The sad state of the coaching profession is this:
The guy the Lakers thought so little of that they fired a week-and-a-half into the season—with $8 million still owed—is the guy, aside from Phil Jackson, who was in demand.
Mike Brown went back to Cleveland, and that says something about the state of the coaching profession, too. Brown replaced Jackson with the Lakers, but in going back to Cleveland, Brown replaced Byron Scott—who quite possibly would’ve been the Lakers' coach if he’d sat out another year and waited for Jackson to step aside.
What wound up happening was that Scott drove his reputation into a ditch with three uninspired seasons in Cleveland, and Brown didn’t do anything to impress the Lakers’ brass in barely more than a season…and yet Brown still emerged as more desirable than whatever else was out there.
There must be some innovative thinkers, teachers and, most importantly, ego managers out there waiting. Brian Shaw? Mike Malone? Nate McMillan? Quin Snyder?
Anyway, let’s run through the worst of the worst among NBA coaches here as we continue to imagine how fun it would be if the NBA Coach of the Year ballot went 30-deep.
Here are the 15 coaches who did their jobs pretty poorly or really, really poorly this season. (For the 15 coaches who did their jobs really well or well enough this season and deserve some credit, click here.)
16. Mike D’Antoni, L.A. Lakers: The Western Conference Coach of the Month for going 7-1 in April, D’Antoni was in an injury avalanche and somewhat of a coach-killing situation. But he undeniably struggled to motivate Dwight Howard to full force and contain Kobe Bryant from dominating the team.
17. Larry Drew, Atlanta: He doesn’t have tremendous job security with Danny Ferry looking to put together something new, and this season was his chance to tap into something sensational with Josh Smith in his contract year.
18. Jacque Vaughn, Orlando: The Magic were playing Beno Udrih and a bunch of guys making $1 million-plus salaries down the stretch, hardly determined to win. But Vaughn’s player-development skills were evident long before then.
19. Rick Adelman, Minnesota: A solid coach who had a challenging year amid all sorts of injuries. The developments of Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Schved were noteworthy.
20. Tyrone Corbin, Utah: Pretty much everyone could see the Jazz as the team that would drop out of the West playoff bracket to make room for the Lakers, and Corbin blew a chance to prove everyone wrong by continuing to use predictable strategies instead of getting more from his promising youngsters.
21. Doug Collins, Philadelphia: Collins is an undeniably fine coach who lost his team midway through. What could he have done better to handle the Andrew Bynum disaster? Hmm. Consult Tom Thibodeau about Derrick Rose?
22. Dwane Casey, Toronto: Despite all the underachieving individuals, the Raptors kept playing hard all the way to the end—and that late push deserves a lot of respect.
23. Terry Stotts, Portland: Stotts leaned hard on rookie Damian Lillard, who made the season fun, but the Blazers finished second-to-last in the NBA in field-goal defense with some veteran pieces, which is unacceptable.
24. Vinny Del Negro, L.A. Clippers: Even in their first Pacific Division championship season, there was a lot left on the table by the laissez-faire Del Negro, whose in-game management was poor and who didn’t get Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to dominate the paint.
25. Randy Wittman, Washington: Injury excuses early, but a team that goes 22-19 at home and 7-34 on the road is a team that has no mental toughness.
26. Byron Scott, Cleveland: Scott’s belief is that he’ll still someday get his dream job as Lakers coach. But his resume is starting to look suspicious after coaching the league’s worst defense. If Eddie Jordan helped carry him those years in New Jersey and Jordan has bounced right out of the league and settled for coaching Rutgers, then what can Scott do?
27. Keith Smart, Sacramento: There is talent on this roster, certainly playoff-contending talent, but Smart got the worst out of just about everyone on it. No clue how to manage an offense at key times, either.
28. Lawrence Frank, Detroit: As bad as life in Detroit was for Frank’s predecessor John Kuester, there wasn’t any personality management from Frank, either.
29. Mike Dunlap, Charlotte: Bizarre hire, quick dismissal.
30. Lindsey Hunter, Phoenix: The Suns were the NBA’s most clueless team late in the season.
Kevin Ding has been a sportswriter covering the NBA and Los Angeles Lakers for OCRegister.com since 1999. His column on Kobe Bryant and LeBron James was judged the No. 1 column of 2011 by the Pro Basketball Writers Association; his column on Jeremy Lin won second place in 2012. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinDing.