The NBA really confuses me sometimes.
Well, most of the time. But today is one of those days in particular.
When exactly coaches in clearly rebuilding cities began to get such little leeway, I have no idea.
The New York sports media is reputed to be the toughest in this country. Somehow, in the so-called city that can't rebuild, Isiah Thomas remains coach despite a 53-101 record in two seasons. Nearby in the swamp of New Jersey, Lawrence Frank comes under a lot less scrutiny than he could for generally being a rather mediocre basketball coach.
Yet in Memphis and Charlotte, two rookie coaches are already rumored to be on their respective ways out.All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog. Check him out!
Last week, we discussed in this space the rumors that the Grizzlies are looking to replace coach Marc Iavaroni, most likely with Larry Brown.
On Saturday, the Weekend Dime at ESPN reported that the clock is ticking in Charlotte as well:
Bobcats president Michael Jordan would surely prefer not to fire Sam Vincent after just one season. Yet one plugged-in source describes it as an inevitability, with any hit that Jordan might take for the growing perception that the former teammate he hired can't reach Charlotte's players sure to be softened if he can convince a coach of Brown's stature to take over.
Call me naive, or call me too patient, but it just doesn't make sense to me.
These aren't teams that have been powerhouses forever that suddenly went downhill with the addition of a new coach. These aren't coaches with history of failures in other NBA head coaching opportunities.
The Grizz put together a miserable 22-win season last year, good for the worst record in the league. Then Memphis failed to win the lottery. We're talking about a team with lots of youth, little experience, little defense, a rookie point guard and a notably inept general manager.
For their parts, the 'Cats have never won more than 33 games in their four and a half seasons of existence. Another young team with a young point guard, not enough fire power and little defense. Not exactly a piece of cake job to make over.
In Memphis, Marc Iavaroni has long been reputed as one of the game's best coaching minds. He worked with Pat Riley in Miami for a few seasons and then assisted Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix for several years prior to getting the head job in Memphis last summer. Iavaroni is known as a master tactician, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. On a team of youngsters not necessarily accustomed to killing themselves on the defensive end, there generally needs to be some passage of time prior to seeing big-time results.
Vincent's situation in Charlotte is similar. Although he didn't come with the same degree of touting that Iavaroni did, he is a first-time head coach trying to work with a team in need of help in a myriad of areas of the game. Thanks to Gerald Wallace's series of concussions, he has also been without one of the team's leaders and most important young players throughout portions of this season.
All this simply makes both situations all the more confusing. These two teams combined for 55 wins between them last year. Neither made any player personnel changes that were necessarily guarantees or near-guarantees to vault them to inordinately greater levels (the biggest off-season acquisitions were Darko Milicic and Jason Richardson for the Grizz and 'Cats respectively), and they brought in brand-new coaches. Yet the front offices seem to be expecting these coaches to create turn-arounds out of nowhere.
It almost goes without saying that it doesn't work like that. These coaches don't just make magic. At the NBA level or otherwise, it takes time to teach the game of basketball, and sometimes teams go backward before they go forward. No, Iavaroni and Vincent haven't done flawless jobs coaching their basketball teams this year. They've coached like the newbies they are. Like their neophyte players, they have made mistakes, and like many of their neophyte players, one of the crucial ingredients needed to help overcome those errors and move forward is time.
How that time can already be running out on these two -- particularly in such small-market pro basketball cities -- is a question to which I simply don't have an answer. Anyone else?