The 2023-24 NHL regular season started about two weeks sooner than the NBA regular season did and there have already been two head coaches fired in hockey. How much longer might it take for the first firing to hit in basketball after a wild offseason that saw big-name coaches like Doc Rivers, Mike Budenholzer, Monty Williams and Nick Nurse let go? SportsLine offers odds on the first NBA coach fired this season.
Nurse and Budenholzer had fairly recently led their teams to titles, while Williams was the 2022 NBA Coach of the Year. Nurse was canned by Toronto and has landed in a great spot in Philadelphia, replacing Rivers there. Rivers doesn't currently having a coaching job. Neither does Budenholzer, but he'll almost surely get another sooner or later after all his success in Milwaukee.
The Suns dumped Williams after a disappointing 2023 playoff run, and he's now in Detroit with the Pistons (2-15). Detroit is on a 14-game losing streak, one shy of the team record. The record will almost surely be tied on Wednesday with the Los Angeles Lakers in Motown as 7.5-point favorites. What's even sadder is that Detroit was spanked at home by an equally bad Washington Wizards team on Monday.
The Wizards (3-14), who had not won since Nov. 8, shot 51% from the floor and had seven scorers in double figures against the Pistons, who have lost three of their past four games by a least 19 points. The Pistons' average margin of defeat in the skid is just under 12 points. Since the start of November, they rank 27th in offense and 27th in defense.
"That wasn't fight on the floor," Williams said. "That wasn't Pistons basketball by any stretch of the imagination. That's what this is -- we have to have people that honor the organization and the jersey by competing at a high level every night. … I'm not talking about execution, just competing. That wasn't it, and that's on me."
The Pistons' losing streak could reach least 18 losses in a row – the NBA record is 28 straight by Philadelphia – with expected losses Wednesday vs. the Lakers, Thursday at the Knicks and Saturday vs. Cleveland. After that, they play fellow teams eliminated from the In-Season Tournament -- Dec. 6 vs. Memphis (a potential victory for Detroit) and Dec. 8 at Orlando.
Was Detroit expected to be an Eastern Conference contender this year? No at all, but the team was at least expected to be competent with some terrific young talent led by former No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. If this weren't Williams' first season there, he'd be the favorite to be the first coach fired, but he got a whopping $78 million contract, at the time the biggest-ever for a coach. Pistons owner Tom Gores is worth about $9 billion, but you don't eat that kind of deal after one season.
No doubt the most disappointing team in the league so far has been Memphis, which has made the playoffs for three straight seasons and won at least 51 games and the Southwest Division in the past two. But the Grizzlies are a brutal 3-13, which is why Memphis cach Taylor Jenkins is the favorite. He probably is safe for a while, though, because Memphis has been wracked by injuries. Moreoverm superstar Ja Morant's 25-game suspension will not end until Dec. 19 barring something unforeseen. Ownership will definitely want to see if the All-Star's return changes things.
Washington completely overhauled the front office this offseason and committed to tanking by trading Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. might be the fall guy even though all this losing was expected. Unseld wasn't hired by the current front office.
I don't think anyone would argue that Chicago's Billy Donovan is an excellent coach, but the Bulls are a trainwreck -- they truly didn't even show up Tuesday in Boston. The roster is about to be broken up with potential trades of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso. It's doubtful Donovan would want to stick around for a rebuild regardless.
The only four coaches currently to have spent at least eight years with their current team are San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, Denver's Michael Malone, Miami's Erik Spoelstra and Golden State's Steve Kerr. They are all very safe, even though the Spurs have been bad this year.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the first NBA head coach fired this season?
- Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies +250
- Wes Unseld Jr., Wizards +300
- Billy Donovan, Bulls +400
- Tyronn Lue, Clippers +900
- Chauncey Billups, Blazers +1000
- Monty Williams, Pistons +1500
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