No head coach in the NBA is ever safe. From the expectations of owners and the front office to the ticking clocks of star players to the vagaries of injury, a multitude of factors weigh into whether a coach loses his job above and beyond their performance.
The right situation can help a coach stay employed even if they have a down year. The wrong situation can see a coach sent packing at the smallest misstep. With a number of coaching vacancies open leaguewide, including at least three coming open this week, the best coaching candidates can think through which would be the best to interview for.
Ranking the NBA head coaching vacancies: What jobs are available?
Wednesday morning the news broke that Stan Van Gundy was out as the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans after just one season, a surprise not only because he had just one year at the helm but because it was on his watch that Zion Williamson transformed into “Point Zion” and took the league by storm.
Wednesday morning the world also learned that Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks would not be returning to the Wizards, as the two sides could not come to terms on a new contract. Brooks was one of the league’s more highly paid coaches and likely was not keen on staying with a mediocre team if it meant a significant pay cut — and yet he hadn’t truly earned a continuation of his former salary either.
Thursday the news kept coming. After The Athletic dropped an incendiary look into the Dallas Mavericks’ organizational distress on Tuesday (subscription required), head coach Rick Carlisle announced he was leaving the team after 13 seasons. He follows longtime general manager Donnie Nelson out the door as the Mavericks are suddenly faced with a leadership vacuum.
Those three franchises join four others leaguewide looking for a new coach. The Boston Celtics moved Brad Stevens into the front office and are conducting a search for his replacement. The Indiana Pacers let Nate Bjorkgren go after just one season, as he reportedly lost his locker room entirely. The Orlando Magic are heading into an all-out rebuild and aren’t dragging Steve Clifford along.
Finally, the Portland Trail Blazers fired longtime coach Terry Stotts after one more season of exiting the playoffs in the first round. That makes seven total openings, with the potential for more depending on how the Milwaukee Bucks fare in the postseason and whether another team makes a surprise firing along the lines of the Pelicans. Nearly a quarter of the league now has to fill a head coaching vacancy.
For now, we will take these seven openings and rank them according to how attractive they should be to potential head-coaching candidates. Taking into account factors such as team talent, roster flexibility, expectations, market and ownership, which vacancy is the best for a new head coach, and which is the worst?