Milwaukee's Del Harris glanced at a list of coaches recently and was shocked at what he discovered.
Only two coaches in the league - Detroit's Chuck Daly and Cleveland's Lenny Wilkens - have been with their teams longer than Harris has been with the Bucks."It's a sad thing," said Harris, who's in his fourth year of diagramming plays for the Bucks. "A frightening thing in a lot of ways."
When Stu Jackson was fired in New York last week, it reminded everyone just how tenuous a coach's job is in today's volatile climate.
Jackson was the coach of a 35-17 team before it stumbled into the playoffs last season. The Knicks overcame an 0-2 deficit in the first round of the playoffs to beat Boston. That series cost Jimmy Rodgers his job as the Celtics coach.
Six months later, Jackson is fired after his team gets off to a 7-8 start. Less than 100 regular season games into his tenure, the New York front office decides it wants to go in another direction.
Jackson isn't alone. An overwhelming 17 of the league's 27 coaches have been with their team for less than three seasons. Seven other coaches are in their third full season. It's reached the point where a coaching gypsy like San Antonio's Larry Brown is a symbol of stability.
Brown is in his third season as coach of the Spurs. No coach in the Western Conference has been with his team longer.
A coach often deserves to be fired. As Phoenix coach Cotton Fitzsimmons likes to say, he's been fired several times in his 17 NBA seasons and "the right guy was fired each time." But that doesn't address another issue.
It has become too easy to fire a coach and overlook the other problems that drag a team down.
"To a large degree, what we need to do is be a little more patient with the coaching at the ownership and fan level," Harris said. "We need to expect some responsibility from the players for winning as well as the coach. We do tend to bail the players off the hook everytime things don't go so well."
Teams that sustain a higher level of performance after a coaching change usually do so for one reason.
Talent. Philosophy and preparation make a difference, but the teams that win in the NBA are the teams with the best talent.