How long before Vinny is most senior coach?


Dec 3

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And down goes Sam! Down goes Sam!

Yes, and it’s now three and counting as Toronto coach Sam Mitchell was fired Wednesday, already the third NBA coach to be slam dunked just over a month into the season.

I don’t even do my first leaguewide power ratings until 20 games in because I always felt you need 20 games to get a feel for a team to have credibility for just writing about it.

I guess not if you run the team.

So who’s next?

Likely Reggie Theus in Sacramento, perhaps any day now despite losing two of his top players from last season in Ron Artest and Mike Bibby in deals and top scorer Kevin Martin out with an ankle injury all season.

Odds on Theus: 2-1.

Mo Cheeks, Philadelphia. Odds. 2.5-1.

The 76ers, even beating the Bulls Tuesday, looked on the brink of mutiny. Samuel Dalembert barely played after what seemed like some sort of verbal altercation in a huddle. Andre Iguodala appeared to be ignoring Checks commands in taking some shots and plays and Elton Brand seemed frustrated by the whole mess.

Marc Iavaroni, Memphis. 3-1.

The only thing that could save him is ownership not wanting to spend any money, even to promote new defensive assistant like Kevin O’Neill, which would cost something. But the fans, the few there, have been chanting for Iavaroni to go and a column in the local newspaper Wednesday had players responding to whether the coach was good enough. Never a good sign.

Randy Wittman, Minnesota. 4-1.

You never know what Kevin McHale might be thinking or planning, but this season is a disappointment already after much hope with some draft day maneuvering.

Mike Dunleavy, Clippers. 5-1.

Again, the cost of letting him go probably would be too prohibitive as he’s also GM and on a long deal. But he’s clearly at odds with big free agent addition Baron Davis and has put together a potentially combustible group that only means trouble with Davis, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph, and Ricky Davis.

How much longer before Vinny Del Negro is among the most senior coaches in the league?

First this season to go was P.J. Carlesimo in Oklahoma City, and that really was just delayed from the end of last season when management was ready to leave P.J. in Seattle amidst internal and external dysfunction. It was just that the team also was such a mess, which rarely matters when it becomes him or me: GM or coach.

So next it was Eddie Jordan in Washington despite being the only Eastern coach outside Detroit to make the playoffs the last four straight seasons and despite starters Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood not playing. Tensions were said to have developed between Jordan and GM Ernie Grunfeld, and the two were said hardly to be communicating, though they seemed to leave on cordial terms with Jordan on contract through the 2009-10 season.

And then Wednesday it was Mitchell despite having a contract running through the 2010-11 season.

Maybe their economy is better up there.

This one was coming from the day GM Bryan Colangelo took over.

Colangelo made some tweaks and the Raptors became one of the big turnaround stories of the NBA in 2006-07, which was good for Colangelo as he was named Executive of the Year and escaped the long, impressive shadow of his father, Jerry, who now runs the USA Basketball Olympic effort after a brilliant run in Phoenix.

But it also was bad for Colangelo because he couldn’t fire Mitchell, whom he inherited, as Mitchell was named Coach of the Year.

Colangelo, coming out of the Phoenix system, wanted to hire either Mike D’Antoni or Marc Iavaroni, the latter now coaching in Memphis, though who knows for how long, and D’Antoni in New York. After all, if you fire the Coach of the Year, you better have an even better season with your new guy.

Too much pressure. So it was an uneasy truce between the two.

But the Raptors stumbled out of the gate around .500 as big offseason acquisition Jermaine O’Neal was predictably hurt. All Star Chris Bosh, who has become one of the sought after free agents for after next season, was said to be growing frustrated, and it came to a quick end after the Raptors were blown out by 39 in Denver Tuesday night as Colangelo came in to dump Mitchell and put in Canadian Olympic coach Jay Triano for now.

“This is a difficult but necessary step the franchise must take,” Colangelo said. “We appreciate all that Sam has done for the organization, applaud him for his successes and wish him nothing but the best with his future in basketball.”

With an unemployment rate of 10 percent now among NBA coaches, much higher than the national average, perhaps we’ll see David Stern before Congress soon seeking a bailout.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors.

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