For the many NBA coaches who aren't sure if they'll be in their jobs next season, it has to be unsettling to know about all of the high-powered sharks circling the way they always do this time of year.
And for this go-round, we're not talking about your run-of-the-mill sand sharks. The list of former coaches who could return is Great White-caliber, highly respected men who might be looking to get back in the mix: Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Jeff Van Gundy, Stan Van Gundy, Nate McMillan and Mike Brown, to name a few.
One slot is open, with Doug Collins stepping away from the Philadelphia 76ers bench. So before the playoff season becomes the front-and-center story for the next eight weeks, here's a peek at the coaches considered in greatest jeopardy of being replaced (records through Tuesday):
--Lawrence Frank, Detroit Pistons: The former New Jersey Nets coach who was hired in the summer of 2011 fought for his job publicly Tuesday, making it clear that -- despite the well-chronicled and sad situation with his ailing wife -- he wants to return. But while team President Joe Dumars is expected to avoid the wrath of owner Tom Gores for now, it would be quite a surprise if Frank isn't fired.
Before a current four-game winning streak, the Pistons had lost 27 of 36 games, and they've backtracked from Frank's first year on the job (.358 winning percentage this season compared with .379 last season when they went 25-41).
Byron Scott, ClevelandCavaliers: Scott might have assumed the toughest job in NBA history in 2010, when he was hired without knowing if LeBron James would return and embarked on quite the clean-up act when James left for the Miami Heat. But the progress hasn't come quickly enough for owner Dan Gilbert's liking.
The Cavs were 19-63 (.232) in Scott's first season, 21-45 (.318) in his second and 24-57 (.296) this season, though a long list of injuries can't be ignored. His two leading scorers, sensational Kyrie Irving and rookie guard Dion Waiters, missed a combined 44 games. His best big man, center Anderson Varejao, was done for the season in mid-January when a blood clot was discovered in his right leg that required surgery.
Mike Dunlap, CharlotteBobcats: It was a major surprise when owner Michael Jordan & Co. took Dunlap from his job as a St. John's assistant to the Bobcats bench, but it won't be a shock if he's done after one season. Dunlap came on the relative cheap, which always makes coaches more vulnerable, and has been criticized for trying to use his college style to coach NBA players. The Bobcats have technically improved (league record-low .106 winning percentage last season at 7-59 and a .247 percentage this season at 20-61) but have gone 13-56 since their 7-5 start that had so many folks saying they got the pick right.
Keith Smart, SacramentoKings: There's no shortage of Kings fans who would love to dissect the moves made by Smart that led to a 28-53 mark and seventh consecutive season missing the playoffs. But the bottom line is he's the coach of a team that is for sale, and the new bosses who will be on board soon -- whether in Seattle or Sacramento -- will want their own guy. The same goes for president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie, whose league-long tenure is expected to end.
Byron Scott has seen little success and many injuries during his three seasons with the Cavaliers.
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