sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Monday, March 21, 2005

In the middle of the all the great NCAA action going on, I’ve noticed something interesting going on in the NBA. Two teams, both fighting for playoff spots but slumping, have fired their coaches. Is this normal?

Just today, the Cavaliers fired Paul Silas, a veteran NBA player who won rings with the Celtics and Sonics. As a coach, Silas hasn’t been overly successful, although he did briefly turn the Hornets around before they fired him. The Hornets may have done him a favor: They suck this year.

Last week, the Magic fired its coach, Johnny Davis. The Magic had lost six straight and were in danger of falling out of playoff contention, while the Cavs were clinging to fifth place.

I know coaches get fired in professional sports. Most times, changes are made to get a team into playoff contention, but I can’t think of instances where coaches or managers are fired to keep a team from falling out of playoff contention.

Both Silas and Davis were fired because, in the eyes of their GMs, they had lost control of the players. As ESPN’s Chad Ford writes, the Cavaliers’ future is wrapped around LeBron James, literally and figuratively, so it doesn’t matter who the coach is as long as James says he’ll play in Cleveland.

Cleveland general manager John Paxson made the statement that too many players were standing around watching James instead of moving, forcing James to take too many shots, and that was a major contributor to the Cavs’ struggles.

Davis had also lost control of his players, and two were disciplined by the league office last week, while star guard Steve Francis was ejected from a game with the Nets.

The two players disciplined by the league, Stacey Augmon and DeShawn Foster, were free agent signings brought in by general manager John Weisbrod, who rightfully is taking some heat, as other general manager should, for firing the coach when the problem is clearly the players.

His reaction to his players’ discipline problems:

“I guess all of those things are examples of things not being quite right.”

I find it amazing how we have two professional sports where on the field leadership is the key to success, while coaching has become practically dispensable in the other. A major part of the problem is the league bringing in younger and younger players at higher prices.

That said, are there some good coaches in the NBA? Larry Brown? Nate McMillan? Gregg Popovich?


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