3. Third-year coaches reaching new heights
Kenny Atkinson is in his third season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. After the team won a combined 48 games in his first two seasons, the Nets are enjoying some success at 24-23 so far this season.
Some in the fan base were calling for Atkinson’s head earlier this season, when Brooklyn was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak during which it blew four games with double-digit leads.
But the Nets stayed the course, Atkinson kept the team together through a stretch that could have fractured the team and they’ve gone on to win 16 of their last 21 games.
Dave Joerger is in his third season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings. After the team won a combined 59 games in his first two seasons, the Kings are enjoying some success at 24-22 so far this season.
Joerger has at times clashed with the team’s management, specifically over the deployment of the team’s younger players. In November, Yahoo Sports was reporting Joerger could be on the way out of Sacramento, specifically because of how he was managing No. 2 overall draft pick Marvin Bagley.
That situation, as well as comments Joerger made in praise of Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic — comments that somehow were misinterpreted as being critical of Bagley — resolved itself and Sacramento has been playing well of late, winning four of its last five games.
Sacramento has played fast this season — they are second in the NBA averaging 104.27 possessions per game — and that has surprised some observers.
Joerger came to Sacramento following three seasons as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. You know? Grit ‘n’ grind Grizzlies, only walk the ball up court because it would look strange to crawl with it Grizzlies?
But he’s got a young, athletic team and he’s running with them — good coaches are the ones who adapt their system to fit the strengths of their players, after all, rather than trying to jam players into a rigid system.
Stability could have something to do with the emergence of these teams as well.
Atkinson is the first Nets coach to get into a third season since Avery Johnson, who was fired 28 games into his third campaign in 2012-13. The last Nets coach to complete at least three consecutive seasons was Lawrence Frank from 2004-09.
Joerger is the first Kings coach to get into a third season since Paul Westphal, who was fired just seven games into his third season in 2011-12. The last Kings coach to complete at least three consecutive seasons was Rick Adelman from 1998-2006.
It is amazing what even just a little bit of continuity can do.