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Fran Blinebury

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Lawrence Frank's job in New Jersey has been made tough by a plethora of injuries to key players.
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Which coaches could be next out the door?


Posted Nov 19 2009 12:05PM

You can't blame NBA coaches for walking around as if they're on eggshells sitting atop broken glass over thin ice.

Not when the New Orleans Hornets pulled the plug on Byron Scott after just nine games.

Especially not when a record eight coaches -- P.J. Carlesimo, Sam Mitchell, Maurice Cheeks, Eddie Jordan, Reggie Theus, Randy Wittman, Marc Iavaroni and Terry Porter -- were fired during the 2008-09 regular season and then Michael Curry was added to the hit-list in the spring. Last year, six teams changed coaches before Christmas.

With such drastic turnover a year ago, there's not likely to be a similar bloodletting this time.

Still ...

"I'm always surprised if it happens that quickly," said Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman when Scott was let go. "Somebody got an itchy trigger finger and pulled it. ... Let it ride a little bit. There's no rhyme or reason in this league any more for hiring or firing."

But there's always pressure from the front office, from the fans, from inside the locker room and all it seems to take these days is a hiccup for a couple of weeks to turn up the heat on any coach.

One would think that the temperature might be boiling in the New York metropolitan area where the Knicks (2-9) and the Nets (0-12) have lost 19 of the combined 21 games they've played this season. But so far, there haven't been many calls for the heads of Mike D'Antoni and Lawrence Frank.

"When you talk about coaches and whether or not they're in trouble, I think you have to look at the personnel on the court and are they responding to the coach," said Nets radio play-by-play man Chris Carrino. "Are they giving maximum effort? Are they playing hard? Is the coach giving them a chance to win? I think when you look at the Nets over the last couple of weeks, since they've been decimated with injuries, they have absolutely responded to the coach. They have played hard.

"I think Lawrence Frank is a smart coach. He's a good coach. The team is responding. The Nets just have not had any luck in terms of injuries. You've got guys missing games because of the swine flu. How many groins and hamstring pulls can you have? They're dressing the league-minimum eight players for most of these games. So I think management realizes the coach is not the reason why the Nets are [0-12]."

While the Nets have had a clear manpower shortage and just plain bad luck, the Knicks have underperformed even in a season of low expectations.

"For New Jersey, it's somewhat expected, for the Knicks, it's flat-out embarrassing," said Brandon Tierney, midday host, 1050 ESPN New York/contributor, SNY. "They've flashed zero toughness and zero IQ in grasping Mike's system, aside from Danilo Gallinari.

"There's no one I'd really fight to keep on my team. Donnie Walsh gets judged on the roster, Mike on the effort, and right now, they're both failing. The roster stinks and the players are playing like it's late March, and they have one leg on the plane. Amazing."

With all of that and nearly the first month of the season in mind, online sports book, BetUS.com, has posted odds on which NBA coach will be fired next:

Lawrence Frank (Nets). Odds: 1/2

Reason to stay: Sometimes you can't make lemonade out of lemons. He's had so many injuries and illnesses ... to Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee. Harris blossomed right away under Frank, Brook Lopez keeps growing and CD-R is improving. They play hard for him.

Reason to go: No matter how honest the effort, how hard of worker he is, there has to be a time when wins must mean something. When do the sheer numbers catch up? Is it 0-15, 1-20, 2-30? And if they want to dream of being in the LeBron James sweepstakes, will they need a bigger name to attract him?

Mike Dunleavy (Clippers). Odds: 2/1

Reason to stay: It certainly wasn't the coach's fault that the No. 1 pick in the draft, Blake Griffin, suffered a stress fracture in his left kneecap from dunking. Eric Gordon has missed five games with a groin injury and now Kareem Rush is lost with a torn ACL.

Reason to go: The Clippers have missed the playoffs the last three seasons under Dunleavy and, even with the injuries, there seems to be more talent on the roster than he's getting out of it. They are just 2-5 at home.

Jim O'Brien (Pacers). Odds: 4/1

Reason to stay: After stumbling out of the gate with three straight losses, the Pacers have won five of their last six games. Danny Granger continues to shine, Roy Hibbert is showing signs of life and there was that home win over the Celtics.

Reason to go: He's missed the playoffs in his two previous seasons and has not been able to get his team to play enough defense to contend for a postseason spot. Their wins are over teams with a combined record of 17-39 (.304). And there is that home loss to the Knicks.

Lionel Hollins (Grizzlies). Odds: 5/1

Reason to stay: After replacing Marc Iavaroni for his second stint as interim coach, Hollins got the Grizzlies playing hard and with a sense of purpose over the second half of last season. It wasn't his decision to bring Allen Iverson into the mix.

Reason to go: There are already signs of panic and discouragement both on the bench and in the locker room. Substitutions are often emotional. Does he have the temperament and patience to nurture a young team?

Don Nelson (Warriors). Odds: 7/1

Reason to stay: He's the second winningest coach in NBA history and now that Stephen Jackson is no longer around to be the thorn in his side, Nellie can get back to doing unorthodox things and having fun again.

Reason to go: Now that Stephen Jackson is gone, he can no longer blame the problems on a bad actor and bad chemistry. Now Monta Ellis wants out. Anthony Randolph sits on the bench. And Nellie often looks bored.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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