Now comes concrete reporting to the contrary.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
The Suns need a point guard and clearly like Morant. But Williamson is the far-superior prospect. That’s the good reason to take Williamson. There are even bad reasons, too – like Williamson’s marketability.
Remember, there’s only a 14% chance Phoenix gets the No. 1 pick. So, this probably won’t matter.
But good for the Suns settling this quickly. The rumor only made them look bad (which might have been part of the point of people spreading it). James Jones’ regime has hit at least a tolerable level of credibility.
Johnson clearly intended to fire Lakers coach Luke Walton. Then, Johnson stunningly resigned as Lakers president.
Still, the Lakers and Walton “mutually agreed to part ways,” as team described it.
Most people figure Walton got fired, but had his departure put into kinder terms. But maybe it wasn’t that simple.
sources say Walton was given the chance to stay on as head coach in a subsequent meeting that included owner Jeanie Buss. But Walton, who was already aware that Buss had given Johnson the full authority to fire him and who had long harbored concerns about general manager Rob Pelinka’s style, was ready to head for the exits himself.
Why is this leaking now? Walton is being sued for sexual assault. The Lakers say they didn’t know about the alleged incident while employing him. Kelli Tennant claims it occurred while Walton was still a Warriors assistant coach, and it didn’t become public until after he left Los Angeles. That the Lakers invited him to return supports their claim (or opens the door for them to look far worse if it turns out they did know).
From a basketball standpoint, it’s unclear under what terms Walton could have returned. Perhaps, the Lakers would have required him to change his coaching staff and/or schemes. It might not have been as simple as Walton continuing on the job as he was doing it previously.
He found a soft landing spot with the Kings. The security of the Sacramento job might have been more appealing than continuing with the Lakers.
Igor Kokoskov worked 18 years as an NBA assistant coach. The Serbia native worked tirelessly to convince teams he was more than just a mentor for European players. Finally, the Suns hired him as their head coach.
“It’s a dream job,” Kokoskov beamed. “And it’s a special day for me.”
Less than a year later, Phoenix fired him.
What a tough business.
The Suns gave Kokoskov a roster ill-equipped to win. They were comically thin at point guard. They had one of the NBA’s least-experienced teams. Even rising star Devin Booker still has significant flaws that inhibit his ability to win. Veterans like Trevor Ariza and Tyson Chandler appeared apathetic in Phoenix.
And now Kokoskov will pay the price for the Suns’ 19-win season.
His time as an NBA head coach is over already, and he might not get another opportunity. Kokoskov is the first coach to get fired after his first season as an NBA head coach since Mike Dunlap with Charlotte in 2013.
Here’s every coach to get fired after only one season, or less, of his first head-coaching job since the NBA-ABA merger. Interim seasons count only if the coach was retained the following year.
Of the 21 coaches fired in or following their first season as an NBA head coach, only five – Keith Smart, Mike D’Antoni, Johnny Davis, Bill Musselman and Jack McKinney – got another head-coaching job. Kokoskov faces long odds.
At least he got to finish the season. Phoenix had a late 5-2 stretch that included wins over the Bucks and Warriors. That could be a selling point for Kokoskov.
Randy Ayers (2003-04 76ers), Gar Heard (1999-00 Wizards), Jerry Tarkanian (1992-93 Spurs), Morris McHone (1983-84 Spurs), Bill Musselman (1980-81 Cavaliers), Bob Hopkins (1977-78 Seattle SuperSonics) and Tates Locke (1976-77 Buffalo Braves) all got fired during their first seasons as NBA head coaches. Jack McKinney (1979-80 Lakers) lost his job due to a bicycle crash during the season, and Los Angeles officially fired him after the season to keep Paul Westhead, who guided the team to a title in McKinney’s absence.
The Suns weren’t necessarily wrong to fire Kokoskov. Under his watch, they were sloppy and undisciplined and had chemistry problems – areas where the head coach usually gets credit or blame. General manager James Jones deserves a chance to hire his own coach.
Kokoskov might be a good coach. Even if he’s not, he could grow into one.
But he didn’t do enough to secure his job, as tall as that task might have been.
The above list is filled with coaches who had awful records. McKinney is the only one with a winning record, and his situation was complicated by the bike crash. Michael Curry (2008-09 Pistons) is only first-time head coach to take his team to the playoffs and still get fired since the merger, but Detroit had a losing record and got swept in the first round.
In many ways, it’s unfortunate Kokoskov didn’t get a better chance to prove himself. His job security took a major hit when the Suns fired the general manager, Ryan McDonough, who hired Kokoskov before the coach’s first season even began. Kokoskov survived rumors of a potential firing in February, but that was clearly only a stay of execution.
The Suns’ problems go way above the head coach, and Kokoskov’s experience in Phoenix could dissuade potential candidates from replacing him.
But there are only 30 NBA head-coaching jobs. Except for the most-coveted candidates, many coaches would rush to take this job.
As precarious as it can be.
The Pistons didn’t get swept by the Bucks because of the officiating, but the calls did frustrate Detroit and their fans throughout the series. (Good luck finding a fan base that doesn’t believe the officials have it in for them.)
During the Pistons’ Game 4 loss, frustrated fans started a “refs you suck” chant that reverberated throughout the arena. Blake Griffin got in on the act, quietly joining in with the chants.
Griffin continued to express his frustration with how the game was officiated from the podium after the game.
Griffin missed the first two games of the series, then tried to play through a knee issue the last two, wearing a bulky brace the entire time. Griffin made plays and the Pistons looked better, but it was never going to be enough. When his pain caught up with him and Griffin was taken out of the game in the fourth, Pistons fans gave him a standing ovation.