The Thunder cast off Scott Brooks and quickly replaced him with Billy Donovan, while the Magic and Nuggets have taken profoundly deliberate approaches to filling their respective vacancies. It’s possible one or more of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs will make a coaching change, and perhaps probable in the case of the Bulls and Tom Thibodeau. Still, this year’s coaching upheaval can’t compare to the sweeping changes of two years ago, when a record 13 teams switched coaches.
The volume of turnover has gone back down in the last two years, but only seven of the coaches hired in that summer of 2013 still remain with the teams that brought them aboard then. Only five of them have compiled winning records with their teams so far, including Jason Kidd, who already moved on from the Nets to the Bucks, displacing Larry Drew, another one of the 2013 hires.
As the coaching market experiences a markedly calmer offseason, we’ll look at each of the 13 men who found work as NBA head coaches in the summer of 2013. They’re profiled in alphabetical order below, with their records in parentheses:
- Brett Brown, Sixers (37-127) — The losses have piled up, but they’ve largely been beyond Brown’s control, and he probably deserves credit for squeezing a few extra wins out of rosters that weren’t truly NBA-caliber. Brown also merits praise for his willingness to wade through perhaps the most radical rebuilding project in NBA history.
- Mike Brown, Cavaliers (33-49) — It was curious to see this Brown return to Cleveland just three years after the team let him go, and it seemed just as strange that the team once more cut ties after only one year with the only man ever to coach the team to an NBA Finals. Still, Cleveland had higher hopes for 2013/14.
- Mike Budenholzer, Hawks (98-66) — It was tough to realize it during last season’s injury-riddled campaign, but Atlanta clearly scored with the longtime Spurs assistant, who won this year’s Coach of the Year award as he piloted the team to 60 wins. He also served as the team’s acting GM in place of Danny Ferry this season, finishing third in Executive of the Year balloting.
- Maurice Cheeks, Pistons (21-29) — His tenure was the first of the 13 coaching hires to end as Detroit fired him midway through the 2013/14 season. Much was expected of the team after it signed Josh Smith the previous summer, but neither interim coach John Loyer or current coach/executive Stan Van Gundy were able to find success with Smith on the roster before Van Gundy waived him in December.
- Steve Clifford, Hornets (76-88) — Clifford was a Coach of the Year candidate when he guided Charlotte to the playoffs in his first season there, but the inability of new acquisition Lance Stephenson to click with the Hornets this year contributed to a season in which Clifford rarely drew praise.
- Larry Drew, Bucks (15-67) — Milwaukee under Drew went through its only season out of the last six in which it failed to finish within 10 games of this year’s .500 mark, but injuries were largely to blame. Drew remained in the job until Jason Kidd entered the picture in late June, and while he said he doesn’t harbor any resentment about the unusually-timed firing, he nonetheless felt blindsided by it.
- Jeff Hornacek, Suns (87-77) — Like Clifford, Hornacek was a Coach of the Year contender in 2014 who failed to match his first-year success in season No. 2. Still, the Suns were widely expected to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference last year, when they won 48 games, while injuries and deadline trades helped scuttle a run at the last playoff spot this year.
- Dave Joerger, Grizzlies (105-59) — A major restructuring of the Grizzlies braintrust nearly included Joerger skipping off to the Timberwolves last summer, but a sweetened deal helped Memphis reel him back in. Memphis hasn’t missed a beat since controversially replacing Lionel Hollins with Joerger two years ago, and Joerger’s record probably would have been even better if Marc Gasol had been fully healthy last season.
- Jason Kidd, Nets (44-38) — Few rookie coaches have ever met with the sort of expectations Kidd had when he retired from the Knicks and stepped into the coaching job with the crosstown Nets, and by and large he failed to live up to them, though the Nets did play markedly better down the stretch. Kidd left behind hard feelings in Brooklyn amid reports of a power play and ultimately his departure for the Bucks last summer.
- Michael Malone, Kings (39-67) — The hard-edged Malone connected with DeMarcus Cousins like few others, but he failed to ingratiate himself quite as well with his bosses. Malone nonetheless might still be coaching in Sacramento if Cousins hadn’t suffered from a bout of viral meningitis that derailed a fast start for this season’s Kings.
- Brian Shaw, Nuggets (56-85) — Shaw’s another coach who fell victim to numerous injuries, at least in his first season, but a healthier Denver squad failed to compete for a playoff berth in 2014/15, and an apparent inability to motivate his players down the stretch this year seemingly led to his late-season dismissal.
- Doc Rivers, Clippers (113-51) — The Clippers paid a high price to the Celtics for the right to hire him, and when they gave him the same $7MM salary he received in Boston, but while his credentials as an executive are questionable, his coaching bona fides are not. New owner Steve Ballmer secured him this summer for the long-term with a new five-year contract for more than $50MM.
- Brad Stevens, Celtics (65-99) — His record scarcely conveys the impression many around the league have of him as a rising star in NBA coaching ranks, a reputation earned in large measure because of the work he did in the second half of this season. The Celtics traded Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and several others in a whirlwind of moves, but Stevens guided a starless roster to the seventh seed in the playoffs.