Who’s Coaching for Their Job This NBA Postseason?
Just qualifying for the playoffs usually isn’t enough in the postseason. Front offices often demand much more, and head coaches are often the most obvious and useful scapegoat in the face of unreached expectations.
This season is no different. There are a few coaches in the playoffs that could find themselves out of a job depending on how things shake out. In no particular order:
Brett Brown - Philadelphia 76ers
Deep in the heart of the Process, Brett Brown was named head coach of the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers. More recently in the wake of the Bryan Colangelo Twitter scandal, Brown became interim President of Basketball Operations for the team.
Irregardless, Brown is decidedly on the hot seat. (Go back and read that sentence with Brett Brown’s “Bostralian” accent.)
The Sixers went all-in this season, and for that reason the stakes are high in Philly. Nevermind that the team’s floor-spacing is a mess, or that Joel Embiid’s knees aren’t quite healthy. If the 76ers suffer an early or embarrassing exit, it’ll be Brown who takes the fall.
It doesn’t seem particularly fair or even advisable to cut ties with Brown. At present, I can’t think of an available free agent coach with the clout and interpersonal skills Brown has. Google agrees with me.
Billy Donovan - Oklahoma City Thunder
At first glance, Donovan is another victim of circumstance and suspect team building. Because although the Thunder’s reload since Kevin Durant’s departure is a commendable one, the team also suffers from awkward roster construction.
There’s a bit more oomph behind Donovan’s hot seat standing, however. Not only is he ineffective in controlling in Russell Westbrook’s chaos, but overall OKC’s collapse down the stretch has plenty to do with a lack of offensive scheming.
Few players play with the kind of fury and impact as Russell Westbrook. He’s rightfully one of the most feared players in that regard. But he is still pulling the same gimmicky stat-stuffing and ill-advised hero ball we’ve seen for far too long. At what point does the head coach step in and help the over-eager star find focus?
This same apathy extends to the Thunder’s one-dimensional offense, while simultaneously a bit of a mess. Donovan is too comfortable letting the kids play, much at the behest of maximizing talent. Even with an injured Paul George, Oklahoma City fell off a cliff in a big way this season.
By my estimation, Donovan, like Brown, has an unfair assignment given the odd OKC depth chart. All the same, it’s been an uninspired effort from Donovan yet again. It’s unclear if he’ll survive the off-season.
Quin Snyder - Utah Jazz
Ok bear with me.
Snyder is one of the Association's most revered coaches. He has everything to do with the Jazz’s recent success, including a stretch that saw Utah go an impressive 18-7 following the All-Star break. The team had a top-four offense and defense in that stretch.
The Jazz of late consistently over-achieve with Snyder at the helm. In the past two seasons he’s marched his team to the Western Conference Semifinals.
That’s kind of the point, however. Because what if Snyder comes up short again? How will Utah’s front office respond to a third straight early exit in the postseason.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell aren’t going anywhere. The Jazz are lucky to have such a fantastic young duo. Snyder becomes the Aunt Sally by default.
Like Brown, I don’t endorse cutting ties with Snyder. Not one bit in fact. The Jazz are one or two players away from glory; changing coaches would simply muddy the water.