You have no control over what actually happens on the court, leaving your master plan in the hands of the five players you trust in any given moment — assuming you're lucky enough to trust all your guys, anyway.
When you mess up, the world lets you hear it. When you save the day, the superstar gets the credit.
Above all else, the people criticizing you see only the tip of the iceberg. They don't know about the long hours, the unseen work to make incremental progress, or the practice gym dynamics that go into your decisions.
With all that said, someone has to pass judgment on the locker room leaders this postseason. Here are our grades for all 16 coaches in the 2017 NBA playoffs, in alphabetical order.
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Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks: D-
The Hawks made zero adjustments against the Wizards other than trying to get Dwight Howard more post touches against his former practice partner, Marcin Gortat.
But running the offense through Howard is the biggest mistake Atlanta can make. As a result, the Hawks are home early in the postseason for what feels like the umpteenth time this century.
Maybe stepping back as team president is the right move for Budenholzer so he can concentrate on coaching this squad.
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Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics: B+
Remember when we were all up in arms about Stevens' awful playoff record in a tiny sample size?
That hysteria passed as quickly as it came once the Celtics went small against the Chicago Bulls, turning around their first-round playoff series. Rajon Rondo's injury undoubtedly helped Boston to the second round, but Stevens deserves a ton of credit for making a risky move.
The Celtics were getting pounded on the glass. Going small could have backfired. Instead, Boston looks like the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
Fred Hoiberg, Chicago Bulls: D
A thumb injury to Rajon Rondo doomed Hoiberg's Bulls, which might make some people take it easy on the poor Chicago coach.
Here's the thing: if an injury to Rondo takes you from potential first-round upset to playoff also-ran, you're probably not doing the best coaching job in the history of the NBA.
Hoiberg trotted out lineups that hadn't seen the court together before, wasted timeouts and kept turning to a washed-up Dwyane Wade for an answer.
There were none to be found — and if Wade doesn't opt out of his contract, next season will be more of the same in Chicago.
Tyronn Lue, Cleveland Cavaliers: Incomplete
Lue hasn't had to do much coaching so far this postseason, as LeBron has the Cavaliers absolutely destroying the opposition.
Once Cleveland gets punched in the mouth in the Eastern Conference finals, we can revisit Lue's standing in the class.
Until then, let's just enjoy LeBron playing at his very best.
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Mike Brown, Golden State Warriors: B+
For having the most-talented team in modern NBA history, Brown is in a difficult situation.
This squad isn't his. He wasn't here when the Warriors rose from the ashes, like Luke Walton was when he took over for Steve Kerr last season. Brown has had to acclimate himself to a new job, new players, and a new role this season — only for things to change drastically on the biggest stage.
Yet this is why the Warriors hired Brown in the first place, in case they needed someone to take the reins while Kerr healed.
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Mike D'Antoni, Houston Rockets: A
D'Antoni has to match wits with Gregg Popovich for the remainder of the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, which is no picnic. He could slip up against his old nemesis.
But for now, D'Antoni has done the best coaching job of anyone in the playoffs — and he's shown his offense-first system isn't necessarily doomed in the pressure-cooker of the postseason.
Nate McMillan, Indiana Pacers: F
Honestly, we'd believe you if you told us the Pacers played their opening series against the Cleveland Cavaliers without a coach. We can't think of a single positive thing McMillan did in four embarrassing losses to the defending champions.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: if Indiana wants to retain Paul George's services beyond next season, the Pacers need to make a coaching change.
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Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers: B-
Even an A+ coaching effort from Rivers might not have been enough to get the Clippers through the first round after another major injury to Blake Griffin.
We've criticized Rivers plenty for his shortcomings as a modern NBA coach, and he probably needs to step aside for Los Angeles to reach its full potential. But in this postseason, Rivers made the most of an unfortunate situation, trying out small-ball and mixing up his rotation to try to give the Clippers some life.
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David Fizdale, Memphis Grizzlies: B+
How many rookie head coaches could go toe-to-toe with Gregg Popovich and come out looking every bit Pop's equal?
Fizdale did just that in Memphis' six-game series loss to the Spurs, and he threw in an all-time press conference rant for good measure. We look forward to seeing what the Grizzlies coach can do in his second season.
Jason Kidd, Milwaukee Bucks: D
The Bucks' inability to take care of business against the Raptors remains mind-boggling, since Milwaukee had the best player in the series in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Kidd has to take much of the blame for that failure. His rotations were mind-boggling, his play-calling was stale, and his defense was unable to exploit Toronto's lack of spacing.
It's fair to wonder whether the Bucks need a coaching change to take the next step as a franchise.
“The core of what both teams are gonna do is gonna stay the same,” he said of the series against the Rockets. “It just maybe the tweaks and changes of how to go about doing it.”
He did his best to overcome a decided roster disadvantage against the Rockets, particularly with his power forward rotation. He also struggled to find a solution to Andre Roberson's free-throw troubles and the intentional fouls that came with them.
Really, Donovan is evidence of how hard it can be to judge a coach's performance. We'll never really know what Donovan did behind the scenes to rally his team — or if Oklahoma City might have been even worse without his adjustments.
Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers: B-
There wasn't a whole lot Stotts could do against the leviathan known as the Golden State Warriors. Still, the Blazers didn't roll over.
Stotts tried going small when the Warriors played more traditional lineups, relied on Evan Turner more than he had in the regular season and did his best to make up for the absence of Jusuf Nurkic by going with the hot hand in the middle.
Had Nurkic been healthy for this series, the Blazers might have stolen a game from the Warriors. I mean, they probably wouldn't have, but who knows?
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs: D+
It's a good thing Popovich made some pretty major adjustments in Game 2 for the Spurs, because he was well on his way to an F for the 2017 NBA postseason.
Again, we're not grading on a curve here. This is all about how coaches are doing in these playoffs, and Popovich had struggled to get the most out of his team prior to Wednesday night.
The best coach in the NBA left LaMarcus Aldridge on a defensive island, used traditional linueps that got roasted by smaller foes and refused to use reserves such as Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson who helped the Spurs get this far in the first place.
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Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors: B-
Casey came up with an effective scheme for limiting Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round and made a roster adjustment that won the Raptors' series against Milwaukee, going small to give his team a chance against the Bucks' versatility on the perimeter.
Casey has continued to tinker against the Cavaliers, but come on. All the marginal moves in the world won't help the Raptors in this series. Toronto's only chance is to chuck 3s on every possession and hope it gets red hot.
If Casey makes that adjustment as the Raptors head home, we'll give him an A+.
Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz: B
When Rudy Gobert went down early in the Jazz's series against the Clippers, Utah had an obvious adjustment: start Derrick Favors.
Making that shift work was far more complicated. You wouldn't know it, though, thanks to Snyder. The Jazz hardly missed a beat as Gobert recovered, biding their time until his return and upsetting L.A. in the first round.
The series might have been very different without Blake Griffin's injury, sure, but that doesn't take away from Snyder's job well done.
Good luck against the Warriors!
Scott Brooks, Washington Wizards: C
Brooks made his major adjustments to the Wizards earlier in the season, and now he's choosing to ride with what got Washington to this point.
That's all well and good, but the Wizards haven't figured out how to take maximum advantage of Isaiah Thomas' defensive deficiencies, and Washington center Marcin Gortat has been a non-factor throughout the postseason. The bench, meanwhile, is an absolute disaster that cost the Wizards both games in Boston.
If Brooks wants to get his grade up — and turn around the Eastern Conference semifinals — he'll need to figure out answers to all those problems as the series shifts to Washington.