Poll: Experienced Coach Or First-Timer?

April 11 at 8:01pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

As we approach the end of the NBA regular season, it’s the time of year when the annual coaching carousel begins to spin and a slew of faces will end up in brand new places. Heading into the 2013/14 season there were a total of 13 coaching changes, which if you’re keeping score at home, is the most ever in a single offseason.

We won’t know for sure just how many teams will be making a change on their bench until the playoffs are over. Normally you would think a playoff spot would ensure job security, but Lionel Hollins, Vinny Del Negro, and Larry Drew all weren’t retained after reaching the playoffs last year. So the exact number of vacancies are up in the air, but we know there will be some.

If your team is making a head coaching change, which would you prefer in your new hire? Do you want a veteran coach with years of experience to lead your team? One who has a proven track record, but also could be carrying baggage and bad habits picked up throughout the years. Or, would you prefer the energy and new ideas a first-time coach can provide? A new coach has more to prove, and might be more in touch with the pulse and culture of his players, but has no experience to rely on, and no track record to predict future performance.

Let’s look at how this year’s crop of new coaches fared as an example. First up, the ones with prior experience:

  1. Doc Rivers (Clippers): The team is 55-24, first in the Pacific Division, and the third seed in the playoffs. Last year’s team went 56-26 under Vinny Del Negro, before Del Negro wasn’t retained and the team traded for Rivers.
  2. Maurice Cheeks (Pistons): He was fired 50 games into the year with a record of 20-29. Detroit was 29-53 in 2012/13 under Lawrence Frank. After the team signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in the off season, owner Tom Gores expected a much better record and for the team to make the playoffs.
  3. Mike Brown (Cavaliers): The team sits at 32-47, which is good for tenth in the eastern conference. Last year under Byron Scott the team had a record of 24-58 and ended up with the first overall selection in the draft.
  4. Larry Drew (Bucks): The Bucks sit at 14-64. which is good for the worst record in the league. In 2012/13 under Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan the team went 38-44.

Now for how the first-time coaches performed:

  1. Jason Kidd (Nets): The Nets are at 43-35, which is good for the fifth overall playoff seed. Kidd replaced interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose team finished 2012/13 with a record of 49-33.
  2. Brad Stevens (Celtics): Stevens, taking over for Doc Rivers, has gone 23-55, but has the re-building team heading in a positive direction. Last year’s team went 41-40.
  3. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks): The Hawks have gone 35-43 and currently hold the final playoff spot in the east. Last year’s Larry Drew led squad went 44-38.
  4. Steve Clifford (Bobcats): Clifford has led the Bobcats to a 40-38 record and the sixth seed in the east. Under Mike Dunlap the team went 21-61 during last year’s campaign.
  5. Brian Shaw (Nuggets): The Nuggets have been hampered by injuries all season, and sit at 35-44. Shaw replaced coach of the year winner George Karl, who led the team to a record of 57-25.
  6. David Joerger (Grizzlies): Joerger replaced Lionel Hollins and has guided the team to a record of 46-32, and has the team is one game out of the final playoff spot. Last year the team went 56-26.
  7. Brett Brown (Sixers): Under Brown the Sixers have the second worst record in the league at 17-61, including a record-tying 26 game losing streak. Last season under Doug Collins, the team went 34-48.
  8. Jeff Hornacek (Suns): The Suns are one of the most improved teams in the league with a record of 47-31, and hold the seventh seed in the western conference. Last year under Lindsey Hunter and Alvin Gentry the team went 25-57.
  9. Mike Malone (Kings): Under Malone the Kings have gone 27-52. During the 2012/13 season under Keith Smart the team ended up 28-54.

This means that in their first seasons with their new teams, experienced coaches went 121-164 (.424), and the first-timers went 313-391 (.444). There are many different factors outside a coach’s control that contribute to the team’s final record, but the nature of the NBA is that the coach is the first one to take the heat.

Now it’s time to vote. If your team makes a coaching change this off season, do you want an experienced person hired, or would you prefer the team brings in a brand new face? Cast your vote below and feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section below.

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