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Coaches on the hot seat as December hits in 2021-22 NBA season

Here’s a look at the head coaches feeling the pressure as the calendar turns to December.

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks
Head coach Frank Vogel of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the first half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on November 23, 2021 in New York City.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The NBA season is entering December and there has already been one coach removed from his job. Luke Walton, who headlined this list at the beginning of the season, was promptly let go by the Sacramento Kings after a poor start. Things haven’t exactly turned around for the Kings since then but there’s still three-quarters of the season left.

Midseason coaching changes are a mixed bag. Last season’s Hawks changed coaches and went on a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Timberwolves swapped Ryan Saunders for Chris Finch last year, which did not work out so well. Here are the NBA coaches under the most pressure as the calendar turns to December.

Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are 12-11, good for the eighth seed at the moment in the West. It’s been an underwhelming start for the conference favorites to say the least and while injuries have played a part in the mess, Vogel’s rotations continue to be a frustration point for fans. There’s not much that can be done with a roster consisting almost exclusively of free agent signings until the trade deadline, and it might be too late by that point. Vogel might be the unfortunate casualty of sky-high expectations.

Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are near the top of a packed middle tier in the West right now. Jenkins will be safe if he avoids the play-in tournament, and he will likely be sticking around if Memphis makes the playoffs out of the play-in tournament. With Ja Morant sidelined indefinitely, neither outcome seems likely. The front office could give Jenkins another year due to poor injury luck, but the coach is still in a tough spot.

Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

To be fair, Malone has had a lot of injuries to deal with. Both Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. have been sidelined at times, with the latter currently on the bench indefinitely. Jamal Murray is also out, although he’s expected to return at some point this season. It just seems like it isn’t meant to be for the Nuggets, and that means Malone might be on his way out soon.

Names to watch

  • Dwane Casey and Stephen Silas are in tough positions right now. Both organizations have to make a decision about which coach is right for the young core, regardless of record. This isn’t to say both coaches will be gone but these rebuilding situations can go in different directions quickly.
  • Nick Nurse won a championship with the Raptors in 2018-19, which has probably bought him a few more seasons with the team. He’s had to deal with some notable injuries, so there’s a reason why his group might be lower in the standings than expected. This is one where the seat isn’t hot just yet, but someone has started collecting firewood.