In any professional sport, the relationship between the coach and player is often the difference between success and failure. Indeed, it’s that relationship that we will be investigating with a look at some of the more memorable spats in NBA history that resulted in the firing of the coach.
NBA players who made their coaches pay
With Kevin Durant’s recent demand that head coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks be fired, the spotlight has once again been thrust on that all too uncertain balance between the coach and the player. Are players correct to take such stances when it comes to coaches? Are franchises right for taking the players’ sides and in turn firing their coaches? Regardless of where you stand, there’s no denying it does happen and in the NBA, it’s become more common in recent years. Here, we take a look at some of the players who famously orchestrated the end of their coach’s tenure and how it all went down:
Before he became the present-day head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, many will remember Kidd as the slick passing, high intensity point guard for the Nets. Indeed, Kidd endeared himself to fans both on and off the court as one of the more likeable characters out there. That is of course unless you ask one of his former coaches, Byron Scott. As reports at the time suggested, Kidd and Scott got into a shouting match in the locker room. While it’s not entirely certain what was said between the two, we do know that shortly after Scott was dismissed from his post. Not a good look for Kidd’s clean-cut image.
If there’s one thing about the battle that ensued between Kings head coach Paul Westphal and big man Cousins, it’s that we could all see it coming. From the very outset of his time in charge in Sacramento, there was conflict with Cousins. In the end, the situation became untenable and Westphal was shown the door. Was Cousins solely responsible for the firing? Probably not, but rest assured he most definitely had a hand in it.
Perhaps one of the best and clearest examples of how player power works in the league, Williams’ feud with coach Avery Johnson culminated with a ‘him or me’ declaration. It should be said that Johnson was not entirely innocent in the dispute, but make no mistake after he famously asked Williams what he would do differently, it’s clear that he didn’t take kindly to the player systematically diagraming and demonstrating just that in front of the entire team. At that point things escalated and in the end Johnson’s 23 years in Utah came to end. To make matters worse, Williams left the Jazz just a few months later.
Probably the most famous on this list, Magic Johnson will always be among the most loved NBA stars. A true legend of the game, Johnson did a great deal for the sport of basketball while on the court and perhaps even more off of it. On the other hand, there is a darker story that perhaps many don’t know. One that involves former coach Paul Westhead and ended in his firing back in 1990. Reports at the time indicated that Magic wasn’t too enthusiastic about Westhead’s proposed ideas for the offense and as such decided to act. While it should be said that Magic wasn’t the only player involved in the move, he was by far the most recognizable.
Back in 2006 Marbury and then Knicks head coach Larry Brown went to war. There is no other way to describe what actually culminated in a physical brawl during one practice session. With Marbury infamously saying, “it’s personal” and Brown accusing the player of failing to accept responsibility for his role in a disastrous season, it was never going to end well. Predictably, Brown was eventually fired and the Knicks even refused to pay out the remainder of his contract at one point.
Awkward and strange are two words that come to mind when recounting what has got to be ‘the’ coach vs player controversy to end all. After a period of back and forthing over a trade, Howard found himself at the center of a media frenzy when then head coach Stan Van Gundy declared to the press that Howard had demanded that he be fired. What happened next was a bizarre press conference in which both appeared. Ultimately, Van Gundy was fired and so was GM Otis Smith.
Honorable mention goes to Latrell Sprewell
While some of the names above probably felt like they wanted to kill their coaches at some point, none of them actually tried to, but there’s one guy who actually did and that’s Latrell Sprewell. The high-flying wing was involved in one of the most intense and violent play-coach battles in the NBA’s history and perhaps even professional sports. What happened? Sprewell literally choked head coach P.J. Carlesimo during a practice session after the latter shouted at him for his passing quality. While the scenario didn’t result in Carlesimo’s firing, one can bet it certainly didn’t make him feel secure.