There is a saying that players win games, coaches lose them. When a team wins, players get all the credit, when the team loses, all fingers are pointed at the coach.
Recently, Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny del Negro was informed by management that his contract, which ends in June, will no longer be renewed. Del Negro led the Clippers to its first ever division title, a franchise best 56-26 record, and the longest winning streak (17) in club history. Despite these achievements, Del Negro was let go after an embarrassing 1st round playoff exit. He leaves as the winningest coach of the franchise with a 128-102 regular season record spanning 3 seasons.
Of course, we all know that Del Negro was let go not due to a lack of coaching skills but because his star players Chris Paul and Blake Griffin disapproved rehiring him. The two reportedly liked him personally but had doubts on whether he was the coach to lead them to the Promised Land. Additionally, Chris Paul will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and the Clippers are moving heaven and earth to ensure that he re-signs with the team.
This includes dumping their head coach. Put simply, Paul and Griffin have free rein in the team and that also includes player signings.
Another high profile coaching change was from the new look Brooklyn Nets. The Nets said they wouldn’t extend interim coach P.J. Carlesimo’s stay. Carlesimo went 35-19 after taking over Avery Johnson’s job in December 2012 who managed only a 14-14 record. The Nets finished with a 49-33 record in their first season at Brooklyn but lost in 7 games in the 1st round versus an undermanned Chicago Bulls.
The team’s Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has spent hundreds of million of dollars, including building a new stadium in Brooklyn, to ensure that the franchise wins “a title in the next five years.” By my count, he only has two years to make good on his promise.
Since he took over, Prokhorov has loaded his team with marquee talent that includes Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and Brook Lopez.
After being fired, Carlesimo has spoken out and said that the team’s goal of winning a title in the next two years may be unrealistic.
Reportedly, the Nets are trying to hire a “tested” coach and have admitted to contacting the legendary Phil Jackson.
Another coach now under fire is the Indiana Pacers’ Frank Vogel. He is being criticized for sitting 7-2 center Roy Hibbert in the final possession of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Presumably without Hibbert, LeBron James had an easy time going straight to the basket, sinking the winning shot to eke out a 103-102 win. Of course, no one blamed Paul George who overplayed and lost James nor did they blame the other four Pacers on the court who left the paint unguarded. They blamed the coach. Coaching truly is a thankless job.