Consistency matters when it comes to NBA coaching

Utah Jazz head coach Will Hardy watches a free throw as the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves play at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Minnesota won 119-100.

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Trying to keep track of who is coaching NBA teams, who is fired midseason, who is fired after the season ends and who is in line to get vacant coaching positions is a roller coaster.

But have no fear, not only am I here to assure you that the Utah Jazz are nowhere near entering the coaching carousel ranks, I’m also here to say that Jazz fans should be very happy with how the Jazz view the head coach position and the expectations that come with it.

Before we talk about Will Hardy and the Jazz, let’s take an honest look at what has happened around the NBA recently.

In the last few days, the Los Angeles Lakers parted ways with head coach Darvin Ham and the Phoenix Suns dismissed coach Frank Vogel. We don’t have to pretend that these two men were bad at their jobs. The Lakers were not going to win an NBA title this year and everyone knew it. The Suns can’t protect the rim of a sippy cup, much less one on a basketball court, and they weren’t going to put up a fight against any of the Western Conference powerhouses. The Lakers and Suns did not lose because the coaches were bad.

Ham was fired after two seasons with the Lakers, and Vogel, despite signing a five-year deal, was let go after just one season with the Suns. That’s hardly enough time to get to know the staff. But, here we are.

Before these most recent firings, there was Wes Unseld Jr., who was let go in January after coaching the absolutely atrociously built Washington Wizards teams for 2 1/2 years. He was removed from coaching a team whose two best players were Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole.

(Pause for excessive eye-rolling.)

In February 2023, the Brooklyn Nets gave Jacque Vaughn a contract extension and then, one year later — with Ben Simmons unable to play basketball and Mikal Bridges as the best player on the team — after a 21-33 start to the season, they fired him.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers seem like they’re always firing and hiring someone new, and the coaching carousel turns and turns.

Now, let’s take a look at the teams that are succeeding, the teams that have stuck with coaches and built rosters that actually are well constructed and given it time to work out. Michael Malone has been the head coach of the reigning champion Denver Nuggets for nine years; Tom Thibodeau has been the head coach of the New York Knicks for four years; Mark Daigneault has been head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder for four years; and J.B. Bickerstaff has been head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers for four years.

Actually, Boston Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is the only head coach of the remaining playoff teams that has been head coach of his team less than three years. Though, it should be noted that he has been on the Celtics’ coaching staff since 2019.

There’s always a lot of talk about how important consistency is when it comes to NBA rosters and how chemistry is built over time — Rome wasn’t built in a day and whatnot. But there is certainly something to be said for consistency when it comes to coaching.

The Jazz have always demonstrated the importance of coaching consistency, and I don’t expect for them to change philosophy in that department any time soon. Can you imagine how silly it would seem if the Jazz had Lauri Markkanen as their best player and a bunch of guys that barely knew each other and expected for Hardy to coach them to the top of the Western Conference, and if he didn’t, fire him?

That’s what it feels like teams in the NBA do all the time. They have wild expectations that don’t match up with the talent, age, chemistry and construction of their roster, and then they axe the coach at the first opportunity.

The Jazz know the team that they have given to Will Hardy, and they know that they have pulled the rug out from under him at two consecutive trade deadlines, basically asking him to coach a team with one arm behind his back. They know that they aren’t going to get the results they want until they give Hardy a roster that is capable of achieving at a high level and that it is going to take time. That should be something that Jazz fans are happy about.

New with the Jazz

How to pass the time in the offseason

Today I’m here to promote naps.

This is a true story. In high school, my mom, step-dad and some friends were really worried about me because, when I wasn’t at school or at basketball practice or doing something with my friends, I was often sleeping. They feared that I was depressed and suffering silently. There was a bit of an intervention. (Side note: This was really caring and it was honestly the right thing to do. Oversleeping is definitely a symptom of depression, and it’s a good thing when the people that care about you pay attention and say something when they are thinking that something is off.)

But in this case, what I said to them way back in the early 2000s remains true to this day: “I’m not depressed, sleeping is just one of my favorite things to do.” I meant it then and I mean it now.

As a woman in her late 30s who travels a lot for work and sleep is often a real commodity, I appreciate naps more than I ever have and I love sleeping. Naps are not the same for everyone, and I understand that it’s not realistic for everyone to take a nap. But if you have time, even if it’s just a few minutes, use it.

From the archives

Extra points

  • Grading the Jazz: What we learned about Talen Horton-Tucker, Luka Samanic, Kira Lewis Jr. (Deseret News)

  • Grading the Jazz: Two-way players Johnny Juzang, Micah Potter, Jason Preston showed promise (Deseret News)

  • Grading the Jazz: Newcomers Darius Bazley and Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Deseret News)

  • The name of Utah’s new NHL team will be determined with help from fans (Deseret News)

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