Watson was fired by the Phoenix Suns after an 0-3 start to the 2017-18 NBA season. The Suns suffered brutal losses of 48-points and 42-points to the Trail Blazers and Clippers, respectively.
He finished in Phoenix with a 33-85 record and never really gained any forward momentum with the team since he took over for Hornacek in 2016. Watson is the first coach to be fired in the NBA in 533 days. And he was fired just three games into the season.
That streak was virtually unprecedented in the modern 30-team league.
It was the first time in 46 years that the NBA had gone without a mid-season coach firing, and it took a dismal start by the Suns to make it happen. There were a few reasons for that, ones that Tom Ziller and Paul Flannery previously discussed in a productive back-and-forth about the topic.
The most obvious one was how trigger-happy the league was in the 2015-16 NBA season. After all, 12 head coaches were hired in 2016, including Watson, and 20 have only held their job since 2014. Only three coaches hired before 2011 are holding on — Rick Carlisle, Erik Spoelstra, and of course, Gregg Popovich.
Which head coaches are still on the hot seat? Here are a few names.
New Orleans hasn’t made the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and that’s a problem. The team traded for DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline, but his pairing with Anthony Davis was mediocre enough that it felt like the league collectively forgot about them both down the stretch of the season. Now, with Cousins in the final year of his contract and the Pelicans tired of two disappointing seasons, it’s time for something to happen in New Orleans.
New York has Kristaps Porzingis, but it isn’t clear what else is happening with the Knicks. Are they still influenced by Phil Jackson to run the triangle? Will they finally trade Carmelo Anthony this summer or let his presence hang onto the team? Is there any way to salvage Joakim Noah’s terrible contract?
Porzingis was upset enough with the team that he skipped his exit interview, something that other teams noticed and called the Knicks to inquire about trading for him. New York could use some clarity on the direction it’s headed under Hornacek, either clearly trending up or down, but he was hired so recently (June 2016) that the he probably has a little bit longer to figure out the Knicks.
The fourth-longest tenured head coach hasn’t done anything wrong, but Toronto simply can’t get past Cleveland in the playoffs. If the Raptors opt to freshen things up and move some players around, perhaps it will extend to the front office as well.
The Bulls took a 2-0 lead over Boston in their first-round series before losing. Does that change anything? Hoiberg hasn’t had any say over the personnel, leading to players who don’t fit his preferred modern offensive schemes, and his teams have still made the playoffs twice. Still, he, too, has made his fair share of questionable decisions since joining two seasons ago.