The life of an NBA coach can be rough. They are expected to win no matter what roster they inherit or what injuries plague their star players. And when the team wins, the glory goes to the players but when the team loses...well...see Eddie Jordan.
To a point, the criticism is fair. Coaches get paid millions of dollars to be around the greatest game everyday, so they should be held accountable. But many times, coaches are paid to be the scapegoats. Great coaches like former Washington Wizards' coach Eddie Jordan get canned, despite taking a mediocre team to the playoffs year in and year out. Lesser coaches like Doc Rivers get huge contracts because their team is so good all they have to do is keep their hands off and watch.
The most recent victim of the brutal coaching carousel: Toronto Raptors' Sam Mitchell.
In a world of what have you done for me lately, the NBA Coach of the Year from 2006-07 was dropped because of a general manager, Bryan Colangelo, who put lofty goals on a team built for a 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Mitchell's coaching career to this point has only lasted four seasons, but he already has two playoff appearances, a division championship and a coach of the year award under his belt. Just like any great basketball player, it takes time to develop into a great coach and he was just starting to heat up, but Colangelo's ego ruined what could have been a good thing.
As a player, Mitchell helped Kevin Garnett become the player he is and as coach, he did the same for Chris Bosh and could have continued.
For some reason Colangelo thought a team with one above average point guard, a handful of average guards and small forwards and two great power forwards could make a run at a division title. I like the Raptors. Jamario Moon is good, but not as great as Colangelo thinks, the same could be said for Nathan Jawai.
Mitchell built his coaching philosophy on a level of teamwork and inside scoring only seen in San Antonio. His philosophy has proven it can elevate average players to above average players, yet it wasn't enough.
Colangelo, you will be sorry. It is only a matter of time before he replaces Randy Wittman in Minnesota and takes a group of young, talented players and makes them a team. There is a home for coaches like Mitchell in this league, and I hope it isn't too long before he settles in.
But for now, good luck with Jay Triano at the helm. I think he could be a good coach after getting a chance to learn under Lenny Wilkins and Sam Mitchell (let's not worry so much about Kevin O' Neill). This team needs to keep running the fast breaks and getting the ball down low, because when you have four small forwards on the floor at the same time, shooting in a half court set goes out the window.
Mitchell for T'Wolves '09! Let's get the campaign going!