Six coaches who did not step up

By Fran Blinebury,

VIDEO: Mike Woodson explains why the Knicks are playing better lately

From the end of last season through the start of training camp there were a record 13 changes in front of NBA benches. While that large turnover practically preludes a similar number of axes falling this season, the world is becoming an increasingly impatient place and there are more than a handful of head coaches that could — or maybe should — be in their last month on the job and heading toward the door. Here are a half-dozen veterans who did not take charge this season:

Rick Adelman, Timberwolves — Nobody should question the ‘X-and-O’ credentials of the the veteran coach with 1,027 wins and an offensive mind who’s been able to make wine out of water with virtually every team he’s coached. But not in Minnesota. There have been legitimate extenuating circumstances with Adelman’s wife, Mary Kay, battling an illness, causing his focus and attention to be split. For whatever reason, the Timberwolves have not sunk their teeth into his teaching and become the playoff team that the league has expected for the past several years. With All-Star power forward Kevin Love heading toward free agency in 2015 — and the needy, glamor puss likes of the Lakers and Knicks salivating over him — the Timberwolves can’t afford another season of misfiring. There’s a need for a new voice, new direction and new promise if there’s any hope of keeping Love around for the long term.

Tyrone Corbin, Jazz — It made sense at the time when veteran Jerry Sloan abruptly stepped down after more than two decades of running the show in Utah that ownership would want to try to keep the position in the family. Loyal soldier Corbin was the most logical choice for the job. There was a period of transition when the franchise was supposedly shifting from bottom rung playoff contender to laying the foundation of a youth movement. This was the season when that young lineup of Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke was supposed to begin sprouting. That hasn’t happened and it doesn’t seem that Corbin has a solid plan of what he wants to or a firm hand on the tiller. The Jazz rank in the bottom third of the league in offensive rating and 29th of 30 teams on defense. That could have the likes of Hayward looking to bolt as a free agent this summer, putting a dent in the building process. While general manager Dennis Lindsey can continue collecting Draft picks and adding talent, it’s now equally important to have a new leader to guide them.

Mike D’Antoni, Lakers — It is not realistic to think that Phil Jackson or the reincarnation of Red Auerbach could have made anything out of a Lakers roster that has been, for all intents and purposes, without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash from start to finish. Yet even when Bryant was healthy a year ago, D’Antoni couldn’t find a way to make the Lakers offense a comfortable place where Dwight Howard might have wanted to stay and this season he’s been a nettle in the side of veteran All-Star and tireless professional Pau Gasol. Will a new coach be able to guarantee that a 35-year-old Bryant can recapture the magic next season or that Nash can squeeze even one more ounce out of his 40-year-old body? Hardly. But if only to send the message that to perhaps the most spoiled fan base in NBA history, it’s time for the Lakers to write off the D’Antoni era as a mistake and turn the page.

Larry Drew, Bucks — The real question should be what were the Bucks thinking by hiring Drew in the first place? It’s not like a track record of crash and burns in the first and second round of the playoffs in Atlanta made him a shooting star in the coaching fraternity. It’s not as if he’d carved out a reputation as a guy who had a distinctive, proven system for success or made a mark as a turnaround artist. Many of the Bucks’ problems run up through a front office that can’t seem to make up its mind about where it’s going and perhaps to club owner Herb Kohl‘s desire to sell the franchise that furthers a sense of instability. Larry Sanders seems to have gone off the rails and the raw talent of Giannis Antetokounmpo could be at risk if somebody doesn’t take control soon. And on top of all that, the Bucks are the worst defensive team in the NBA.

Monty Williams, Pelicans — Everybody from the New Orleans front office to his former mentor in San Antonio Gregg Popovich will swear that Williams has impeccable credentials and all the know-how to be as fine a young coach as there is in the NBA. Trouble is, he’s now finished up three seasons in the Big Easy and over the last two, there hasn’t been consistent or significant signs of progress. A team that was supposed to be at least a rising contender for one of the final playoff berths in the West has never been competitive. Sure, Anthony Davis is a fledgling superstar, but that’s based overwhelmingly on his own talent, confidence and experience. Yes, there have been a litany of injuries this season, but Williams has not been able to get the Pelicans to embrace or play with the defensive passion that he says is the foundation of his philosophy. They again rank near the bottom (27th) in the league. While GM Dell Demps has not exactly dealt him a full house, there’s a growing sense that Williams isn’t playing his cards right.

Mike Woodson, Knicks — Let’s face it. Phil Jackson didn’t take his new job as Knicks savior to come in and just make a couple of cosmetic changes. As soon as the horn ends on this dismal, underachieving season, the Zen Master pulls the lever, the trapdoor swings open and Woodson and any trace of 2013-14 vanishes. The truth is Woodson lost any real hold on his team and the locker room a long time ago and is only finishing out the season while owner James Dolan was negotiating to bring Jackson in as “The Fixer.” Are the rumors true about Steve Kerr? Could Jackson roll the dice and give wannabes Patrick Ewing or Scottie Pippen a chance? Jeff Van Gundy? Stan Van Gundy? Who knows? But if Jackson is going to have any chance of convincing Carmelo Anthony to stick around in New York because a new day is coming, he can’t try to sell him on the past.


  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Atlanta will likely at least make the playoffs at the 8 seed. Not too long ago, they were the 3 seed in the East. Injuries hurt them. Knicks, however, are completely doomed. They will likely finish in 9th place, on the outside-looking-in.

    The 2 best NBA scorers on the same team. That sounds like fun to me, maaan. 🙂

    KD and Russell and Carmelo were awesome on the 2012 Olympic team.

