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It is no season of joy for sacked NBA coaches
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Every year, at least a handful of NBA coaches wind up unemployed through some combination of bad play and bad luck. This season, there has to be another reason.

Inflated expectations? The recession? A revolt against the coaching profession? Not even halfway through the season, NBA coaches have as weak a hold as ever on their jobs.

"I said to somebody, I think there's a coup out there," Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman said.

Adelman was smiling, but this is no laughing matter for his profession. Six coaches were fired before Christmas, 20 percent of the league's total and the most at this point in a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Nine teams changed coaches in the 2004-05 season, a record that could be in jeopardy.

"I just wish I could be in the meeting with the owner when that GM who is firing them is guaranteeing, 'We're going to be better by making this change,' because I don't see it ever getting that much better," Denver Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Oklahoma City Thunder got the firings rolling by dismissing P.J. Carlesimo after a 1-12 start, then posted the same record in Scott Brooks' first 13 games. The injury-plagued Washington Wizards (Eddie Jordan) and Sacramento Kings (Reggie Theus) also made changes. So did the Toronto Raptors (Sam Mitchell), Philadelphia 76ers (Maurice Cheeks) and Minnesota Timberwolves (Randy Wittman), teams that expected to be much better than they are.

Coaches always say they're hired expecting to be fired - but not this much, this soon. "It's pretty consistent the way they're going about it. Once you start going in the other direction, there's no miracle trades," Adelman said. "The classic line I've seen a couple of times is, 'Everybody's accountable.' I've seen general managers say that, or personnel people. But everybody's still there but the coach.

"So not everybody is accountable. Even though that's a nice statement to say, I don't think that's the truth. When you're a coach in this league, you know that's something that can happen at any time," he said.

Adelman notes that young coaches often get started with bad jobs. Theus, for example, saw Mike Bibby and Ron Artest traded during his one-plus season by a Kings team that is on the decline after Adelman had it near the top earlier this decade.

Karl said some of the problem is the false hopes teams have after summer signings. The 76ers contracted Elton Brand and the Raptors acquired Jermaine O'Neal, and both teams were widely picked to finish in the top half of the Eastern Conference. However, neither club gave its coach much time to get the new changes working - even though Philadelphia started slowly last season before Cheeks led a second-half surge into the playoffs.

"Most of those teams were expecting to be substantially better than they're performing," Karl said. But predictions by writers and team officials are often made before anyone sees how a team jells - or doesn't. "Everybody thinks they're going to win a championship in the summer," he said.

(Agencies via Shanghai Daily December 29, 2008)

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