The NBA is ruthless in terms of firing coaches. Only four coaches, Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra, Steve Kerr, and Michael Malone have held the same job since 2015. As the season approaches, let’s examine what coaches are under the most pressure this year and could be fired if they fail to meet expectations.
Four Coaches on the Hot Seat Entering the 2023-24 Season
Billy Donovan – Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls are coming off a disappointing 40-42 season in which they missed the playoffs. Chicago is stuck in NBA purgatory, and they desperately need to pick a direction. The Bulls could continue attempting to be competitive, or they could either fully rebuild and reset their core.
Donovan’s coaching is partially responsible for the Bulls disappointments. Chicago has a solid core of offensive players including DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic. However, the Bulls ranked just 23rd in offense. Donovan’s offense lacks ball movement and is heavily predicated on isolation plays, which explains the Bulls offensive struggles despite their talent. If the Bulls elect to rebuild, Donovan could be on the way out.
Chris Finch – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves took a huge gamble on the Rudy Gobert trade last off-season. The jury is still out on whether the pairing between Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns will be successful. Towns missed the majority of last season with a back injury, so this will be the first full season with the big-man pairing. Because of the Gobert trade, Minnesota is in win-now mode, and if they disappoint this year, Chris Finch will likely be gone.
Designing a fluid offense with two polar opposite big men while fitting the playstyle of star wing Anthony Edwards is a tall task. Last year Minnesota’s offense struggled, ranking just 24th. This will have to improve for the Timberwolves to have real success this season. Ultimately, Finch is a fine coach, but the margin for error with this team will be thin. He would unfortunately be blamed if Minnesota doesn’t live up to their expectations.
Joe Mazzulla – Boston Celtics
Joe Mazzulla had an up-and-down first season with the Boston Celtics. One on hand, the Celtics were a top-3 offense and defense en route to winning 57 regular season games. However, the Celtics collapsed in the conference finals, and Mazzulla’s lack of coaching experience was a contributing factor to the post-season exit. Throughout the season, Mazzulla struggled with timeout management and had questionable rotations.
Mazzulla also lost the team at some points, highlighted by players occasionally taking over timeouts. Ultimately, Mazzulla got into an extremely difficult situation. The Celtics promoted him just a month before the season began. Eventually, top assistant Damon Stoudimaire to Georgia Tech in the middle of the season. However, with a year of experience and an upgraded assistant coaching staff, the pressure is on Mazzulla to prove himself as a head coach. If Mazzulla continues to struggle and/or the Celtics take a step back, he could lose his job.
Jason Kidd – Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks were arguably the most disappointing team last year. After a Conference finals run in 2022, Dallas had playoff expectations. However, they failed to even make the Play-in tournament and flamed out after trading for Kyrie Irving. The Mavericks can’t afford to waste another year of Luka Doncic’s prime. Kidd received frequent criticism last season for poor rotations and predictable offensive schemes.
Jason Kidd has always been a divisive coach, with high points—such as the 2022 Conference finals run—and low points—such as last season and misusing Giannis Antetokounmpo during his previous tenure with the Bucks. Kidd must now the Doncic and Irving pairing work and improve the team’s 25th-ranked defense. The Mavericks have high expectations this year and project to be in the playoff mix. However, if they fall short of those expectations again, Kidd will be blamed for the failure.