Houston’s firing of Kevin McHale this week came as a shock, but neither McHale nor NBA teams are unfamiliar with early-season coaching changes. McHale took over the Timberwolves for a fired Randy Wittman in December 2008, just 19 games into the 2008/09 season. It was one of just 14 times since 2005, including the Rockets’ move Wednesday, that a team changed coaches before New Year’s Day.
Each such occasion is listed below, with the date of the change, the coach’s record, and the names of the coach, or coaches, who followed him in the position that season. Only Pat Riley, who replaced Stan Van Gundy as Heat coach in 2005, went on to win the championship with his team.
- November 9th, 2012: Lakers, Mike Brown (1-4) — Bernie Bickerstaff/Mike D’Antoni
- November 12th, 2009: Hornets, Byron Scott (3-6) — Jeff Bower
- November 18th, 2015: Rockets, Kevin McHale (4-7) — J.B. Bickerstaff
- November 21st, 2008: Thunder, P.J. Carlesimo (1-12) — Scott Brooks
- November 24th, 2008: Wizards, Eddie Jordan (1-10) — Ed Tapscott
- December 3rd, 2008: Raptors, Sam Mitchell (8-9) — Jay Triano
- December 8th, 2008: Timberwolves, Randy Wittman (4-15) — Kevin McHale
- December 12th, 2005: Heat, Stan Van Gundy (11-10) — Pat Riley
- December 13th, 2008: Sixers, Maurice Cheeks (9-14) — Tony DiLeo
- December 15th, 2008: Kings, Reggie Theus (6-18) — Kenny Natt
- December 15th, 2014: Kings, Michael Malone (11-13) — Tyrone Corbin/George Karl
- December 22nd, 2010: Bobcats, Larry Brown (9-19) — Paul Silas
- December 24th, 2007: Bulls, Scott Skiles (9-16) — Pete Myers/Jim Boylan.
- December 28th, 2006: Grizzlies, Mike Fratello (6-24) — Tony Barone
The following coaches would have appeared on the list above if the 2011/12 season had started on time. Instead, the lockout pushed opening night to December 25th, 2011. Within a month, these two moves took place:
- January 5th, 2012: Kings, Paul Westphal, (2-7) — Keith Smart
- January 24th, 2012: Wizards, Flip Saunders (2-15) — Randy Wittman