When Phoenix gave the pink slip to Earl Watson in October, it ended a remarkable stretch of NBA coaching stability. Before the move to replace Watson, it had been a year-and-a-half since the league last had a coach get fired. Since then, we’ve already had another firing, a stunner that saw Memphis’ David Fizdale take the fall. The halcyon days of coaching peace are over. While it is unclear whether any other franchises are prepared to make in-season changes, there are coaches who should be sweating out the hot seat, even here in early December. In fact, putting together a look at the relative job security of all 28 non-interim coaches in the league, there are eight who could be said to be on the hot seat — with others behind them, warming up. Seat status: Hot, hot, hot Frank Vogel, Magic Vogel is in the second season of a four-year deal, and he has shown he is a pretty good NBA coach. However, he might not be the right coach for the young Magic, a team with a brand new front office still trying to figure out a direction — any coach not hired by the team’s new front office sweats each loss a little more than others. Because of his contract, which is slated to pay him $22 million total, Vogel will likely last the year. After that, a change could be in the offing for Orlando. Mike Budenholzer, Hawks The Hawks have had a change in ownership and a change in the front office, and neither bodes well for Budenholzer. He’s considered one of the best Xs and Os coaches in the league, but with a franchise now headed for a long rebuild, new general manager Travis Schlenk might want to install his own coach. This season is a write-off for Atlanta, so it might make sense to keep Budenholzer around until the end of the year. Jeff Hornacek, Knicks Reality has set back in on the Knicks, and that could spell trouble for Hornacek, another coach laboring under a new regime that did not hire him. The Knicks had a good start, but that was a weak and home-heavy schedule. They’re 1-8 on the road, and that is a problem going forward — the Knicks don’t play back-to-back home games until early February. If their road struggles continue in that stretch the way they’ve unfolded thus far, Hornacek might not last much past the All-Star break. Alvin Gentry, Pelicans The Pelicans considered a move on Gentry last season, but a strong finish after the DeMarcus Cousins trade earned him more time. New Orleans has yet to really establish an identity, never falling more than two games under .500, but never going more than two games over, either. Gentry has had tough luck with injuries since coming to New Orleans in 2015, and he’ll need to get this team into the postseason in order to keep his job. A stretch of five road games out of six started Monday, and those games could decide just how hot his seat gets. Billy Donovan, Thunder The Thunder have not given serious consideration to firing Donovan yet, and he deserves more time before anyone panics. The team hit (hopefully) rock bottom with losses to Dallas and Orlando last week, their sixth and seventh straight road losses. They responded with a three-game winning streak and have played better since, despite an uneven offense and a poor bench. Then they dropped another one at home to the Hornets on Monday night, giving Charlotte its first road win since Oct. 30. This Thunder team was expected to be a contender, so despite the early patience, there will be a short leash on Donovan if things don’t continue to improve. Doc Rivers, Clippers Rivers got a vote of confidence from owner Steve Ballmer, and it is unlikely that the Clippers will make a move during the season, especially with the injuries the team has had. But Rivers assembled this roster, and if things keep going as they’ve been going (15 losses in their last 20 games before Monday), he will be responsible for the disappointment. Fred Hoiberg, Bulls There is a lot to firing Hoiberg that would go beyond a simple coaching replacement. To dump Hoiberg in the first year of Chicago’s rebuilding in earnest would be to admit that the franchise made a massive mistake in its treatment of Tom Thibodeau and the hiring of Hoiberg, and this is not a team that easily admits mistakes — it kept Tim Floyd around for more than three seasons, after all. But the team has been a mess, on and off the floor, and eventually, that falls to the head coach. Dave Joerger, Kings Joerger had his option for 2019-20 picked up in September, so the Kings entered the season thinking they would have some stability in its coaching staff, a rare commodity here. They also entered the year with the full understanding that they were not going to be particularly good. Still, the Kings don’t do much right under Joerger — they’re 29th in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency — and that could cost him sooner or later. Seat status: Simmering Steve Clifford, Hornets Clifford is dealing with health issues, so even as the Hornets underachieve, his job will be safe until he comes back. Jason Kidd, Bucks The Bucks remain in the mix for one of the top of the seeds in the East, but they’re also perilously close to falling to the back of the pack. Kidd needs his team to capitalize on a soft schedule in the next few weeks. Mike Malone, Nuggets The Paul Millsap injury hurts, and now Nikola Jokic has an ankle problem. Denver should stay in the playoff mix, and Malone should be OK as long as that remains the case.
Who's on the hot seat? Evaluating job security of every NBA coach
Sporting News | Dec 12