NBA Coach Hiring and Firing Grades

Toronto Raptors hire Darko Rajakovic: Grade: B+
The Raptors have found their coach in Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic. I had to research the guy, and he has experience, but this is a random hire. The only issue that I have with this is the franchise itself, as the Raptors are a team in flux and very likely rebuilding.

Toronto is likely about to lose Gary Trent Jr. and Fred Van Vleet, plus could lose Jakob Poeltl, and the team may trade away Pascal Siakam. Really, the only guy who I can honestly say will be there is Scottie Barnes. The Raptors are likely to start a rebuild, and few coaches want to be a part of a franchise makeover. That fact obviously made the talent pool of potential coaches for Toronto to pick from rather spare.

As for Rajakovic, he is a 44-year old Serbian who has worked his way though the coaching ranks for 20-plus years. His resume is long, and I like coaching hires like this, as a coach like him works well with rebuilding rosters.

Phoenix Suns hire Frank Vogel as head coach: Grade: D+
I’m not in love with this move. I get that Vogel won a championship with the Lakers and had a long run with some really strong Pacers teams, but this looks like a re-tread to me. Hiring Vogel appears to be a move that screams the Suns will let Durant and Booker to run the show.

The part of this I like is that Vogel knows how to deal with superstars. When you have a team with two of the 10 biggest stars in the NBA, you need a player-friendly coach who is skilled at managing personalities. That is why Phil Jackson won titles, and when you have prime Durant and Booker and possibly still Chris Paul, a coach like Greg Popovich or Erik Spoelstra isn’t needed.

I personally think Phoenix should have kept Monty Williams and that there are far superior coaches on the market, so understanding this move is difficult, but that superstar factor has to be the key. Still, I am not a fan.

Milwaukee Bucks choose Adrian Griffin as head coach: Grade: B
I thought that the Bucks were going to promote from within or hire Monty Williams, Nick Nurse or Doc Rivers, but they chose Toronto’s Adrian Griffin. This is a very bold move as the Bucks have the biggest star in the sport and their goal is to win titles, so an experienced leader made sense to me.

Griffin knows how to work hard; he went from a undrafted free agent to having a near-decade long career, which is impressive. Griffin then started his coaching career with the Bucks and Scott Skiles, to the Bulls with Tom Thibodeau, to being the associate head coach working with several teams. He then settled in that role with the Raptors, where he won a ring. He also has worked with the U.S. National Team and was obviously heavily respected. He worked hard to get where he is, and he has had built himself a fantastic resume.

Personally, to me, I hated the move to fire Mike Budenholzer, but I like this hire. It may be a bit of a risk as he is a first time coach, but I like it.

Philadelphia 76ers fire coach Doc Rivers: Grade: A
This was a move that you could see coming given that the 76ers have not been able to make it further than the second round of the playoffs despite having had some fantastic teams. Philadelphia needs another leader, and with James Harden legitimately considering returning to Houston to help fix his former team, there’s a strong chance that Philadelphia will field a very different team.

It would be interesting to know if Joel Embiid was in favor of this, as the 76ers have to sell him on staying long-term and he seems to truly hate being sent home early. You have to think he will have a say on who is the next head coach in Philadelphia.

As for the 76ers’, the market is stacked with winning coaches, with title winners Mike Budenholzer and Nick Nurse looking for work, along with Monty Williams, so this makes the getting rid of Rivers look wiser. Personally, I see Budenholzer as the strongest fit, although any of the three would work. As for Rivers, he’s an excellent coach, but the 76ers needed to fire him.

Suns fire coach Monty Williams: Grade: D-
The Suns made a move that nobody saw coming, firing two-time Coach of the Year Monty Williams, who many consider one of the elite coaches in the NBA. The Suns haven’t won a title with him, but they’ve gotten close.

It appears James Jones wants a lot of change in Phoenix as the tean may only return superstars KD and Booker.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Williams as a coach, but he deserved one season with Durant and Booker together, and not just seven games then the postseason. I get that the Suns want change, but they need roster change, not a coaching change, so this was a mistake.

Milwaukee Bucks fire Mike Budenholzer: Grade: C
As a pure basketball move, this would be a D, possibly an F because the Bucks just fired one of the brightest coaches in the league; he also won them a title a few seasons ago. Coaches like this are rare.

Yes, the Bucks lost in the first round to the Heat, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was hurt and nobody could have guessed Jimmy Butler would turn into prime Kevin Durant. The Heat are a tough, tough team though, and they beat the far-superior Bucks quite easily.

I personally think Milwaukee made a mistake, but losing to the Heat is not the reason the franchise fired Budenholzer. That may have played a factor, but this just isn’t a simple basketball firing.

Houston Rockets hire coach Ime Udoka: Grade: F
In my recent grade for Nick Nurse, I stated that I only give F’s for pathetic, truly moronic moves; well, this is a big one. Ime Udoka is an excellent head coach, but he’s not the Celtics’ coach for a huge reason. It’s well-known that he cheated on his wife with a co-worker in a scandalous time for Boston.