    Imagine them joining up with the Thunder after this season in which the Knicks fail to make the playoffs for the first time since … does anyone know the last time the NY Knicks FAILED to make the playoffs? Egad.

    Melo, get out of that downward spiral and join up with 2 former Olympic Gold Medal teammates.

  2. jfack says:

    corbin blew it last year when he kept benching demare carrol. they wouldve made the playoffs easy if demarre had more playing time. it was obvious how much better they played with him in the game. i stopped paying attention this year so no comment for this year.

  3. Calebjosh99 says:

    Corbin is clearly not fitting well enough in Utah to make his players much better. He can coach a team to mediocrity like he did to the Jazz when they had Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

  4. okc2014 says:

    I’m gonna take a totally opposite angle: what about coaches who have done very well as a coach but w/ mediocre teams? I vote for Celtics (Stevens) and Hawks (Bud). Let’s go Hawks!

  5. arnold says:

    Its time to buy d’antoni out. He doesnt know what the hell is he doing. Using small line up to face the tall opponent is a stupid thing that he usually do. There are few games that they should win. In short he is an idiot.

  6. Charlie says:

    Here it goes….

    I don’t blame D’Antoni at all. He was true to his own style from start to finish. Everybody in the universe knew that it wasn’t going to work and that his style would alienate any good “big man” while providing zero defense.

    I blame Jim Buss and Mitch Kupcheck. Jeannie should be the one in charge. She has the proper management skills and basketball IQ. And…she has the respect of the athletes. People can say that D’Antoni should have changed his philosophy to match the team or that he should be teaching some sort of defense…but honestly, did anybody reading this expect him to? He should have been canned after driving off Howard, but there lies the problem…that would be J Buss and Mitch.

    • Lakers' fanboy says:

      we all know that…..sigh….jim is the problem…mitch cant do anything with it….jimmy needs to just go home and let jeanie take over.

  7. Mo says:

    So basically Francis just picked out a few coaches with bad records. Meh.

  8. vonhulland says:

    Why isn’t Malone, Sacramento Kings, on this list. It has been a terrible year, game after game losses. He has no control over his players. They do just what they are used to doing like all for one etc. He has made the statement several times doesn’t matter if we win or lose, always because this team is young. We have several veterans on the team, that is no excuse. For 8 years we have not even been considered “going to the playoffs!” Fan’s deserve much more than this. We lose, lose and maybe win one. Coach Adelman was the best coach we ever had!

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    Yeah, I mean when they say get a guy with experience, how are you meant to get experience if you’re never given a chance. You gotta start somewhere and a lower team is probably a good place.

  10. vonhulland says:

    Why isn’t Malone, Sacramento Kings on this list? First year but he cant manage the team at all! He says the same interview each time, nothing new except we are a young team,. There is veterans on the team and this has been going on all season. Doesn’t care if we win or lose, his statements, just play ball. Has a lot to learn but we haven’t even been thought of the playoffs for 8 years and the fans deserve more.

  11. Spurs Fan says:

    My apologies I meant Brett Brown in my previous comment, not Jim Brown.

  12. Spurs Fan says:

    I agree with the above comments except for the one about Jim Brown. I think the writers did a good job excluding him from this list. Yes the Sixers are on a current horrible streak, but it’s not his fault their top 3 scorers got traded away. I think Jim Brown and the Sixers have some potential for the future.

    As for Mike Woodson, I don’t think he belongs in the bottom 6 coaches list either. I don’t think he deserves all the blame for the Knicks’ lack of success this season, and yes they’re playing much much better now. Although I can understand why Phil Jackson and the Knicks ownership will want a fresh slate next season.

  13. Harding says:

    Phil will turn things around. Good move on the Knicks part.

  14. SoulChorea says:

    It’s a travesty that neither VanGundy has had a coaching job for this long.

    • justsayin says:

      I’d miss Jeff’s colorful commentating though. Sometimes funny, sometimes irritatingly obtuse, but thank goodness anything but another bland genericist.

  15. v says:

    add brett brown (sixers) to the list and you don’t need any justification for staying or leaving hello

    • OldCelt says:

      Guy is doing exactly what team needs … top draft pick this summer. Remember first week of the season and Sixers sitting at no.1 with 3-0?

  16. Arkh says:

    How Mike Brown does not make this list with the horrendous season he’s having really baffles me…

  17. sports fan says:

    Coaches who did step up last year were let go – Lionel Hollins & George Karl. There should also be an article on owners who didn’t step up.

  18. C’mon give Mike Woodson some credits. Replacing him for Steve Kerr, Scottie or Pat Ewing…..that would be foolish.
    If you want to get rid of him at least try a Van Gundy.

    Other mentioned coaches do really s*ck indeed.

    • bryanjoelgarcia says:

      I completely agree. You took the words right out of my mouth. Phil Jackson himself couldn’t fix this. I just wish Woodson would’ve started Amare a lot earlier in the season like he has recently to give Melo another legit scoring threat. Ever since he’s done that the Knicks have on a streak. But yup, Van Gundy’s or keep Woody…..just make sure JR Smith and Raymond Felton are gone.

  19. yyy says:

    I think Steve Kerr in utah would be fun, A fresh coach with lots of young talent, A New York job with lots of pressure and expectations wouldnt be the best for a rookie coach.

  20. steppx says:

    Agree totally. Corbin has been just awful, perhaps the worst of this group. There is talent in Utah, but its regressing, not improving. Corbin has had no vision, no idea of how to develop the young guys. Drew was just a bad hire. A proven mid level guy. You look at Clifford, Hornacek, and Brown, and you see there are great young coaches to be had. Time for these teams to find some of them.