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The legitimacy of these disparate expectations may, in some cases, be irrelevant, but professional sports have provided one crucial insight regarding blame and subsequent recourse: you can't fire the players.

With that established, the hammer almost always comes down on the melon attached to the shoulders of the head coach.

That's why, despite steering their teams into the postseason, at least a half-dozen coaches presently are considered to be in employment limbo.

Our lead-off man for this roster of lurking uncertainty is Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, whose squad was finished off by the San Antonio Spurs in five games of a first-round series with a loss Tuesday.

According to one report, D'Antoni is a self-appointed goner, with openings in Chicago and New York joining a potential vacancy in Toronto as alternatives for a coach we should credit with reducing the league's love affair with the viewer-numbing properties of post-up and isolation offense.

Based on downhill-rolling speculation, the Robert Sarver-Steve Kerr regime — which was not in power when D'Antoni was hired and proceeded to turn the Suns into the league's most entertaining regular-season team — will consider the efficacy of a coaching change.

Thanks to D'Antoni's reported perception of management's previous failure to embrace his vision, their opinion of him now and moving forward may not matter. His next move could be what he feels is an escape from Planet Orange, after all.

Unless Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich is prepared to work in Phoenix, it would be wise for owner Bobby and general manager Steve to try keeping D'Antoni where he is. So, instead of replacing Mike with someone without a comparable portfolio, the new bosses might consider a stare-down with the mirror.

Sure, D'Antoni's free-wheeling style hasn't exactly generated a playoff-tough, defensive-minded team capable of finishing off the Spurs in grinder games. But with Sarver as the skipper and Kerr as his little buddy, the Suns have shamefully waved bye-bye to one terrific player in Joe Johnson, a much-needed post defender in Kurt Thomas and a valuable sub in James Jones, a floor-spacing shooter who defends.

2008 NBA playoffs

Sunday's games

  • D-Will, Jazz even up series with Lakers
  • Spurs rout Hornets to draw even


  • Rosen: Spurs expose Hornets' youth
  • Kahn: Kobe to blame for Game 4 loss?
  • Rosen: Road woes continue for Celtics
  • Rosen: Boozer comes up big for Jazz
  • Goodman: LeBron still has no help
  • Rosen: Spurs make shrewd changes
  • O'Connor: Cleveland's crucial question
  • Western Conference playoff central
  • Eastern Conference playoff central


  • Conference semifinal action
  • Kobe receives his first MVP award
  • Best shots from the first round


  • Spurs feeling good about 2-2
  • Kobe talks after painful loss

By the way, Johnson also was an above-average perimeter defender.

Sarver's Suns also parted company with chronic whiner Shawn Marion, who was as versatile as a can of tuna, for the privilege of building a half-court dynamo around aging Shaquille O'Neal.

With a handful of games to alter a philosophy that had been in place (and was a suspension away from title consideration last season) for a few years, D'Antoni — who reportedly was solidly in favor of acquiring Shaq — was unable to coax this roster past the first round.

He also was unable to physically make Amare Stoudemire perform the mandated switch on a down-screen that allowed Spurs guard Michael Finley to get open for a 3-pointer that sent Game 1 into overtime. D'Antoni's also been unable to prevent Steve Nash from aging or coax him into using what's left of his quickness to slide his feet on defense instead of automatically backing up.

D'Antoni also has failed to produce an increase in O'Neal's free-throw accuracy.

Now, we may be left to witness Sarver and Kerr's ability to find a coaching upgrade, identifying a successor who — for whatever reason — probably is unemployed right now.

How about deciding to keep your coach, convincing him to stay and demonstrating a little basketball savvy by making a smart choice with that 15th pick in this year's NBA Draft (assuming you won't trade it for salary-cap savings)? It wasn't D'Antoni who made the last roster moves that all but slaughtered the team's ability to reload.

While we're lobbing advice, D'Antoni might be wise to steer clear of New York, where two hulking and highly compensated low-post employees don't exactly seem like swell pieces for his up-tempo system.

How about working with guards named Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson? Whoa, maybe Mike should check into the Bulls, who have perimeter shooters and backcourt depth, even though he'd be dealing with less inside gusto than he had in Phoenix before Shaq.

