Handicapping New NBA Coaches
by Trevor Whenham - 11/19/2008
The NBA's coaching ranks are a perpetual revolving door. Each year recently somewhere around a quarter of teams in the league have welcomed a new coach. Early in the season, those new coaches represent a handicapping challenge. New coaches bring in new systems and philosophies. Some teams have the right talent and attitude, and the transition is easy. In other cases, things are rocky. To get a sense of the new coaches we are dealing with this year, we are going to look at three things: how the eight new coaches are doing this year so far, how the seven new coaches did in their first 10 games last year, and how those seven did the rest of the year and so far this year.
New this year
Mike D'Antoni, Knicks - New York is off to a surprising 6-4 start, and 5-5 ATS. For a team with 23 wins and 37 covers last year, this is an impressive start - well above expectations. They have covered four of their last six and are providing value.
Vinny Del Negro, Bulls - At 5-5 and 6-4 ATS, the Bulls are another overachieving team. You can look at the success two ways - either Del Negro gets credit for helping Derrick Rose adjust so quickly, or Rose could make any new coach look like a genius.
Michael Curry, Pistons - The Pistons are 7-3, and have a big win over the Lakers. Curry is in a different situation because he took over a team that won 59 games last year, so we can't really remark on his progress as a coach until the playoffs start. He has done a good job of getting Allen Iverson to fit into the system, though. The fact that the team is just 5-5 ATS shows that the expectations were high for this team.
Scott Skiles, Bucks - Skiles has presented real value so far. The team is just 5-6, but they are they best ATS team in the league at 8-3. Skiles has a message that resonates early with teams, and this is clearly proof.
Larry Brown, Bobcats - Charlotte has had a fairly underwhelming 3-6 start, but they are 5-4 ATS. The big things aren't going right in Charlotte yet, but Brown is a master of the little things, and those little things are helping this team improve, and providing some value.
Erik Spoelstra, Heat - Miami is at 5-5, and 4-5-1 ATS. This was a truly brutal team last year, so this year has definitely gotten off to a better start. Spoelstra has been with Miami since 1995, so his is a different situation than most new coaches who have to get familiar with a new team, city and roster.
Terry Porter, Suns - Phoenix is out to an 8-4 start, and 6-6 ATS. Porter took over a good team, but he has done a very good job of keeping them on track while changing the things that needed to be changed. Amare Stoudemire looks particularly happy to be playing for Porter.
Rick Carlisle, Mavericks - This is the one case where things clearly aren't working so far - the team is just 3-7 straight up and ATS. This team was in a rough spot, and Carlisle has done nothing to ease the times. Big changes are likely on the horizon for the organization.
Jim O'Brien, Pacers - Indiana did not get off to a good start under O'Brien - 3-7 straight up and ATS. They turned it around somewhat to go 39-42-1 ATS on the year, so there was somewhat more value later on than there was at the start. This year they are a stronger 5-4 ATS.
Stan Van Gundy, Magic - Van Gundy had the Magic blazing out of the gates, going 8-2 straight up and ATS. They kept going, winding up as the second best ATS team in the league last year. They are playing almost as well this year, going 7-3, but they are just 5-5 ATS, so the public has caught on.
Randy Wittman, Timberwolves - The Timberwolves were brutal last year. They started just 1-9 and 4-6 ATS. They only won 22 games on the year, but they continued to be better covering than winning - they covered 39. Wittman gets points for consistency - he has one win and for covers in his first nine this year.
P.J. Carlesimo, Sonics/ Thunder - Seattle started out just 2-8, though they were 5-5 ATS. They never turned the corner, winning just 20 games, though they did cover 39 games. They are a brutal 1-10 this year, though they are a much better 5-6 ATS.
Reggie Theus, Kings - Sacramento started out at 4-6 and 5-5 ATS. The start was indicative of the year - they wound up with 36 wins, and were a decent ATS team with 44 covers.
Rick Adelman, Rockets - Houston started out 6-4, though were just 4-6 ATS. Adelman did a heck of a job, and the team won 55 games and covered a very profitable 47. Year two hasn't been as strong. They are 7-4, but just 5-6 ATS.
Marc Iavaroni, Grizzlies - Memphis wasn't impressive on the scoreboard, starting just 3-7. Iavaroni was doing something right, though - they were 7-3 ATS over that stretch. Then the wheels fell off - they were just 28-43 ATS in their remaining games. This year they are 3-7 again, and a less impressive 5-5 ATS.