Coaching carousel: Who's staying, who's headed for the door?
The impending lockout complicates the future of some coaches this year
Phil Jackson has said many times he plans to retire; Doc Rivers may step away
Frank Vogel, Larry Drew, Kurt Rambis may be headed toward the exits
There will be a coaching carousel because, well, there always is. But with NBA owners preparing to sit on their wallets during the expected lockout, this latest model shouldn't spin as wildly out of control as it has in years past. Think playground style, not Disney World, with the experience hardly entertaining for the ones being asked to exit, while those who remain will surely enjoy the drastically slower pace.
The added element of a likely work stoppage will have a significant impact that could help a number of coaches. Owners will be inclined to keep the incumbent rather than pay two salaries to do the same amount of nothing (lockout language in some contracts means additional savings, as those coaches won't be paid their full salaries). The lack of a can't-miss candidate on the unemployment line should come into play as well. Jeff Van Gundy might be the only one of that ilk and he hasn't given any indication he's ready to leave his life as an analyst.
Former Cleveland coach Mike Brown is highly respected in most circles, but he's hardly the type of coaching talent who will shift this ride into a higher gear. Houston's Rick Adelman might do just that if he were suddenly available, but that much has yet to be determined.
There might be some early movement already underway, though, as the formalization of Tom Gores' purchase of the Pistons on Friday (which still awaits approval at next week's Board of Governors meetings) could expedite the end for coach John Kuester. His well-chronicled turmoil with his players is widely expected to lead to his firing, but that sort of clarity is rare when it comes to his colleagues and their situations.
As such, let's take a peek at the carousel before the spinning begins.
Phil Jackson, Lakers: He has said it was for real before, but whether he wins a 12th championship or not, Jackson swears he'll be in the mountains of Montana by the time next season finally gets started.
John Kuester, Detroit: It's about much more than the 27-55 record in his debut season or the 28-51 mark through Friday this time around. Some of the players who were stuck in the Motor City showed audacious signs of disrespect with their alleged shootaround boycott in Philadelphia (they denied it) and the footage of them laughing on the bench when their coach was ejected from the game that night. The stagnant ownership situation meant president Joe Dumars couldn't go shopping for new parts, and Kuester -- for right or for wrong -- will likely be left behind after this tune-up.
Rick Adelman, Houston: It's sounding more and more like Adelman's days with the Rockets are numbered.
And while that isn't a certainty just yet, it would be unfortunate if this was the way his illustrious career came to an end. Owner Les Alexander is staying mum on whether he'll offer Adelman a new contract when his current one expires at the end of the season, and two sources close to the situation say reports of friction between the coach and his billionaire boss have not been overstated.
Adelman, who was never afforded the elite-level roster he expected to oversee because of injuries to Yao Ming and previously Tracy McGrady, has remained quiet on whether he even wants to return. Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner is expected to be a candidate if Adelman does indeed depart, but Turner won't be alone as Houston is expected to conduct an open search.
And should Adelman decide to continue his career elsewhere, then the ride might very well stop abruptly for someone in our next category.
Frank Vogel, Indiana: While the overwhelming assumption around the league is that the interim coach who took over for the fired Jim O'Brien in late January will be replaced in the offseason, he has certainly helped his cause by working through some serious strife among his players and leading the Pacers to 10 wins in their last 15 games. And should the Pacers shock the hoops world in a first-round playoff series against Chicago, well then ... OK, enough of that nonsense. It's not looking good for Vogel, whose best chance at a return might come by way of the aforementioned lockout effect.
Larry Drew, Atlanta: First, the obvious knock against the first-year Hawks coach: His team has 44 wins with three games to go after former coach Mike Woodson won 47 games and 53 in the last two seasons, respectively.
And then there is the not-so-obvious sensitive spot: the Josh Smith factor. Drew has been unable to stop the veteran from being a season-long disruption and undermining his position with his other players in the process. Add to that the relative affordability of cutting him loose (he's owed $1.5 million for next season, lockout notwithstanding), and Drew is looking very vulnerable unless he can lead a deep postseason run.
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