Triple Threat Weekly: The NBA Coaching Circle

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

Another edition of NBA Triple Threat Weekly features Tyler Michels discussing the latest NBA coaching news. This week Tyler discusses the firing of Sac-town’s Mike Malone, the future of the Stan Van Gundy’s and Derek Fisher’s of the world, along with the continued success of Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors.

With Sacramento only two games under .500 (11-13) and without the services of DeMarcus Cousins for the last 7 games (and counting), head coach Mike Malone was unceremoniously fired in just his second season at the helm. What are your thoughts on this move and is Sacramento even in the playoff conversation without Malone?

Tyler Michels

Despite this being a blind-sided firing for almost all NBA fans and those within professional basketball circles (Stan Van Gundy called it “unexplainable”), there have been essentially two schools of thought on Mike Malone:

The first is obvious, that Malone has improved the team and DeMarcus Cousins has matured and blossomed (alongside Rudy Gay) in his system and under his leadership. Within this school of thought, it was a poor decision to fire Malone because the team’s trajectory is on the rise and he has been without Cousins for the last two weeks, hence the under .500 record. There is also statistical evidence that shows Malone was doing a pretty good job, and that it was very unusual for him to be fired.

Then there is the other side of this. An excellent article by Andy Glouckner of The Cauldron shows that this is a move for the future. The Kings are trying to build a run and gun team, and Mike Malone’s half-court style offense, and defense-first mindset did not mesh with the vision of the GM, nor the owner. It’s an interesting take, considering there are really no run and gun teams that have ever won the NBA championship. But, the front office is taking the approach that the Kings really need to first become an attractive team to play for and to watch – to fill up their arena and potentially attract some free agents. I think in the short term, the move is a terrible one. If you’re asking me who gives this particular Kings team a chance to compete for the playoffs this season, it was Malone. But, for the future, who knows if the Kings risky decision will pay off?

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach

Steve Kerr has had nothing but success in his first head coaching gig. Will it last?
(Photo courtesy of Basket USA)

We’re seeing mixed results with 1st year head coaches this season. There are four first time head coaches (Quin Synder – Utah Jazz, Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors, David Blatt – Cleveland Cavaliers & Derek Fisher – New York Knicks). The Knicks and Jazz each sport the 2nd worst records in the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively. Golden State is currently the #1 seed in the uber competitive Western conference while Cleveland has found it’s footing and currently sits in the #5 spot in the Eastern conference. What do you make of each of these coaches and who, if any, of the 1st year coaches are already on the hot seat?

Tyler Michels

I’ll start with the two coaches that have had the most blatant success. That is Steve Kerr of Golden State and David Blatt in Cleveland.

Steve Kerr has absolutely been an upgrade over Mark Jackson. It was a strange decision (much like the Malone decision – a clash with management) to fire Jackson, but the gamble has worked out so far. Not having watched Golden State a whole lot this season, it’s unfair for me to say Kerr is the reason for their historic start to the season. But, it’s also hard for me to say he hasn’t done a great job. This team actually looks like a contender.

As for David Blatt, I think he’s done a solid job with the Cavs through 25 games. Walking into that job is actually a bit tougher than it looks. OK, so he has LeBron, Love, and Irving. Easy, right? Well, finding a way for these guys to gel quickly and make the transition look seamless is nearly impossible. As documented, Cleveland has struggled at times, and flourished at others. Overall, Blatt deserves some kudos, but it’s going to be more about May and June with this team.

Quinn Synder and Derek Fisher, unsurprisingly, have both been on the losing end of the rookie head coaching fraternity. Neither of their teams have much talent, unlike Kerr and Blatt who walked into a situation loaded with ammunition. I haven’t seen Utah play much, but quickly scanning over their roster, they look like a 6-19 team in the Western Conference. As for Derek Fisher, he has been absolutely brutal. It’s nearly impossible for me to point to any part of this season where he has had success, or provided Knicks fans (such as me) hope for the future. He’s called timeouts at inopportune times, he has shuffled lineups that haven’t clicked, and has often looked clueless on the sidelines. I can honestly sit here behind my laptop screen and proudly say, “I could coach the New York Knicks to a 5-22 record.” Derek Fisher isn’t on the hot seat yet, but if the Knicks win 10-15 games this season, it will be hard to bring him back.

Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons, Pres of Basketball Ops & Head Coach

SVG’s Pistons squad has been tough to watch this season. How long will Stan last in Detroit? (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

Many pundits thought that Detroit would compete for a playoff spot this season. Stan Van Gundy has piloted this team to only 5 wins in the team’s first 25 games, putting them six games behind the #8 seed Nets. It’s early but given Van Gundy’s enormous contract to serve as coach and general manager, what’s the future hold for him and this team?

Tyler Michels

Enormous is the perfect word to describe Stan Van Gundy’s contract. He received one of the most lucrative contracts to not only coach, but also be the President of Basketball Operations for the Pistons. Van Gundy was signed for a 5-year, 35 million dollar deal. At the time, it was pretty stunning that a coach like Stan Van Gundy, with minimal coaching success on his resume, could be awarded such an outrageous contract.

Indeed, Van Gundy has obviously had a tough time reaching this group of players. To me, it’s just not a winning group. But, at the same time, it’s hard to make excuses for Stan. It’s not as if this team lacks any talent. Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond seem like a nice young nucleus to build around. And on paper, that unit doesn’t resemble a 5-20 team.

Van Gundy won’t be going anywhere for a while – no matter how bad this team is. It will be interesting to see what moves he makes with his roster going forward, considering he was granted the end all authority in Detroit.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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