  • If D'Antoni leaves, it's assumed he also will be courted by the Toronto Raptors, who currently employ Bryan Colangelo as general manager. Colangelo was the guy pulling the personnel strings in Phoenix when D'Antoni and the Suns rallied back from the Stephon Marbury Era (a period Colangelo was in the middle of, too).

    It's no secret that Colangelo and Raptors coach Sam Mitchell are miles away from reaching the same page at the same time. While Toronto was being spanked by Orlando in five, the GM suggested his roster maneuvers had yet to be exploited. The coach, no slouch when it comes to deflecting blame, made a big effort to salute the skill and depth of the Magic roster.

    The dominos are lined up.

    We're not sure who smells like the leading successor candidate in Dallas, Avery Johnson's days as coach are over.

    (Please note that, like D'Antoni, Johnson is a recent NBA Coach of the Year.)

    Finished off by the New Orleans Hornets in five, the Mavericks — who, once upon a time, had become tougher and edgier under Avery — were considered ripe for a change. Josh Howard has been forced to early weed activity for the second year in a row. Dirk Nowitzki is a recent MVP who has yet to even convince himself that he can carry a team to the championship. And stretch-drive acquisition Jason Kidd failed to generate April glory, inspiring observers to credit Avery with cramping his style.

    I just can't wait to see who Mark Cuban decides is a better man for the job.

    From Big D we travel to No D, where Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has been presiding over a team that may lead the league in showing disinterest in guarding the opposition.

    And that's a shame, because George used to be a proponent of coaching team's that play defense.

    The Nuggets, who check in as the only swept team in this year's playoffs, have a huge payroll and some of the most difficult-to-coach personalities in basketball.

    Noise out of Denver wants us to believe that Karl will return, as will quitting judge Carmelo Anthony and maybe even Allen Iverson (who wants that contract?).

    Unless George is somehow destitute, he should consider begging to be released.

    The cry to dump Flip Saunders in Detroit is not quite as strident, now that his Pistons broke through in Philly and evened their series with the 76ers. Should Detroit muster enough interest to take out the Sixers, reach the Eastern Conference finals and knock off Boston (assuming the Celtics prevail), Saunders might survive.

    Chris Webber, who may be as good as it gets in explaining how to tune out a coach, recently said that Flip's words don't carry much weight with the Pistons. Without the aforementioned rally, a change really seems to be in the offing.

    Hey, Rick Carlisle is available.

    In Atlanta, Mike Woodson's been on the hot seat long enough to have a common-law claim on its ownership. We don't know if breaking even in four playoff games with the Celtics is enough to save Mike's job.

    But we'd certainly like to see how he'd do with Chris Paul suiting up instead of Marvin Williams or Brandon Roy instead of Shelden Williams.

    Too bad for Woodson that GM Billy Knight's fondness for draft picks named Williams did not inspire him to select Deron.

    Author: Fox Sports
    Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: May 1, 2008

  • News » Suns would be wise to keep D'Antoni in Phoenix 2008-05-01

    Suns would be wise to keep D'Antoni in Phoenix 2008-05-01

    Suns would be wise to keep D'Antoni in Phoenix 2008-05-01
    We've arrived at that point in the NBA's playoff circus where achievement lies in a wounded heap on the doorstep of expectation.

    In an aggressively blunt interpretation of this crisis, let's just agree that the recent achievements of at least four playoff teams did not line up with the level of anticipated performance.

    Big changes in Phoenix?

    Mike D'AntoniThe Bulls and Knicks are in hot pursuit of Mike D'Antoni. Will the Suns coach take his offensive prowess to the Eastern Conference?
    • Reports: Bulls, Knicks vying for D'Antoni
    • D'Antoni allowed to talk to other teams
    • VIDEO: Kerr backs D'Antoni after loss
    • Spurs end Suns' season in Game 5

    • Hill: Suns should keep D'Antoni
    • Rosen: Suns' fun-n-gun may be done
    • Kahn: End of an era in Phoenix

    • Other changes:
    • Report: Carlisle, Mavs close to deal
    • Johnson out as Dallas coach | VIDEO
    • VIDEO: Johnson speaks on firing


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