Jan. 30, 2004
How wacky is the NBA coaching carousel these days? I know megadollars are involved, and because of that fans won't feel sorry for coaches who get fired. Still, the bottom line is that there doesn't seem to be any coaching security at all in the Eastern Conference.
Think about this staggering statistic: Of the 15 teams in the East, all but one have made a change in the past 10 months. Terry Stotts of the Atlanta Hawks is the conference's leader in seniority with his current team -- he's been there about a year-and-a-half -- and one reason he's stayed on is the lack of ownership stability.
I can't believe that Boston Celtics coach Jim O'Brien stepped down because of personal differences with GM Danny Ainge. It's tough to understand how two grown men can't sit down and come to an understanding that would have been in the best interest of the Celtics. Boston lost a terrific guy in O'Brien, because he has a great understanding of how to deal with players and a great working knowledge and feel for the game. Some team out there will go after O'Brien.
New Jersey has given former assistant Lawrence Frank a chance as head coach for now. It's amazing that Byron Scott could lead the Nets to two straight NBA Finals and get the ziggy midseason -- with New Jersey still in first place in the division! Could there be player turmoil there, where team members were not content with some of his actions?
Wow, were the inmates running the asylum, as they say? I remember former Detroit Pistons coach Ray Scott years ago was coach of the year one season and fired the next. Scott said that the inmates took over the asylum.
For those who think that life is nothing but utopia when you're coaching the greatest athletes in the world in the NBA, think again.
It's amazing that Byron Scott could lead the Nets to two straight NBA Finals and get the ziggy midseason.
It isn't as easy as you might think, unless you get to the winner's circle like the San Antonio Spurs did last June. In that scenario, it is always, as Jack Nicholson would say, as good as it gets!
But it's nightmarish for teams that drudge through the airports with sub-.500 records and little hope for the playoffs. Yes, the paycheck is nice, but the self-esteem and pride can be destroyed.
Also, remember that once you're fired, it's difficult to bounce back unless you have a big-time resumé (like Lenny Wilkens).
FRATELLO WOULD BE GOOD HIRE
Some NBA franchises are making a major mistake by not hiring Mike Fratello. He's a guy who understands the strengths and weaknesses of a team.
When he was coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers, the only way he could survive was to play a half-court game, getting his team to execute offensively. With the Hawks, he had a team that could get up and down the floor in the transition game.
Fratello has a terrific basketball IQ, and he knows how to inspire and motivate players, getting the most out of them. He should be a lock for an NBA team. Maybe he'll end up with the Nets, where he has incredible roots and is well-respected in the area. He would be a perfect hire for New Jersey.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. He's been an analyst for ESPN ever since. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.