SI.com is reporting that Phoenix Suns Coach Mike D'Antoni won't return next season after the San Antonio Spurs eliminated his team last night, 92-87. It was the third time in four years that the Spurs have knocked the Suns out of postseason and D'Antoni has reportedly lost the support within the organization - most notably from owner Robert Sarver and general manager Steve Kerr.
If that's the case, D'Antoni won't have to wait too long for a job, since he made the NBA fun again with his high-scoring, seven-seconds-or-less offense, and with vacancies in Chicago and New York.
D'Antoni appears to have been put on the clock the moment Kerr took over as general manager last summer and immediately began demanding a more solid, defensive approach, like the ones employed by the teams he won championships with in Chicago and San Antonio. SI.com is reporting that D'Antoni felt doomed the moment former Suns GM Bryan Colangelo left for Toronto two years ago.
The Suns have been an exciting team, but their inability to improve on defense and rebounding led to Kerr making the trade for Shaquille O'Neal. The trade helped the Suns' rebounding and O'Neal helped frustrated Tim Duncan some in this series, but it came at the expense of Shawn Marion, who likely would've been used to guard Tony Parker.
Parker was an unstoppable force in this series, with the Suns unable to play perimeter defense and contain his dribble penetration. He averaged 29.6 points and 7 assists while being guarded primarily by Steve Nash and later his buddy from France, Boris Diaw.
Coaching has always been a pretty dangerous profession. You're basically hired to get fired, and the general life span of a coach is three years or less (which makes Jerry Sloan's 20-year run in Utah downright unbelievable). D'Antoni was 232-96 as coach of the Suns.
You know what's crazy: Yesterday, New Orleans Hornets Coach Byron Scott was handed the NBA Coach of the Year award, which really means nothing in terms of providing security in the business. Dallas Mavericks Coach Avery Johnson, NBA Coach of the Year two years ago, is on a flame-broiled seat after the New Orleans Hornets knocked out his team in five games last night. Now there is speculation that last year's Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell's job might not be so secure in Toronto, especially if D'Antoni - Coach of the Year in 2005 - becomes available and Colangelo seeks a reunion.
Scott should at least feel good that he received his trophy on the same time his team booted the Mavericks and Jason Kidd, the player responsible for Scott getting ousted in New Jersey less than a year after leading the Nets to back-to-back NBA finals appearances.
So much for those big name trades in February, huh? I didn't like the Shaq trade initially. I supported the Kidd trade, but I had no idea that the playing style would be so bland with him there. Kidd played like he was on a leash.
All this proves is that it's really hard to change your philosophy on the fly - and when the owner is prepared to spend big bucks on their teams, and they don't win a championship, somebody has to fall. And as the clichÃ© goes, you can't fire the players.
Sloan has never won Coach of the Year and it might be a good thing. Since he took over on Dec. 9, 1988, there have been 200 coaching changes. And check out the list of how long the past 10 NBA Coaches of Year of year stayed on the job after receiving the Red Auerback Trophy.
Sam Mitchell, Toronto, 2007
Still employed by Raptors.
Avery Johnson, Dallas, 2006
Still employed by Mavericks. Job reportedly in jeopardy.
Mike D'Antoni, Phoenix, 2005
Still employed by Suns. Reportedly will not return for 2008-09.
Hubie Brown, Memphis, 2004
Resigned 12 games into the next season.
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio, 2003
Still employed by Spurs.
Rick Carlisle, Detroit, 2002
Fired after the next season and replaced by Larry Brown.
Larry Brown, Philadelphia, 2001
Resigned two years later to become head coach in Detroit.
Doc Rivers, Orlando, 2000
Fired in December 2003.
Mike Dunleavy, Portland, 1999
Fired two years later.
Larry Bird, Indiana, 1998
Resigned two years later.
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