With Monty Williams getting surprisingly fired by the New Orleans Pelicans, there are now five head coaches who lost their jobs during this NBA season or once the playoffs began. Williams joins Mike Malone, Jacques Vaughn, Brian Shaw and Scott Brooks.
Mike Malone, Sacramento Kings
After a turbulent debut season as a head coach, Malone seemed to be clicking with his players (especially DeMarcus Cousins) and installing the defense he wanted to see all along. The Kings started out 5-1 and were 8-5 after 13 games, but an injury to Cousins seemed to be a hit Malone couldn’t shake. The Kings fell to 11-13 and the owners shockingly fired him, even though Cousins was coming back and Malone was a popular figure among the players. The reason is said to be clashes of basketball style, but who knows what really went on behind the scenes?
Tyrone Corbin was the interim coach for two months, in which the Kings won just 7 games in 28 outings. George Karl became the permanent replacement, a coach whose attacking prowess was the main reason he was signed, despite fears from Cousins that Karl’s tactics don’t fit a more stationary big man like him. The Kings went 11-19 with Karl as the head coach in the final 30 games of the season.
Jacques Vaughn, Orlando Magic
Vaught was always going to be a placeholder, so it wasn’t really surprising to see him being let go in the middle of the season after a 15-37 start and going 58-158 overall in two and something years with the Magic. Amassing young talent hasn’t been enough. The Magic want someone who turn this group into a winning unit; someone who will make the playoffs. Vaught wasn’t the guy, replaced by interim coach James Borrego. The Magic went 10-20 with Borrego. They still haven’t hired anyone.
Brian Shaw, Denver Nuggets
Shaw was talked about for years as an assistant who deserves a shot at a head coaching job, but turns out his talked about skills weren’t enough to save him from getting fired. Shaw was supposed to help the Nuggets survive the firing of George Karl, but instead his attempts to force a new style on the wrong kind of players blew up in his face. The Nuggets went 36-46 during his first season, but there were no signs of improvement this season, fired after winning just 20 times through the first 59 games. It seems the players were actually happy he left. Melvin Hunt replaced him, but only until the end of the season, winning 10 of 23. They still don’t have a permanent new guy.
Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder
Brooks failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and got canned, despite the fact that Kevin Durant hardly played this season and he kept losing key players left and right as the day of reckoning was arriving. The Thunder already had a three game lead a few weeks before the finish, but fell into a losing streak and lost the head to head against the Pelicans. Brooks never was able to turn the Thunder into more than a team that’s about their two stars doing whatever they wanted, and Sam Presti finally had the excuse to fire him. Former Florida head coach Billy Donovan replaces him.
Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
Surprising, to say the least. Williams was very popular among his players and just led the Pelicans to their first playoff season since Chris Paul left to Los Angeles. He and Anthony Davis had a bond, or so it seemed. But Williams isn’t the X’s and O’s guy owners and managers are looking for these days, and the Pelicans felt they need someone better to take them further than just the first round of the playoffs. Rumor has it Davis is unhappy, which might lead to a different decision from him when it comes to signing the contract extension the Pelicans have planned for him.