As a purely basketball move, it’s an A. Udoka almost won a title a year ago, but he deserved to be fired. Regardless, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye if Atlanta or Utah or any other team than Boston or Houston had hired him. Why Houston? By many accounts, the franchise is a dumpster fire, and hiring a coach with a checkered history proves that the organization just isn’t wise.

I’ve said it 100 times; the Rockets’ roster, led by Jalen Green and Alpernen Sengun, has more talent than they know how to handle, but they just need the right coach. Udoka could be that coach, but it’s an ugly, ugly move for the franchise. It shows that the Rockets aren’t aware of how they are viewed, which is just ridiculous for a $3 billion or so company.

Toronto Raptors fire Nick Nurse: Grade: D
Honestly, this a moronic move because Nurse is one of the stronger coaches in the NBA and won Toronto its only championship. Yes, the Raptors lost in the play-in this year, but the East is really deep and talented, and their roster, led by Fred Van Vleet and Pascal Siakam, who missed half the season is a .500 team, which is basically what they were.

Also important, Toronto is about to have a roster overhaul as in which it is very likely to lose Fred Van Vleet and Gary Trent. The team is about to be rebuilding or retooling aggresivley, and you need a coach like Nurse to help you there; it is a huge deal.

Toronto isn’t winning a second title for awhile and winning a title needs to buy you at least a decade of employment. I truly hate this choice by the Raptors. I only give F’s to truly pathetic decisions, and am told I grade too kindly, so the grade should tell you how I feel about this.

Detroit Pistons “fire” head coach: Grade: A
Dwayne Casey wasn’t fired; he was just reassigned to the front office, which is NBA code for fired because his team had the league’s fewest wins by five and a 17-65 record. The Pistons were decent at the start of the season, but once their young star Cade Cunningham was injured, they were a dumpster fire of a team. They had a few bright spots, and they have pieces to build a half decent team, but they were one of the the weakest teams in a decade. Casey deserved to lose his job.

Houston Rockets “fire” coach Steven Silas: Grade: A
In a move that was expected, as the team was poor and just 22-60, which was tied for last in the West, Steven Silas will not return as Houston’s coach. There was zero reason for him to keep his job, and the Rockets need to find a much stricter coach.

Atlanta Hawks hire Quin Snyder as coach on a 5-year deal: Grade: A
Instead of just having an interim coach, Atlanta has hired former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, who was one of the best coaches in the league for a long time, helping make the small market Jazz compete in the West. The Hawks wants him to achieve the same for them.

Atlanta Hawks fire coach Nate McMillan: Grade: A
In a move that happened at a smart time as teams have several more days of the All-Star break, the Hawks made a move that should have happened awhile ago, they have fired coach Nate McMillan. This is not to say that McMillan is a poor coach, which is not the case, although they are just eighth in the East, but there have been rumblings about issues with Atlanta star Trae Young for a long time; in fact, I personally think be will ask for a trade in the offseason. The truth is that Young and the Hawks have played poorly this season, and if there’s an issue between a star and a coach, you fire the coach 99 percent of the time, which is what happened here. The Hawks had get rid of the coach.

Nets give head coach Jacque Vaughn a 3-year extension: Grade: A
The Brooklyn Nets fired coach Steve Nash a few weeks into the season and made Jacque Vaughn their interim coach. They then got rid of the interim title and have now rewarded his brilliant coaching with a three-season extension.

When I say brilliant, I mean it as, although the Nets have had more drama in one season than I can remember for a team, they’re winning. Again: they fired Nash; they had immense Kyrie Irving drama; an Irving trade request that was a brutal blow to the team; that actual trade; and then a Kevin Durant trade.

The Nets are very much still a playoff team, but the coach has a near impossible mission of making their reconstructed roster a winning roster. Regardless, Jacque Vaughn has proven to be a strong leader who can guide this team, and I love Brooklyn’s choice to reward its coach.

Chicago Bulls extend Billy Donovan as coach: Grade: D+
Someone reported today that the Bulls re-signed their head coach during the offseason, and as a Bulls fan and a fan of grading, I was very happy to grade this. My Bulls are average at best right now, and they aren’t performing to their talent. Donovan has struggled with his rotations, can’t get the most from his talent, has angered Zach Lavine, and the team’s player development looks poor at best. There isn’t any reason why Donovan deserved an early extension.

Brooklyn Nets hire Jacque Vaughn as head coach: Grade: B
It seems that I have to apologize. The Brooklyn Nets have chosen not to hire Ime Udoka as was reported and then graded by me, because there are a lot of people around the NBA against it. The Nets have wisely decided to choose another coach and have picked current interim coach Jacque Vaughn. Personally, I like the hire because it is a drama-free move for a franchise that knows only drama this season. I doubt Kyrie Irving will be with Brooklyn much longer, and I assume Kevin Durant will be traded this season, so the promotion of Vaughn gives the team a sense of continuity and familiarity, plus he has experience. He knows the Nets well, so I like the hire.

Brooklyn Nets fire Steve Nash as head coach: Grade: A
Kevin Durant demanded this during the offseason, but he finally got what he wanted just two weeks into the season. Steve Nash was a poor NBA coach and also wanted to be fired, so this is an easy A.

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