The Brooklyn Nets became the first team this season to drop a current coach.after 2-5 start of the season. Nash left Brooklyn with a 94-67 regular season record and just one playoff series win. Now the question is, which coach will be next?
The season is still very early, so such moves may be inevitable, but in the NBA you never know for sure. With that said, here are a few other coaches who could potentially feel their seats get warmer as the season progresses.
1. Duane Casey, Detroit Pistons
Casey is now in his fifth year as coach of the Detroit Pistons, and the lack of progress could eventually lead the team to decide to leave the veteran coach. The Pistons have never finished over .500 in any of Casey’s seasons with the team (they finished 41–41 in 2018–19), and they have missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
After starting the season 22-23 with a score of 2-7, it will not necessarily look like the team will improve significantly this year. Of course, the Pistons are clearly rebuilding, and the roster is made up of young, inexperienced players, so expectations were moderate. However, professional basketball is a performance-driven business, and another season at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings could end up costing Casey his job.
2. Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks
Tom Thibodeau was named NBA Coach of the Year following his first season with the Knicks in 2020–21, when the team finished with a 41–31 overall record after a string of disappointing seasons under other coaches. Since then, however, New York City has not gone particularly well. That season they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks in five games, and last season they failed to fully qualify for the playoffs after finishing 37-45 – 11th. in the East.
After the heavy expense of adding defenseman Jalen Brunson as free agents in the offseason, the team has expectations – both internal and external – from the team. Not necessarily the expectation of a championship, but at least a playoff appearance. If the Knicks are hit hard during the season or miss the playoffs again, the organization may decide to go in a different direction.
3. Doc Rivers, Philadelphia 76ers
At the moment, Doc Rivers’ work with the 76ers is underwhelming. He was invited to lead the team further than the inexperienced Brett Brown, but so far he has not been able to do so. The 66ers took the top spot in the East during Rivers’ first season in the organization, but ultimately fell to the less talented Atlanta Hawks in the second round. Last season, the Sixers lost again in the second round to the Miami Heat despite signing James Harden before the deadline.
The 66ers entered the current campaign with a revamped roster and championship aspirations, and if the team fails to take a step forward, there could be repercussions. The team fought for the net with a 1-4 start, but since then they have started to straighten the ship. It seems somewhat unlikely that the Sixers will part ways with Rivers midway through the season unless the team is seriously behind, especially with his current contract remaining for a couple of years. However, another early postseason exit could be the end of Rivers’ time in Philadelphia.
4. Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls
Billy Donovan is in his third season as Bulls head coach and the team may have to step up to keep him on the job for another season. Chicago missed the playoffs entirely in Donovan’s first season after finishing with a 31–41 record, and last season they were eliminated in the first round after finishing sixth in the East with a 46–36 record. There was an obvious improvement, but the end of the season was somewhat disappointing after the team added several players last summer, including Demar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, as free agents.
The Bulls signed monster star quarterback Zack LaVine, got a $215 million off-season extension, and now have the 11th highest salary in the league according to the Basketball Reference. As wages rise, expectations rise, and if Donovan fails to meet them, Chicago may choose another location.
5. Nate McMillan, Atlanta Hawks
Nate McMillan led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago, but the team took a big step back last season, losing to the Miami Heat in five games in the first round. With the addition of guard Dejonte Murray in the off-season to pair up with Trae Young, the Hawks are clearly hoping for another playoff berth, and McMillan should do it.
During McMillan’s tenure in Atlanta, defense was a major concern. The Hawks finished 26th defensively last season, and they haven’t been much better this season yet. If they can’t get better in this regard, it will be difficult for them to make too much noise in the East, and it may also be difficult for Macmillan to keep his job.