When teams decide to terminate, or fire a head coach midseason, it often is because of a combination of these reasons:
- The team is not winning games at an acceptable level.
- The team and/or a key player tunes out the head coach in the locker room and doesn't buy his/her message.
- The head coach is not a good fit for the team's current direction.
- The head coach also is a general manager and has made moves that has hurt the team's future.
In the WNBA, a head coach has been terminated midseason for each of the past three seasons, and it will not surprise me if this season is no different. Here are two coaches who are in danger of losing their jobs.
1. Carol Ross, Los Angeles Sparks
After two straight 24-10 seasons, the Los Angeles Sparks have started on the wrong foot, where they are 3-6, or last place in the Western Conference. The team is currently on a three game losing streak, and lost four of its five games in June. This includes losses to the Washington Mystics, Tulsa Shock, and San Antonio Stars, all teams that do not figure to be in the championship picture for various reasons. While a very talented team can lose to one of these three aforementioned teams, losing to all three of them is unacceptable.
Things may be tougher because the Sparks lost Kristi Toliver for the time being while she fulfills her commitment to the Slovakian National Team. But a team with Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and Lindsey Harding should not be 3-6.
The Sparks have a new ownership group, led by NBA legend Magic Johnson. When Johnson and his partners decided to take ownership of the team last winter, they had the right to hire "their own guys" for the front office, even with Ross signing a contract extension shortly before the previous owner Paula Madison relinquished the team. They decided to keep the current management in place and many of their offseason moves were praised. But that hasn't translated into positive results so far.
This is isn't a damnation on Ross' coaching ability. But the team's performance this season has declined precipitously, and the players need some message from ownership that it's unacceptable. Terminating Ross, (and General Manager Penny Toler) is a way to do that, and also give the new ownership group a chance to bring in their own guys.
2. Bill Laimbeer, New York Liberty
Trader Bill earns a spot on this list even though he's not even finished with the second year of his tenure in New York. But so far, Cappie Pondexter and Tina Charles aren't playing as well as many would have hoped. In fact, the Libs are currently in the Eastern Conference cellar, with a 3-8 record.
Unlike Ross, Laimbeer is also a general manager where he has full control of personnel moves. He paid a hefty price in order to acquire Tina Charles by giving up the Liberty's 2013 (Kelsey Bone), 2014 (Alyssa Thomas), and 2015 first round draft picks to the Connecticut Sun. There's a saying that in two-for-one or three-for-one trades, the team that gets the one player should be the team that makes the most improvement right away. But I don't really see that so far.
If the Liberty somehow fails to make the 2014 Playoffs, their 2015 first draft pick still goes to the Connecticut Sun, and that pick could have been a player who would otherwise help fill other needs on their roster. As of now, it looks like the Charles trade has bit them where it hurts. And this trade is the move which will define Laimbeer's tenure in New York, for better, or for worse.
While I still hold out hope that Pondexter and Charles can work out well together, I doubt they can with Laimbeer at this point.
These two coaches stand out as those who could lose their jobs in the middle of the season. Do you also feel that Ross and/or Laimbeer should be terminated, or should they be allowed to try to turn things around? Do you feel other head coaches should lose their jobs? If so, who and why? Sound off in the comments below.