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Tom Thibodeau, Frank Vogel on hot seat as 2021-22 NBA season hits pivotal stretch

Here’s a look at the head coaches under the microscope ahead of the trade deadline and All-Star break.

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers
Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks argues a call during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on January 24, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 95-93.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The 2021-22 NBA season enters a key stretch with the trade deadline and All-Star break looming. Teams will be buying and selling during the next few weeks before taking a short hiatus ahead of the final push for the playoffs. That puts coaches who are underperforming in trouble, as this is the time where franchises often pivot and adjust based on the long-term needs of the team. Here’s a look at some coaches under the microscope heading into the trade deadline and All-Star break.

Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks

After making the playoffs, this felt like the season for the Knicks to truly elevate themselves in the conference. It hasn’t gone that way for New York, and now Thibodeau is under pressure. The Knicks sit at 23-26 and have seen non-playoff teams like the Cavaliers and Hornets vault ahead of them on the court. The Cam Reddish acquisition has only added to Thibodeau’s problems and he might be out unless the Knicks can turn things around down the stretch.

Frank Vogel, Los Angeles Lakers

There’s been so much noise surrounding Vogel and LA’s underwhelming start to the season has essentially sealed his fate in the offseason. The question now is whether the Lakers can put together something to save themselves from true embarrassment with Anthony Davis back healthy. Vogel will likely make it through the season, but he’ll be gone in the summer.

Nate McMillan, Atlanta Hawks

A trendy sleeper pick after reaching the conference finals last season, the Hawks sit one spot below the Knicks in the standings despite having essentially the same roster as last year. Atlanta’s players advocated for McMillan to get the permanent job, but now the team is looking to potentially ship out John Collins after already dealing Reddish. De’Andre Hunter’s return hasn’t solved much, and it could be a season of change in Atlanta.

Names to watch

  • Mike Malone continues to be a name to watch, even with the Denver Nuggets fighting to stay in the playoff race. Nikola Jokic is going to be a consistent MVP contender, and it feels like Malone might not be the right coach for this group if they eventually do play extended stretches together when healthy.
  • Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich are candidates to move on from their current situations with the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively. The Pacers are hinting at a rebuild, something Carlisle likely won’t want to sit through. The Spurs need to rebuild in earnest, which Popovich shouldn’t have to stomach.