Skip to content

Gregg Popovich, Erik Spoelstra critical of high turnover rate among NBA head coaches

Jun 15, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT

LeBron James, Erik Spoelstra

SAN ANTONIO — The lack of job security for head coaches in the NBA has seemed to reach an all-time high level of silliness this year, and the two who are still playing for a championship believe that the consistency shown by their respective organizations is a big reason why they’re still competing at the latest stage of the season.

There are at least 12 of the league’s 30 teams that will have new head coaches to start next season, and that includes teams like Denver, Memphis, and the L.A. Clippers who just wrapped up wildly successful seasons that ended with trips to the playoffs.

It’s getting to be ridiculous, and the more tenured guys in the game will tell you that a constant level of turnover is far from the best way to build a team for long-term success.

Speaking via conference call on an off day after Game 4 of the Finals, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra had no trouble at all articulating the specifics of the issue.

“I think it’s a terrible state for the profession right now,” Spoelstra said. “And look, all you have to do … I mean, we see it differently, the San Antonio organization and the Miami Heat organization. For true success in the NBA, you must have consistency of culture. When you see that type of turnover over and over and over, it’s impossible to create any kind of sustainable consistent culture. And we don’t see it as a coincidence. We’ve had the same leadership in our organization now for 18 years. Micky Arison took over (as owner), put (Pat Riley) in charge. Even though we have had four different coaches, it still has been the same culture and relatively the same philosophy. San Antonio has been the same way for 15 years with Pop in charge.”

Gregg Popovich believes that ownership may not be able to fully understand the differences between success that is achieved by leaders in basketball versus those in other businesses they may have been associated with over the years.

“I think that in some cases one might surmise that some owners think it’s easier than it really is,” Popovich said. “It’s difficult to win an NBA game, let alone playoff game‑type situation. It’s not that easy. You don’t just go draft, or make this trade, or sign this free agent and then it gets done. It’s very difficult. And when things don’t happen quickly, I think some owners become frustrated. Some even take it personally, I believe, almost like a little bit of an embarrassment because they’ve been so successful in their own way and have a hard time understanding this business.”

Th Spurs have been the model of consistency, appearing in the playoffs 21 of the last 22 seasons, and winning four titles in nine seasons from 1999-2007. And the Heat haven’t been too bad themselves, missing the playoffs only three times in the last 18 seasons, while winning titles in 2006 and 2012.

There’s something to be said for staying the course, but too many teams don’t have a plan or philosophy that they’re willing to stick with on a long-term basis, and are looking for immediate gratification in the form of a championship or, at the very least, a deep run into the postseason.

But for a variety of reasons, most teams aren’t willing to commit. And for them, the constant upheaval clearly isn’t the answer, even though it’s something that ends up feeding on itself.

“As you think about it, it seems like it would apply no matter what your business is,” Popovich said. “If you can have continuity, a good group, a team, so to speak, and all that that entails and keep it in a continuous manner so that it grows more or less upon itself, within itself, and the knowledge and understanding continues to grow, you have a pretty good understanding. You can deal with adversity and not get too pumped up about success but just enjoy it and realize how fleeting it might be. But the change, change, change, change, change thing doesn’t really work. You can see that in a lot of organizations.”

Spoelstra agrees, and is thankful he’s part of an organization that gets it.

“I think it’s really a shame for the profession of coaching that it’s been so volatile,” he said. “But I’m also very grateful that our organization doesn’t behave in that manner.”

Latest Posts
  1. Report: John Wall added to roster for Team USA training camp in Las Vegas

    Jul 24, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT

    John Wall, LeBron James

    Team USA is bringing Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose and John Wall to camp. And that’s just at the point guard spot.

  2. Michael Jordan’s signed 1997-98 $33 million contract up for auction

    Jul 24, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT

    Michael Jordan AP

    It’s the largest single-year contract in NBA history.

  3. Cavaliers officially sign Andrew Wiggins, putting 30-day hold on him being traded

    Jul 24, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    It’s another 30 days Minnesota can try to leverage a better deal out of Chicago, Golden State and anyone else who wants Kevin Love.

  4. Is Paul George changing numbers?

    Jul 24, 2014, 3:33 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game 5 Getty Images

    His new nickname could be PG-13.

  5. Chandler Parsons: Rockets told me to pursue big contract, they’d match

    Jul 24, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT

    Chandler Parsons Chandler Parsons

    Houston obviously didn’t match, allowing Parsons to sign with Mavericks

  6. Lakers deny rumor they are waiting around for Doc Rivers to be coach

    Jul 24, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Do you think Jim Buss is going to give up his job, step aside for Rivers and put someone in over long-time trusted Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak? Really?

  7. Nuggets sign former ACC Player of the Year Erick Green

    Jul 24, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Nick Covington, Erick Green Nick Covington, Erick Green

    Green, drafted No. 46 in 2013, spent a year overseas

  8. Josh Huestis’ agent says D-League scheme arranged before NBA draft

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Josh Huestis Josh Huestis

    Huestis would have accepted arrangement only with Thunder or Spurs, but will the NBA or players union allow it?

  9. Isaiah Thomas: ‘I felt very disrespected’ by Kings

    Jul 24, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    Isaiah Thomas, Michael Malone Isaiah Thomas, Michael Malone

    Sacramento’s search for a starting-caliber point guard let the one already there leave for Suns

  10. Report: Manu Ginobili ‘optimistic’ about playing in World Cup despite Spurs’ wishes

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    Manu Ginobili Manu Ginobili

    San Antonio guard says he won’t represent Argentina if he still feels pain

  11. Anthony Bennett breathing much easier after having tonsils out

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

    The good news, he did not eat all the ice cream he wanted during his recovery from a tonsillectomy.

  12. James Harden: “Dwight and I are the cornerstones of the Rockets. The rest of the guys are role players.”

    Jul 24, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Houston Rockets Getty Images

    Rockets players certainly are giving Parsons plenty of bulletin board material.

Featured video

Stephenson goes elsewhere for his future
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Love (4701)
  2. L. James (3608)
  3. A. Wiggins (3595)
  4. R. Allen (3500)
  5. E. Bledsoe (3085)
  1. K. Bryant (3005)
  2. D. Rose (2941)
  3. C. Boozer (2468)
  4. L. Stephenson (2459)
  5. K. Marshall (2429)