Before yesterday’s Celtics-Nuggets three-overtime whopper, the media asked George Karl about his budding candidacy for NBA Coach of the Year. At 33-19 (22-3 at home), the Nuggets are in 5th place in the Western Conference and, at the very least, an intriguing Western Conference playoff team. Does this qualify George Karl for NBA Coach of the Year? Probably not. The team has largely met expectations instead of outstripping them. Still, Karl deserves a tip of the cap for keeping it all together after myriad trades and offseason moves in the past few years.
Anyway, here’s how he responded to the suggestion:
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) February 10, 2013
Ho, ho! A real jokester, this one. But wait: is George Karl, er, right? Avery Johnson did get fired after winning NBA coach of the month earlier this season, so maybe the claim has some merit. And, after a brief SportsGrid investigation, it turns out that it does.
Below is a list of every winner of the NBA Coach of the Year award, including the team with which they won the award and how their tenure with that team ended.
1962-1963 – Harry Gallatin, St. Louis Hawks: stepped down of his own accord.
1963-1964 – Alex Hannum, San Francisco Warriors: fired! (1966)
1964-1965 – Red Auerbach, Boston Celtics: the named the award the Red Auerbach Trophy.
1965-1966 – Dolph Schayes, Philadelphia 76ers: fired! (1966)
1966-1967 – Johnny Kerr, Chicago Bulls: sort of forced out after poor 1967-1968 season.
1967-1968 – Richie Guerin, St. Louis Hawks: stepped down of his own accord.
1968-1969 – Gene Shue, Baltimore Bullets: stepped down of his own accord.
1969-1970 – Red Holzman, New York Knicks: stepped down of his own accord.
1970-1971 – Dick Motta, Chicago Bulls: stepped down of his own accord.
1971-1972 – Bill Sharman, Los Angeles Lakers: stepped down of his own accord.
1972-1973 – Tom Heinsohn, Boston Celtics: fired! (1978)
1973-1974 – Ray Scott , Detroit Pistons: fired! (1976)
1974-1975 – Phil Johnson, Kansas City-Omaha Kings: fired! (1977)
1975-1976 – Bill Fitch, Cleveland Cavaliers: fired! (1979)
1976-1977 – Tom Nissalke, Houston Rockets: stepped down of his own accord.
1977-1978 – Hubie Brown, Atlanta Hawks: fired! (1981)
1978-1979 – Cotton Fitzsimmons, Kansas City Kings: stepped down of his own accord.
1979-1980 – Bill Fitch, Boston Celtics: fired! (1983)
1980-1981 – Jack McKinney, Indiana Pacers: fired! (1984)
1981-1982 – Gene Shue, Washington Bullets: fired! (1986)
1982-1983 – Don Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks: stepped down of his own accord.
1983-1984 – Frank Layden, Utah Jazz: stepped down of his own accord.
1984-1985 – Don Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks: stepped down of his own accord.
1985-1986 – Mike Fratello, Atlanta Hawks: mutually agreed to part ways (1990)
1986-1987 – Mike Schuler, Portland Trail Blazers: fired! (1989)
1987-1988 – Doug Moe, Denver Nuggets: fired! (1990)
1988-1989 – Cotton Fitzsimmons, Phoenix Suns: retired/fired self (1997)
1989-1990 – Pat Riley, Los Angeles Lakers: stepped down of his own accord.
1990-1991 – Don Chaney, Houston Rockets: fired! (1992)
1991-1992 – Don Nelson, Golden State Warriors: fired! (1995)
1992-1993 – Pat Riley, New York Knicks: traded to Miami Heat.
1993-1994 – Lenny Wilkens, Atlanta Hawks: resigned/fired (2000)
1994-1995 – Del Harris, Los Angeles Lakers: fired! (1999)
1995-1996 – Phil Jackson, Chicago Bulls: stepped down of his own accord.
1996-1997 – Pat Riley, Miami Heat: stepped down of his own accord.
1997-1998 – Larry Bird, Indiana Pacers: stepped down of his own accord.
1998-1999 – Mike Dunleavy, Portland Trail Blazers: fired! (2001)
1999-2000 – Doc Rivers, Orlando Magic: fired! (2003)
2000-2001 – Larry Brown, Philadelphia 76ers: stepped down of his own accord.
2001-2002 – Rick Carlisle, Detroit Pistons: fired! (2003)
2002-2003 – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs: still coaching.
2003-2004 – Hubie Brown, Memphis Grizzlies: stepped down of his own accord.
2004-2005 – Mike D’Antoni, Phoenix Suns: stepped down of his own accord.
2005-2006 – Avery Johnson, Dallas Mavericks: fired! (2008)
2006-2007 – Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors: fired! (2008)
2007-2008 – Byron Scott, New Orleans Hornets: fired! (2009)
2008-2009 – Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers: fired! (2010)
2009-2010 – Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City Thunder: still coaching.
2010-2011 – Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls: still coaching.
2011-2012 – Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs: still coaching.
Okay, deep breath. Of the 50 NBA Coach of the Year awards handed out, 22 were fired, which is a solid 44%. In fact, many of them received their pink slips within three years of receiving the award. Not to mention the countless coaches who retired under suspicious circumstances, whether “mutually agreeing” to part ways, or a coach who just so happened to resign when his team just so happened to kind of suck. That propels the number to well over 50% of coaches, so Karl’s observation might not be far from the truth. Especially recently, when we had that Johnson-Mitchell-Scott-Brown 4-for-44 string. Of course, the tenures of most NBA coaches end in firing; it’s difficult for anyone to sustain success for an extended period of time, especially given the parity in today’s NBA. Still, the results of this inquiry are nothing more than proof of the NBA’s short memory.