The NBA season hasn't started yet, but there is already a short list of coaches who could be in trouble. From Fred Hoiberg in Chicago to Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, it is clear that a few coaching careers could be on the line in the 2016–17 season. We posed the question to The Crossover staff, who came back with a near-consensus pick that could shade on the scary side for the Bulls' head man.
Lee Jenkins: Fred Hoiberg, Bulls
So many teams made coaching changes lately there aren’t a lot of hot seats left. Even in Chicago, Hoiberg is only entering his second NBA season, but it’s the second season that he will have to manage a volatile and misshapen roster. The mix is different now. Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade bring much wattage, but little three-point shooting, and Hoiberg must find ways to space the floor around them. It wasn’t an easy job last year, with Butler and Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, and it won’t be again.
Ben Golliver: Fred Hoiberg, Bulls
The pool of immediate “hot seat” candidates is pretty shallow at the moment as a whopping 12 teams hired new coaches or promoted interim coaches during the off-season. Throw in the usual suspects who should remain on solid ground (Kerr, Popovich, Rivers, Carlisle, Spoelstra, Budenholzer, Stevens, Van Gundy, Clifford, Stotts) and there aren’t all that many names left.
Dwane Casey? He’s been a hot seat regular in recent years, but he just delivered the best season in Toronto’s franchise history. Jason Kidd? The Bucks are a mess, but he’s cozy with ownership. Quin Snyder? The Jazz were slightly disappointing last year, but look headed for big things this year. Michael Malone? He’s probably headed to the lottery for the second straight season in Denver, but it’s hard to argue his roster is underperforming. Billy Donovan? The Thunder are headed for a major step back this year, but GM Sam Presti hand-selected the former Florida coach and has long made stability a high priority.
This process of elimination leaves three names: Alvin Gentry in New Orleans, Brett Brown in Philadelphia, and Fred Hoiberg in Chicago. In his second season, Gentry must show progress in creating a team identity that never came together last year. He must do so after losing a number of rotation players in free agency and multiple players to injuries (again). He’s set up to fail and is working under a much-maligned front office that has so far failed to capitalize on Anthony Davis’s immense ability. Brown is popular, by all accounts, and he received a measure of comfort when Philadelphia inked him to a two-year extension last December. Still, he’s a holdover from the Sam Hinkie era and at risk of taking the blame if a young and talent-deficient Philadelphia roster suffers through another miserable season.
That leaves Hoiberg, who should be feeling the heat from all sides even though he’s only in year two. Unlike Gentry, he coaches a high-visibility team with a track record of recent playoff appearances. Unlike Brown, his roster is loaded with high-priced veterans and recognizable names who expect to be playing competitive basketball through April. Worst of all, Hoiberg’s roster is talented enough, on paper, to trick people into raising their expectations past a healthy point. When Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler inevitably struggle to fit together, or when the Bulls struggle to play team defense at a respectable level, the inexperienced and unproven Hoiberg will make for an easy target, even if Chicago’s management is deserving of the real blame. It will be very interesting to see how quickly the Bulls’ “hand-picked coaching target” becomes expendable if this roster fails to dazzle, or even click.
Andrew Sharp: Quin Snyder, Jazz
If the question is purely about seat temperature in October, the answer is Fred Hoiberg. He's the ready-made scapegoat if things go sideways in Chicago. But let's throw out Quin Snyder, too. He's been universally praised as one of the better young coaches in the league, but at some point he has to actually win. The Jazz have been primed to make moves in the West for a solid 18 months, and now it's time to deliver on NBA nerd promises. They added Joe Johnson and George Hill this summer to accelerate the timeline, and they have a credible case as the fourth best team in the West. It should be a fun year. But if that doesn't happen—if Utah underwhelms everyone for a second straight year—it'll probably be time to start rethinking Quin Snyder as Salt Lake's utterly terrifying, possibly homicidal answer to Pop.
Rob Mahoney: Fred Hoiberg, Bulls
The brand of basketball Hoiberg has professed to prefer has never quite aligned with the group of players put before him. That said, he was not blameless in Chicago’s struggles last season and will face a different sort of test with a complicated, shooting-deprived lineup this year. This Bulls roster is, by the admission of its own leaders, not one worthy of title contention. Hoiberg can still be held to some more moderate standard as he feels his way through his second season of NBA coaching. There’s still a lot to learn about Hoiberg’s coaching style, both in manner and tactics, and how it applies to the NBA game. The complications of his position to date—along with the three years remaining on Hoiberg’s deal after this one—make his seat more tepid than hot. His progress is nonetheless worth monitoring.
Jeremy Woo: Alvin Gentry, Pelicans
I hate that this is the case, and he might not deserve it, but given all the new hires around the league, New Orleans has to be the most perennially frustrating. Expectations here are tied up in Anthony Davis’s health, and Gentry doesn’t deserve the flak for his star player’s ongoing injuries, but something’s gotta give here. GM Dell Demps is probably in bigger trouble here if the Pelicans don’t improve, and with regime changes often come coaching changes. Gentry’s not in immediate danger, but look down the line and this job is bound to be up in the air at some point. Frustration has to be building here.