All eight first round NBA playoffs are underway, and two are already tied up at one game apiece (Grizzlies-Thunder and Warriors-Clippers) with a bunch more 1-0 series playing their second games later today and tomorrow. In a mild surprise, road teams are already 6-4 in this year’s postseason, a trend that will be interesting to track of as the playoffs continue.
There may be 16 teams participating in meaningful basketball this spring, but there are also 14 teams that are not, and have instead already turned their attention to this summer’s Draft and offseason free agency period. Some of those 14, in addition to looking for players to add their roster, also have to find new coaches.
The New York Knicks, Utah Jazz, and Minnesota Timberwolves have all either fired, declined to re-sign, or have had retire their respective coaches, meaning the front offices of those teams are already on the clock to find the perfect new person to lead their franchises back to the playoffs.
The most expected one of these coaching departures was probably that of Mike Woodson with the Knicks, as New York — a team most people believed would make the playoffs and maybe win a round or two when asked prior to the 2013-14 season — went just 37-45, marking a 17-win decrease from the season. Woodson, who was hired in the middle of the 2011-12 campaign when Mike D’Antoni was fired by the Knicks, saw his team disappointingly lose in the first round and then conference semifinals before missing the postseason entirely in 2014.
For much of this season, with a rapidly-changing roster of oft-injured and underperforming players, Woodson was the proverbial lame duck coach who could not possibly resume his helm of the team for another season of assumed mediocrity even with one of the highest payrolls in the league. Towards the end, Knicks fans were ripping him, ownership was not supporting him, and even his own players were throwing him under the bus.
Now, it appears as if former NBA sharpshooter and president/GM of the Phoenix Suns and current TNT broadcaster Steve Kerr is the frontrunner to replace Woodson. Kerr has never been a NBA coach before, but he is widely regarded around the league for his basketball knowledge, which is why he is considering such a legitimate candidate for the Knicks, who need the calming influence he could have on their team. It is highly unlikely recently-hired team president Phil Jackson would return to the bench to coach the team he played for in the 60’s and 70’s.
There was much less animosity, but maybe a little more surprise, with the news Utah, a team clearly in rebuilding mode, would not bring back Corbin for another season. Corbin, who played in the NBA from 1985 to 2001 (including some time with the Jazz), took over for Jerry Sloan, who resigned after a rift developed between him and then-Jazz star Deron Williams in 2011, but wasn’t able to see much success with his young teams, going just 112-146 in his Jazz tenure.
The Jazz front office certainly did not give Corbin much talent to work with during his time in Salt Lake City, especially in a tough division in the already brutally challenging West so his abundance of losses should not really come as a surprise.
That is why the fact that Utah did not get him at least one or two more years is notable and relatively unexpected. A lot of places have former Bucks and Bulls head coach and current Cavaliers assistant Jim Boylan as the lead candidate to fill the Jazz vacancy, as Boylan has been involved with the NBA for over 20 years and would be a nice, safe hire for the Utah squad, which has a lot of talent and needs a good teacher to mentor its younger players.
Finally, we come to Adelman, who decided to step away from the game at the ripe old age of 67 years.
He coached the Timberwolves for the last three seasons and didn’t make the playoffs in any of them, even with the formidable frontcourt of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love. It did not help, though, Minnesota has been stuck in the ultra-competitive Western Conference and has to deal with the possibility of losing Love via free agency after next season in a situation similar to the one the Magic had to deal with for Dwight Howard.
Adelman’s NBA coaching career was a long one, spanning 23 seasons with five different Western Conference teams — the Trail Blazers, Warriors, Kings, Rockets, and Timberwolves. He only reached the Finals once, in 1992 with Portland, but never won, an accomplishment he certainly wishes he had under his belt. He won 1,042 games during his NBA tenure and also coached three All-Star Games but was never able to garner a title of his own.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, college coaches Tom Izzo (Michigan State) and Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State) — who played two seasons with the Timberwolves — are possible choices for Minnesota as Adelman replacements even though both likely will remain with their respective colleges. Billy Donovan, current coach of Florida, is another college option whose name has been thrown around with regards to the Minnesota opening.