These NBA coaches may be feeling the heat of the hot seat as the regular season continues to wind down.
6. Melvin Hunt, Denver Nuggets / James Borrego, Orlando Magic
While Hunt has done well as the Nuggets’ interim man, and holds onto a chance to keep his job come 2015-16, it’s believed that both of these coaches are merely temporary patches. The Magic and Nuggets both seek a big-name leader. For Orlando, that means finding the man to lead a promising young nucleus including Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo — Scott Skiles, a dubious choice for that task, has been linked to the job. The Nuggets, meanwhile, have a strange roster that’s likely to stay that way regardless of who they hire, but the prospect of Mike D’Antoni aiding Ty Lawson’s pick-and-roll calls in the thin Rockies altitude is certainly an alluring one.
5. David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have been destroying the opposition, so it’s hard to believe they’d want to change much this summer. But rumors persist that Blatt is not long for his current job. He was hired before the organization realized LeBron James was due for a return, and James hasn’t exactly seemed in love with the man he didn’t choose. Assistant Tyron Lue often appears to be the head coach in scrums, with James and the other players seeming to react more favorably to him. Recent reports that the University of Kentucky’s John Calipari is eyeing a return to the NBA have naturally led to him being connected to a possible opening in Cavsland.
4. Randy Wittman, Washington Wizards
Wittman should be higher on this list, but his front office favors him. The Wizards’ man has shot his team in the foot all season, espousing a sort of ground-and-pound approach with a dearth of 3-pointers despite having one of the best young backcourts we’ve seen in ages. John Wall and Bradley Beal should be made to go nuts in the open court, but instead they’ve been appropriated into agents of Wittman’s nostalgic half-court vision, and Washington’s been sagging for months. Wall’s college coach, Calipari, is an intriguing possibility here too, as is D’Antoni. But don’t keep your fingers crossed, Wizards fans.
3. Byron Scott, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers support Scott publicly, but behind closed doors they must see his glaring shortcomings. Scott is grumpy to a fault, clearly grating on his young roster, and preaches an anti-3-pointer ethic that is downright comical. The possible availability of Tom Thibodeau (who seems to be on his way out of his Chicago Bulls job) would make L.A. pull the trigger on Scott’s tenure almost immediately. So would the availability of anyone who they thought would do better to help them lure free agents like Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook down the line. Scott is an interim coach in all but title.
2. Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
Like Scott, Williams may be a sitting duck in the event that Thibodeau hits the market. Anthony Davis is the best talent of his generation, and many analysts feel that the Pelicans are in danger of squandering him if they don’t make some substantial changes to their program soon. More importantly, though, his franchise has displayed a certain impatience, and desire to get their car fast-tracked toward title contention soon. Williams isn’t perfect, but he definitely hasn’t shown he’s the man for that task.
1. Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
This one doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA, his players like him, and the Bulls have been in a renaissance era ever since he took residence on their sidelines. They’ve regularly led the NBA in defensive performance, and trumped expectations despite disappointing injuries to Derrick Rose in multiple seasons. But virtually every NBA media member reports a terrible tension between Thibodeau and his front office, and anything short of a championship seems like it will be reason enough to send him packing this offseason.