Sixteen teams made the NBA Playoffs. Does that mean its reasonable to assume 16 head coaches are safe bets to keep their jobs next season? Not quite. It’s one thing to get to the postseason, but for some coaches, they need to prove in the next few weeks that they not only inherited talent, but molded it into a winner.
This is the precarious position that Philadelphia’s Brett Brown and Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan find themselves in the first round. The Sixers looked distracted (literally with cellphones) in a 111-102 home loss to the Nets Saturday, while the Thunder dropped a 104-99 decision at Portland Sunday.
Before both enter their respective Game Two’s, let’s look at local and national opinion to see how hot their seats are.
Brett Brown Hot Seat & Job Security with Sixers
It’s not even 100 percent clear that Brown is fully supported by his own boss. Philadelphia managing partner Josh Harris had a very non-committal answer on Brown’s future before Game One.
“He’s our coach going into the playoffs,” Harris said to South Jersey Sports. “We’re supportive of Brett. We think he’s the right leader to take us where we need to go in the playoffs. I’m focused on the Brooklyn Nets, and he’s focused on the Brooklyn Nets.”
Harris went further by saying that he expects a deep playoff run, presumably one that sees the Sixers make it further than last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals. Right now, Philadelphia is behind the 8-ball with a 1-0 deficit against the No. 6 seeded Nets.
One of the issues is that the window is closing for this franchise. Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick are expected to be on the free agent market. It’s unlikely that the trio, who cost a combined $46 million a year (approximately per Spotrac), will all be back.
If Brown can’t do it this year, will Harris and the Sixers brain trust really trust him to get it done with less parts? Right now, Amir Johnson and Joel Embiid are checking their phones instead of fully focusing on a playoff run.
Even with the necessary talent, Brown is not getting the job done, and could be seeing a pink slip soon.
Billy Donovan Hot Seat & Job Security with Thunder
After last year’s first-round loss to the Utah Jazz, Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed that Donovan would be back. The fact he needed to do that, considering that Oklahoma City possesses two All-Stars in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, speaks volumes about Donovan’s job security.
Prior to the All-Star break, the Thunder were third in the Western Conference with a 37-20 record but fell as far as 8th place before nabbing the No. 6 seed in the final week. This recent lull has people like Cody Taylor at Thunders Wire saying that “the future of Donovan in Oklahoma City could very well be decided by how far the team advances in the postseason this year.”
Donovan was also rumored for the UCLA coaching position that eventually went to Mick Cronin, so rumbles about his future in OKC have been ongoing for months. The final straw would be a second-straight early exit.
Fortunately, the Thunder dominated the season series with the Trail Blazers, sweeping all 4 regular-season games. Despite a 1-0 deficit, there’s still room to recover and advance to presumably play the Rockets.
A loss there isn’t lethal, but one this week to Portland could be too much for Presti to ignore.