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Who is next NBA coach to be fired? Watch your back, Dwane Casey

Dec 11, 2012, 4:13 PM EDT

Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

We’ve had one coach canned in the first quarter of the NBA season, and just as we expected it was Mike Brown from the Lakers. Which is why it is ironic to listen to Lakers brass and supporters say it’s too early to judge Mike D’Antoni because so many players are injured and they haven’t had the chance to get acclimated to the system yet. But forget irony, let’s move on to a better topic:

Who is next to be led up to the guillotine?

My guess is we will only see one guy, two tops, let go during the season.

And if I were Dwane Casey, I’d be watching my back.

It’s never good news when the GM comes to town to talk to town about the state of the team and uses the word “embarrassing.”

The Raptors are off to a dreadful 4-18 start, and while the playoffs always seemed a longshot for Toronto they have taken serious steps back despite adding Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas. Their defense, which was solidly middle of the pack last season (and kept them in games) is 5.1 points per 100 possessions worse this season and is second worst in the league. The offense is marginally better and it was bad last season.

The natives are restless in Toronto, and they don’t have the woes of the Maple Leafs to distract them. It looks and feels like the kind of situation where changes are made. I look at the roster construction, now and for the past several years, and think changes need to be made higher up the ladder than coach. But the coach is usually the first sacrifice.

Who else could be let go? Maybe nobody, but here are some potential hot seat candidates.

• Alvin Gentry in Phoenix is the coach of a team with a seven game losing streak and talk of changes in the organization coming. Not good. But owner Robert Sarver just came out with a vote of confidence, which often is the kiss of death but we will take him at his word. Besides, you can’t let Michael Beasley win a battle with the coach, can you? Will Gentry be back coaching the Suns next season? Don’t bet on it. As Sam Amick points out at USA Today, Gentry is in the last year of his contract and was not hired by the new GM or team president. But the Suns are not likely to make a mid-season move.

• Randy Wittman coaches the 2-15 Wizards, so you have to put him on any list like this, but he should be safe. For one, he didn’t put together a thin roster nor is it his fault John Wall has been out all season, with Nene and Trevor Ariza missing part of it. Also, as Amick points out, the Wizards are still paying Flip Saunders, who was let go last season. You think Ted Leonsis looks at this roster and wants to pay three coaches at once?

• Keith Smart in Sacramento… You think the Maloofs can afford to pay two coaches at once? He’s safe during the season, plus he’s done a pretty good job.

• Lawrence Frank in Detroit (7-15 team) is another guy that could be given walking papers this summer but not midseason. Besides, the Pistons are 7-7 since a slow start and playing fairly well.

• Vinny Del Negro with the Clippers always gets mentioned on these lists too, but he also is safe and really shouldn’t be discussed. For one thing, the Clippers are 14-6 and atop the Pacific Division. When they have had DeAndre Jordan focused and the team playing defense they have looked like the second best team in the West. Also, know that owner Donald Sterling reportedly likes him. Vinny could be sent packing next summer but only for three reasons: 1) He gets in another fight with another GM; 2) The Clippers collapse in the first round of the playoffs; 2) Chris Paul pushes for it next summer as part of re-signing with the Clippers (this is the most likely reason).

  1. hoodheisman - Dec 11, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    How is D’Antoni not on that list…. The best basketball the Lakers have played all season was under Bernie Bickerstaff, who essentially let the players coach themselves.

  2. totallyuselessme - Dec 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    D’Antoni.

  3. zacksdad - Dec 11, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Since we have two on the motion for D’Antoni getting, lets now put it to the vote.

  4. observingii - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    Young Buss can coach!!!!!

  5. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Dec 11, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    Colangelo needs to be fired before Casey. He has been the GM for 6 years and the team has been on a treadmill ever since. This year was supposed to be the beginning of a 2-3 year playoff run, and look at us. He simply cannot build a quality roster because he never committed to building for the future.

    • badintent - Dec 12, 2012 at 2:06 AM

      And he hired a long time college coach Alex T as head coach and stuck with him even though he knew that the guy was at best a second rate assistant coach.The Raps ALWAYS (OK, only 80 % of the time) lose in the last 5 minutes , even when leading, Colangelo always though he could convince Nash to come to Canada to play in the cold and snow, Nash is much smarter than that,(Dallas, Suns, LA) Sad team, Toronto deserved much better , Vancouver went through the same crap in Stu Jackson GM Grizzly era.The hockey curse.

    • skinsfanwill - Dec 12, 2012 at 9:46 AM

      Very good assessment. I’ve been saying that for years. He is talked about as if he is the greatest GM to ever hit basketball and he has done absolutely nothing but let Chris Bosh walk.

      D’antoni should NOT be fired. They knew what they were getting before they signed him. No defense. He has done everything his resume said he would do. They asked for it and they got exactly what they asked for.

  6. trbowman - Dec 11, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    God himself could be coaching that team and it wouldn’t matter. Not enough of talent.

    No free agent worth his salt is ever going to sign with Toronto, so their only real hope of building a team is to pray for high lottery picks and nail them. Hasn’t happened.

  7. moneymike23 - Dec 11, 2012 at 10:05 PM

    Forget Casey, Raptors need to fire Colangelo. This is a guy who received a contract extension for FAILING. The team still looks horrible and have never shown any sign of life. I guess that’s what nepotism gets you in pro sports.

  8. tiennguyen645 - Dec 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    Mark JACKSON coach of the year GO ( mark)

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