The headline for this column is probably a little too strong.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: PROBABLY?!?!?!?! However, we’ll still allow it, because PAGEVIEWS. –M.Z.)
Being an NBA head coach is certainly not the worst job ever. Not literally, at least. NBA coaches are not putting their lives on the line, digging ditches for pennies, or performing any of the thousands of other jobs that are far harder and more dangerous, for a tiny fraction of the money.
However, my original headline of “Being An NBA Head Coach Seems Kind of Absurd and Not all That Much Fun” was not only far too long, but not really the type of headline which would entice a reader to click a link.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: YES! This will also be the last editor’s note. 🙂 –M.Z.)
So, um… I apologize now for my (still bad) attempt at clickbaiting the potential audience. That said, I welcome those of you who have stayed to read despite my admittance of lying to the general public for the sake of more eyeballs.
To get to my point, we need to enter a time-machine, set the clock back to a few hours ago, and WHAM!
I was sitting in my cubicle — dreaming about things other than being in a cubicle — and a thought was dropped inside my cranium by the Thought Fairy (she’s real to me, damn it), and now here we are, about to discuss how being an NBA head coach seems stinky — relatively, of course.
Very few people take a job knowing they will be fired from it before they are ready. Now, in today’s day and age, I think most of us humans have accepted the fact that during our professional lives there will be times out of our control — layoffs, etc. — which put us in a similar state of limbo, but we never take a job offer knowing that we are going to be fired. Yet, NBA head coaches do. There are a very few outliers, but for the most part, every single NBA head coach who gets hired will not coach at his current spot for the rest of his professional life. Coaches will most likely be forced from their gigs by a dude in a nicer suit telling them they stink at their job… all of which is rather crappy when you think about it.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that if a person takes an NBA coaching gig, then overachieves with a horrible roster, he is actually doing himself a disservice. Sure, being good-to-great at their job is what coaches aspire to do, but not ever having the luxury of landing a top draft pick — because you are too good at your job and have been dragging the decomposing corpses as well as the young legs — is actually a bad thing. (Here’s looking at you, Brad Stevens.)
The above makes for a great story in year one — hell, maybe even year two. However, as Brad Stevens (or whoever) continues to land in that six-to-eight playoff spot each year with a glorified lottery roster, it does the coach more harm than good. That’s not because the coach is bad, but because after the “good story” vibe wears off, people are going to start questioning if “this (particular) coach is good enough to ever win an NBA title” or other variations of ways to diminish one’s act of overachieving.
Then again, being a super-bad coach does no one any favors as well. Look at the hundreds of coaches who have had NBA head coaching gigs, most of whom you don’t remember or never heard of. These people got fired because they were either given a roster beyond saving or were simply unprepared (or too inferior) to be a good head coach. Who are these people? Where do they go? What purpose does it serve them to take a job they know they are going to get fired from… unless their employer lands a top pick in the NBA draft — a pick which also happens to turn out NOT to be a bust — and will develop into a star quickly enough to save his own job? (Here’s looking at you, New Orleans/Anthony Davis/Monty Williams, a man who is no longer afforded the opportunity to coach a superstar in his prime.)
I suppose we should not feel bad for them — not the same type of empathy we will for those who are casualties of cutbacks at a local warehouse or whatever (especially since most of these ex-head coaches will simply become assistants the next year), but empathy rooted in an understanding of what disappointment feels like. I doubt a coach’s life goal was to reach the pinnacle of his profession and lose his job because of other people’s (GMs’) incompetence or (worse) realizing they themselves are merely not good enough. I will tell you as a point of comparison that I am not as good at my job as others, but no one will ever come for my head on a stick, nor will my boss’ failures be pinned on me, or the plethora of other things that happen to NBA head coaches.
Again, this is all relatively speaking (something I wish I could type at the top of every column I write), so there’s no need to lose sleep over Vinny Del Negro getting canned or some guy being forced out because management sided with their star player’s opinion that the head coach’s underwear is proof he is the actual beast incarnate. Still, it kind of seems stinky to be an NBA head coach.
For fun, as practice, without using The Google Machine, name as many current NBA head coaches as you can.
Now, of the ones you remember off the top of your head, how many of them do you consider to be good, okay, bad, etc.? Finally, out of all of them, how many of those NBA head coaches do you see having their current job in six-ish years? Now apply that same practice to the people in your office or wherever you work. Notice some different maths happening? Yeah, me too.
All in all, if a general manager was to call me in two minutes and offer me an NBA head coaching gig, of course I would take it. That’s a lot of dough to pass up simply because I know I will become the target of public scorn, a laughingstock among some reporters and fans, and the inheritor of a job I will ultimately be fired for. Yet, again, the money, non-physical labor, and (probable) fun of it all doesn’t diminish the fact that you are taking a gig to be told at some point — almost NO MATTER WHAT AND WITHOUT EXCEPTION — that you are a failure at your lifelong dream.
Now I get it. Being an NBA head coach is like being a writer (inside jokes are okay, right?). No matter how good (or bad) you actually are, none of it really matters because no one on the outside even cares — not to mention, it is all arbitrary and pointless, anyway.
Albert Camus should have been an NBA coach.