis Grizzlies were scoring 93.0 points per game while giving up 99.2.

Their game pace was 22nd fastest out of the 30 teams, according to basketball-reference.com, their offensive rating is 102.3 (28th) while their defensive rating was 109.2 (22nd).

Even though Iavaroni had OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay and an assortment of seemingly, quick-pace guys, those numbers suggest that he was right to slow the ball down.

Was Memphis expecting a playoff run with a rotation including Mayo, Gay, Marc Gasol, Hakim Warrick, Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur and Quinton Ross?  Who were they kidding?  The FedEx Forum is a sparkly and pretty place but that’s about all you can say for the organization.

Head coaches are fired for several reasons.  Sometimes they just aren’t fit to be NBA head coaches.  Sometimes their team “quits” on them.  There are other reasons, of course.

I’m just not sure what would motivate the firing of Iavaroni halfway through the season.  The atmosphere must have just been horrendous because I just don’t see the logic in jettisoning a head coach halfway through the season.

The interim head coach rarely ever gets their team to perform better.  In fact, firing the head coach signals to the players that “Hey, season’s over.  Show up and play for 28 minutes and then do whatever after the game.  Just make sure not to go over 5 MPH over the speed limit because then Jay Mariotti is going to hurl a moral diatribe at you.  We’ll start over next summer.  Love, Management.”

I used to agree with the thought that cutting ties with a coach during a lottery-bound season is probably the best way to jump-start some production.  It’s a band-aid, right?  It can’t get any worse than this, can it?

Firing a head coach isn’t even a band-aid.  It’s really more like sticking a paper bag on a really ugly date.  When you take the brown bag off later, they’re still gonna look like Ann Coulter.  The only difference is now her face smells like mildew.

A bad team is a bad team.  It seems to me, with a few exceptions, that the worth of a coach is completely dependent on the skill of his players.  It’s not a secret that if you have great players, your team will perform.  And if your team performs, you’ll be seen as a great coach.

See: Doc Rivers and the Boston Celtics — before and after Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Anyone that’s elevated onto the NBA head coaching pedestal knows the game.  Most of them can manage egos and can navigate all of the locker room politics.  So why wasn’t Marc Iavaroni (and PJ Carlesimo, Sam Mitchell, Reggie Theus) given more time?

The Michael Curry’s of the world are put into ideal situations.  They land on good teams with good chemistry and the coach actually has a chance to succeed.

I understand that professional sports is a fickle bitch and I’m glad that coaches get at least some heat (as opposed to it all going to the players).

But what were people expecting from Marc Iavaroni this season?  Rome wasn’t built in a day…

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7 responses

23 01 2009
23 01 2009
maggibee

I have to agree that firing a coach halfway through the season is essentially stupid. But I don’t think teams like the Grizzlies really care whether they win 30 games or 35, I think a lot of decisions in the NBA have nothing to do with basketball. For example, I think it was Marc Stein who said that actually being a good x’s and o’s guy or being really good at man management as a coach in the NBA isn’t that important. It’s all about being able to handle your star players and being able to cooperate with management (not get mad if they want to throw draft picks away to evade the luxury tax for example). Maybe Iavaroni wasn’t getting along with the GM or something, who knows? I am pretty sure his firing had nothing to do with basketball though.

24 01 2009
K-man

maggibee:

Oh definitely. Teams are much more concerned about controlling the brand of their on-court product as well as selling tickets, sponsorships, season tickets, etc. It’s kind of funny how that works…

24 01 2009
Trey

Yeah, the owners of the Grizz hate their team. They want to make money and since no one goes to their games or buys their crap, they make money by dumping players that command high salaries.

So for me the real quesiton is why would you coach at Memphis in the first place? Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo are solid players and could be a good young nucleus, but once their contracts are up management will either trade them or keep them and not resign them.

I’d feel bad for Iavaroni but he was misguided in hitching his star to the Memphis Grizzlies’ wagon in the first place.

30 01 2009
uncutports

I have to agree that firing a coach halfway through the season is essentially stupid.

30 01 2009
picodulce

by the way, i loved the mildewed-smelling ann coulter image.

10 02 2009
Ryan

I would consider Memphis winning 30 games an accomplishment. That team is mad young, they need stability. It made little to no sense.

Curry has shown that he is indeed a novice. That situation has been an utter disaster, however, I’m willing to give Curry some time because JoeD f’ed up royally.

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