The NBA head coaching profession is among the least stable in all of sports. Some franchises cycle through a new head coach seemingly every year. The names who hold jobs for a decade or more are essentially legends, and even then, respected status and success is no guarantee of stability. The axiom goes that when things go south for an NBA team, it’s much easier to fire the coach than fire the players. And so teams fire coaches.
Against that backdrop, though, it does appear that stability is improving for NBA head coaches in recent years.
We looked at coaching data for all 30 teams over the past decade to determine whether coaches now enjoy more stability. This season, the median NBA head coach has been in his job for three full seasons, a longer median tenure than at any point in the past decade. The average NBA head coach tenure this season is 3.7 years, also the highest mark in at least a decade. (We did not go back beyond the 2010-11 season.)
While Gregg Popovich’s exceptionally long Spurs tenure does skew the average upward, it does so in previous seasons as well. Plus, Jerry Sloan’s 21-year tenure was captured in the 2010-11 data, and the average tenure despite that was 2.7 years. There are other indicators that stability has increased, as well.
There are currently nine NBA head coaches with at least five years of tenure in their current jobs: Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Rick Carlisle, Terry Stotts, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers, Brett Brown, Quin Snyder, and Steve Kerr. Last year, there were seven such coaches. In the prior eight seasons, there were as few as three in multiple seasons and never more than five coaches with five years on the job. So we are more frequently seeing coaches get to a second contract, given that initial head coach contracts are usually for three to five years.