A coach by definition is an instructor or trainer in a specific sport. Coach also means a railroad car, but that is not the definition that will be discussed in this list.
The NBA is filled with nothing but talent and some coaches know to maximize the talent on their team and others do not. One example of a coach that gets the most out of his players is Gregg Popovich. Coach Popovich has led the San Antonio Spurs to fifteen straight 50 win seasons (not including the lockout year) and five NBA championships. Every player is willing to share the ball, even the star players. Pop is well-respected and that is what an NBA head coach needs to be to succeed in a tough league.
Some coaches may have the best talent on their team and do not live up to expectations at the end of the season. The coach is to blame for not motivating and creating a strong team mindset that an NBA team should have. The ideal NBA head coach is one that can inspire his players to win and one that can strategize a plan for each game that makes their team perform like a well-oiled machine.
An example of a team playing inspired basketball under a great head coach is the Atlanta Hawks. The surprise team of the season so far, the Atlanta Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference. They do not any MVP caliber players but they do have solid talent and a strong strategist in Mike Budenholzer.
This list will feature teams that have talent, but a coach that might not be doing enough to help them reach their potential. It will also feature teams that do not have a lot of talent and have a head coach that simply is not creating a winning attitude within the organization.
They say it starts with the coach, so now lets see which teams need a fresh start.
*Stats are current as of January 23rd, 2015.
10. New York Knicks
The Knicks are bad. Plain and simple. Here is the thing though, they should be better than they are this season. Phil Jackson told people not to blame Derek Fisher for one of the worst New York Knicks seasons in franchise history.
However, lets face it, Derek Fisher might not be the right man for the job. Fresh off retirement the year before, Fisher was hired as the Knicks head coach. His inexperience is showing, as he cannot get his team to play hard every night. Carmelo has been injured for the most part, but now he is back and there seems to be no fight. They are 29th in points per game with 92.8 points per game and 29th in defensive rating at 111.5. They’re pretty much last in both offense and defense. Not looking good for a team that has pieces to be better than 7-36. The New York Knicks need an experienced head coach and Fisher is not that.
9. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets have a respectable record and are sixth in the tough Western Conference. That is really good, actually.
So why do the Houston Rockets need a coaching change if they are successful?
Kevin McHale is not a bad head coach, but he is not the best out of getting the best out of the talent is has. Patrick Beverley may be one the best defenders at the point guard position, Harden is the leading scorer, Trevor Ariza is a solid two-way small forward, Donatas Motiejunas compliments Howard nicely, and Dwight Howard is still a top three center in the league. Their bench also has great talent with Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, and Jason Terry. Yet, they are only sixth in the Western Conference. McHale needs to maximize his talent and this team could easily be top five in offense and defense. Kevin McHale’s lack of proper play-calling also hurts the Rockets from being good in the playoffs, as they haven’t made it past the first round since he took over.
8. Orlando Magic
The Magic have the potential to be a great two-way, athletic team with the players on their roster. Victor Oladipo is a growing star in this league who can play both sides of the ball well and Nikola Vucevic is a double-double monster in the paint. Vucevic is averaging 19.0 points per game and 11.1 rebounds on 52.8% shooting. Add promising rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton to the mix, who has been fantastic this season running the offense, and this team should be contending for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, that’s not the case so far as they sit in 13th with a 15-30 record. Jacque Vaughn, head coach for the Magic, has not inspired his troops to rally around him and play better basketball than they have. This team is in the lower-third in both offense and defense. The Magic are scoring 95.5 points per game which is good for 24th in the league and giving up 101.3 points to opposing teams, good for 22nd in the league. It’s simply not good enough and the Orlando Magic can do better.
7. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are in the top 10 in points per game at 101.8. The Celtics used to be known for their good offense and defense. All the scoring is great, but Brad Stevens must not be preaching defense in Boston. They are 26th in points against per game and they are allowing teams to score 103.8 points against them. With Brad Stevens, it is all about offense first and defense second. The typical Championship mindset is the complete opposite of what Stevens is preaching.
It isn’t like the Celtics have no defensive players either. Stevens has a terror on the defensive side in Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Those two can slow down most NBA backcourts if motivated. Motivation starts with the head coach and he needs to instill a belief that his team can stop any team in the league. The offense is no problem, but when a defense can’t stop anyone and are not playing with a winning attitude, it might time for a coaching change.
6. Brooklyn Nets
First things first, Lionel Hollins deserves to be a head coach in the NBA. Just not for the Brooklyn Nets. Hollins brought the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals in the 2012-2013 season and was fired after that season. He then was hired by the Nets in hopes of the same results. There is one problem, he doesn’t have the same personnel. Hollins is use to coaching two big men that can dominate in the post. At this point in their careers, Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett do not match the productivity of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
It’s as simple as the personnel. Lionel Hollins needs a change of scenery, as the Nets team has underperformed and is struggling to find chemistry under Hollins. Their defense is still top ten in points against per game, allowing 98.4 points per game. Credit Hollins for that, but it may be time for change.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans has a lot of young talent on their roster, mixed with some solid experienced players. They also have one of the best power forwards in the league with Anthony Davis. Monty Williams, the head coach, is failing to bring the team together and find an identity. They are middle of the pack on offense, scoring 100.4 points per game (16th) and they are allowing the 17th most points per game at 100.0.
The major problem? With young players like Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis, the pace of play needs to pick up. The best identity for this squad would be to use the fast break and push the ball up the court whenever possible. Monty Williams has failed to realize that and they are 24th in pace in the the NBA. If they had a coach that could properly use their skills, this team could make some noise.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
Everyone is back and healthy. The coaching problem with Scott Brooks is not the present, but it is the past and future. In the past, Scott Brooks has shown time and again that he cannot create a cohesive offensive team. Too many isolation plays involving Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook and not enough ball movement. They cannot win in the playoffs with a strictly isolation offense. That’s been proven in the past. If the Thunder want to return to the NBA Finals, which they can, they might want to consider a change in offensive philosophy.
There’s no reason to not get Ibaka and others involved. If the Thunder want a brighter future, they should consider a coaching shake-up.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
This entry will be short and sweet. The Cavaliers need an experienced NBA head coach, not an experienced European head coach, that can handle the egos of three superstars like Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. LeBron James has seemed to take control of the team and David Blatt seems to have lost the respect of the players. All of this talent and barely any results over halfway through the 2014-2015 season. In fairness, the Miami Heat had similar problems when they put together their big three and Erik Spoelstra, but the problems here seem to run deeper.
2. Sacramento Kings
Mike Malone was not meeting expectations, but the Kings were still 11-13 with him. Now they are 5-13 since replacing Malone with Tyrone Corbin. Corbin’s time as head coach in the league might be done. The Sacramento Kings need a coach that their star, DeMarcus Cousins, will listen to and respect. Also, they need a coach that will preach that hard work leads to results. Mike Malone may have been that coach, but he did not get the time to truly prove himself. The Kings have talent to contend for a lower seed in the playoffs with Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and Ben McLemore.
The talent is there, but the right head coach has not come around yet.
1. Denver Nuggets
Depth is a major factor for what makes a team successful. The Denver Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league. Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, and Danilo Gallinari. Five players are averaging over ten points per game and ten players are averaging over seven points per game. Even with all this talent, the Nuggets have struggled mightily this year.
Brian Shaw, the current head coach, has not proven himself to be a quality coach in the NBA. George Karl played a fast-paced tempo offense and it worked with this Nuggets team. Shaw is not panning out as the Nuggets thought he would and they’re paying the price with losing season. Once they make the right coaching change, they can easily return to the playoff picture.
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