Decisions made in the world of professional sports often defy logical explanations. Unrealistic expectations can trigger strange or bizarre moves, whether they are coaching or personnel changes.
Prime examples of this have been evident this season in the NBA, but two big recent stunners have many observers wondering exactly what coaches need to do in order to be considered a success in their jobs.
Last week the Phoenix Suns fired head coach Monty Williams after four years on the job. During his tenure Williams was twice voted NBA Coach of The Year. The Suns went to the NBA Finals in 2021, but lost to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The past two years the Suns have suffered blowout losses in second round elimination games.
The new ownership of the Suns made a late season trade for Kevin Durant, one that heightened title expectations despite the fact it cost them some valuable reserves.
With two starters out injured, the Suns were eliminated in Game 6 of their second round series with Denver by 25 points.
That was all the new ownership group needed to determine a change was necessary. Despite winning 191 games in four years Williams got the boot.
Adding more irony was the fact that the team which beat the Suns for the 2021 title also fired their head coach two weeks ago. Mike Budenholzer’s crime was losing in the first round to eighth seed Miami. The fact that Milwaukee’s best player was hurt and missed two of the five games made no difference to Bucks management. Budenholzer had been their coach for five seasons, and the 2021 title was their first in 50 years. But none of that could save his job.
He joins former Toronto Head Coach Nick Nurse and ex-LA Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel as former championship coaches fired by their teams only a few years after winning titles.
Williams and former Atlanta head coach Nate McMillan are examples of coaches who revived dormant teams, but then got fired for inexplicable reasons. McMillan joined a Hawks team that seemed destined for the lottery and took them to the Eastern Conference Finals, only to be dismissed less than two full seasons later.
A major reason for the curious and sometimes absurd moves made by ownership is the fact sports decisions are being made by non-sports people. Owners who would never let inexperienced folks make key decisions in their other businesses have no problem interjecting themselves into situations that should be handled by folks with specific sports knowledge.
Because franchises are being sold for billions of dollars, new owners often feel entitled to operate as they see fit.
But the difference between the successful teams and the perennial losing ones is directly related to who’s running things and calling the shots.
Moves like the one Phoenix just did more often than not only set teams back rather than move them forward.