SPORTS WATCH | Firing Successful Head Coaches Is Simply Stupid

05/19/14 | By | More

Being a head coach in any professional sport isn’t easy, but the way they are often treated in the National Basketball Association, I’d say it’s the worst league these days to be in charge of a team. You never know when you are going to get fired.

Let me beat this dead horse into ground – again. I am still angry at the Denver Nuggets ownership for firing head coach George Karl last year. He just won the Coach of the Year Award, the team seemed to be consistently improving and the Nuggets were regularly playing in the N.B.A. Playoffs.

Now, I’ve got nothing against Brian Shaw, the Nuggets next head coach, but I’m not exactly sure the team has taken a positive step forward since he replaced Karl. Before Karl was canned by the organization, the Nuggets not only made it to the playoffs – they finished the regular season with an impressive record of 57-25.

Under Shaw this season, the Nuggets failed to make the playoffs – and finished the regular season with a record of 36-46. Again, my anger isn’t directed at Shaw here, but I wonder if Nuggets President Josh Kroenke is having any second thoughts about his office’s decision? Under Karl, the team was always on the up and up. This year, the Nuggets were mediocre at best, with a 36-46 record and no playoffs. Thanks, Mr. Kroenke, I love watching the N.B.A. playoffs without any skin in the game. It is so sweet to watch other teams play, right now. I almost guarantee that had Karl not been fired, we’d be watching the Nuggets this evening.

But that’s neither here nor there. The reason why have, once again, succumbed to a rant about the George Karl firing is that another successful coach, one who’s made the playoffs two years in a row, was fired last week, in yet another decision made by ownership that I just can’t understand.

After three seasons, the Golden State Warriors announced on May 6 that they were firing head coach Mark Jackson, effectively ending, according to Yahoo! Sports, the franchise’s most successful coaching tenure in the past two decades. The firing came after the Warriors lost their first-round playoff series to the Clippers (and after a playoff run into the second round the previous season).

Apparently, while Jackson was popular with Golden State’s players, he wasn’t so popular with the team’s front office, and, for whatever reason, did not get along with team executives.

‘”Obviously, it was not made exclusively on wins and losses,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob told the Associated Press, of that decision.

If Lacob made his decisions solely on wins and losses, Jackson would still be with the team today. Last year, the Warriors finished 47-35. This year, they improved to a regular season record of 51-31. Lacob’s ownership group bought the Warriors in 2010. Maybe he forgot that the organization made the playoffs only once in 17 years before Jackson became the head coach.

Those poor Warriors fans. They were just getting used to playoff basketball, and the team ownership does something like this. I feel their pain. I was getting used to playoff basketball in Denver as well. I just can’t understand why winning coaches are being fired in the N.B.A. these days.

“Things are crazy,” Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told The New York Times. “George Karl was the coach of the year last year – and gets fired. Mark Jackson gets a team to multiple playoffs for the first time in a thousand years, and gets fired. It’s our job. We have a tough job, and I think everyone knows it now more than ever.”

I had always assumed that owners of N.B.A teams wanted to run successful businesses. Not only do they have to make the right personnel decisions, but they also have to watch the team’s bottom line. It’s probably not an easy job to do, all things considered.

The one metric that all team owners have to look at is not a hard one to understand: Wins and losses. Generally, I’d say if a team is winning, business will be good. If a team is consistently losing, the bottom line will most likely suffer. There’s that saying that winning isn’t everything. For team owners looking to make a buck, I’d say that winning is everything.

So when you see the ownership of a team get rid of a successful head coach, especially from a team that’s had little to no success in a very long time, you have to realize it’s a stupid business decision. Just because Lacob couldn’t get along with Jackson is no reason to fire him. Lacob is hoping the next coach can keep the team headed in the positive direction Jackson set them on, but, as the Denver Nuggets found out, it’s not that simple.

Lacob’s decision to fire Jackson over personality differences is stupid. He will realize the error of his ways. The fans and the players already know it. Kroenke basically got rid of Karl because of his own cheapness, and his reluctance to pay Karl more money. Since the Nuggets have taken a step backwards following the Karl firing, I’m sure business isn’t so good for Kroenke now. I wonder if he’s having second thoughts?

Somehow, someway owners need to keep their hands off their coaches when they are proving successful on the court. If you hire a coach, you put all your faith in that coach. You go all in. If he’s successful, you keep with him. It’s always an easy decision to do so, especially when he is leading your team into the playoffs. If your coach isn’t picking up the wins you for, the hardest decision any team ownership then must make is how long do you give a coach to turn a team around before you pull the plug and move on to the next guy.

I’m sure Lacob and Kroenke or any other team owner would tell me it’s not that simple. I’d beg to differ. Winning is winning.

Twitter: @Gus_Jarvis

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Category: Commentary, Opinion, Sports, Sports Watch

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