The Coaching Epidemic

by Nebil Ali

If coaches are not considered carefully, several teams could have a disastrous season.

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According to 10-time champion Phil Jackson, “the most important thing about coaching is you have to have a sense of confidence about what you're doing.” There are four teams in need of a new head coach for the 2020-21 NBA season: the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Pelicans, and Oklahoma City Thunder. As Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships”. To maximize their success, these teams will need to scout coaches who have the ability to adapt an elite understanding of the game.


The sacking of Alvin Gentry was what the Pelicans always needed to do. During his five years with the Pelicans, Gentry only had one season the team had a winning record, which clearly raises doubts on his ability to manage the team. In 2010, David Griffin decided to hire Gentry due to his success with the Suns. However, Griffin this was still a poor decision at the time, as Gentry did not have the same success with teams he coached previously to the Suns. Gentry’s inability to develop cooperation and blend player’s diverse sets of skills into a cohesive offensive and defense makes him inadequate to serve as an NBA head coach.

For lottery teams such as the Pelicans, finding a coach who can develop young players is important. Stan Van Gundy stands out as a potential coach who can develop rising stars such as Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball. In Van Gundy’s career, he’s played a major role in developing stars like Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, and Andre Drummond. Due to building great teams on both offense and defense, he has accumulated an impressive 58% win percentage as a head coach.

Houston Rockets

After the Rockets lost Game 5, head coach Mike D’Antoni suddenly announced to his team that he would not return. The public initially assumed that this was a mutual decision, but GM Daryl Morey had said that “retaining D’Antoni was a top priority”. Despite this setback, the Rockets organization said that they understood and respected D’Antoni’s decision.

The Rockets are considering John Lucas II possible candidate for the head coach, but many doubt him considering he has not coached in 17 years. However, he served as the Rockets player development coach on Mike D’Antoni’s staff for the past four seasons and has strong working relationships with Rockets’ star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, which is significant to the team’s chemistry.

Indiana Pacers

Nate McMillan was fired after the Pacers were swept 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat. The timing was odd considering the Pacers had proposed an extension of his contract for a year just a few weeks before they fired him. Ultimately Mcmillan’s inability to move the team forward after the Pacer’s were swept in the first round in each of the past two seasons, impacted the decision to fire McMillan. Injuries played a key role in the team’s failures, considering the Pacers played last season without two-time all-star Victor Oladipo, who sustained a knee injury; they also played without their all-star forward Domantas Sabonis during the first round of the playoffs due to a foot injury. The Pacers are considering former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni for the job. Considering D’Antoni is one of the top offensive minds in basketball, he could help the Pacers from an offensive standpoint. Developing the offense is a reason why the Pacers are looking for a new head coach considering McMillan failed to adjust with the players he was given. Although D’Antoni would improve the Pacers offensively, it can be argued that he wouldn’t be a good fit for the Pacers considering he relies on a superstar player to run his offense. In two of his most successful seasons, he had either James Harden or Steve Nash on his team, and right now the Pacers don’t have a player of that caliber on their roster.

OKC Thunder

OKC Thunder had parted ways with Billy Donovan because his contract had expired and both sides had decided against pursuing an extension. There are mixed emotions about Donovan’s success with OKC considering he did not win a championship when he had Kevin Durant and Westbrook at his disposal. The next coach who leads the team will have a challenge considering they will be in charge of developing a young group of players, into an experienced, qualified playoff team. With that being said a few names are being considered for the head coach, one of them being Kenny Atkinson. During his time with the Brooklyn Nets, it was up to Atkinson to develop rough gems into competent NBA players, and he succeeded and even coached the Nets––who did not have either Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant––into the playoffs. but it can be argued that he is a short-term solution and OKC should strive for someone good at Xs and Os.

In the end, teams had parted ways with their coaches for different reasons. Some felt a new coaching style or viewpoint would be good for the team, others had no choice but to fire their coach after a crushing defeat, and some had simply decided it was time to move on. It is conclusive that a coach who can adapt to their situation, whether that’s using player’s in different ways, or getting to know players better, is needed.

***Editorial Note: After this article was written, the Pelicans signed Stan Van Gundy as their new head coach. The Rockets have signed Stephen Silas while the Pacers have signed Nate Bjorkgren. Mike D'Antoni has joined the Brooklyn Nets as an assistant coach.