Which NBA Coaches were fired after NBA Finals appearances? The NBA can be a fickle league, and it's hard to have a 100% approval rating. Plus, not every coaching style - no matter how effective - is made to last forever. When a coach is winning, he might be a ‘fiery personality,' but when the team goes on a losing steak, he suddenly becomes a jerk. That's the nature of the game. Some coaching success is a flash in the pan, dependent solely on great players for success, which when noticed leads to coaches getting fired. Other coaches wear out their welcome to due off the court antics and media games, so they get canned. Then, there's coaches who just aren't a personality fit with the players or other front office personnel.
When it comes to NBA coaches getting fired after NBA Finals appearances, the most famous (and ludicrous) example has to be Phil Jackson. After winning six titles in eight years, including two three-peats, Jackson was sacked by Chicago Bulls' General Manager Jerry Krause. The two had a quite public falling out and were not speaking after Krause told Jackson, “I don't care if it's 82-and-0 this year, you're fucking gone.”
Other famous examples of NBA coaches getting fired after making the NBA Finals, include Frank Vogel, Ty Lue, and David Blatt, who all share one thing in common - LeBron. After looking at this list, you'd wonder why he doesn't get more flack for being a "coach killer." It's probably because the original “coach killer” might've been Wilt Chamberlain. Then, there's NBA championship winners Larry Brown, Tommy Heinsohn, and Paul Westhead as well, who simply wore out their welcomes.
When it comes to NBA Coaches who were fired after making the NBA Finals, there are all sorts of reasons ‘why.’ You can find out more about all the NBA drama below.
- Photo: nba.com
NBA Finals Appearance: 2022, Lost
Suspended Indefinitely: September 22, 2022
The Boston Celtics have suspended Ime Udoka for a full year, banning the coach who led them to the 2022 NBA finals for the entire 2022-23 season over what sources with knowledge of the matter said was an improper relationship with a member of the organization. In a statement issued after a full day of wrangling over the terms of the punishment, the Celtics said Udoka violated team policies and left open the possibility that a longer separation could follow.
“A decision about his future with the Celtics beyond this season will be made at a later date,” the team said.
NBA Finals Appearance: 2020, Won
Fired: April 11, 2022
Vogel makes the list on a technicality because the 2020 NBA Playoffs were postponed due to the coronavirus and the NBA Finals played in October of that year. The Lakers entered the shortened 2020-21 NBA season with only two stressful months of turnaround time and a hastily rebuilt roster, but faced injuries for most of the year, which saw the team surprisingly bow out against the upstart Phoenix Suns in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The following season, after another summer of shoddy roster management, the Lakers would miss the playoffs altogether in 2022. Vogel would be sacked exactly 18 months after winning the NBA title.
- Photo: flickr / CC0
NBA Finals Appearance: 2018, Lost
Fired: October 28, 2018
In 2016, Tyronn Lue coached the Cavaliers to an NBA championship, the first in franchise history. Led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, the team made two more NBA Finals appearances in 2017 and 2018. Lue's coaching style in Cleveland relied on roster flexibility and LeBron James's consistency, as he often shuffled players around James to adjust to matchups. However, when LeBron James left Cleveland for Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, the writing was on the wall for Lue and the rebuilding Cavs. That fall the Cavaliers fired Lue after a 0–6 start to the season.
- Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License
NBA Finals Appearance: 2015, Lost
Fired: January 22, 2016
In Blatt's first season, the Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference title, their first since 2007. While other rookie head coaches have reached the NBA Finals, Blatt and rival coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors were the first pair of rookie NBA coaches to face each other in the NBA Finals since 1947, the first year of the NBA's existence. The Cavaliers lost 4–2 to the Warriors in the Finals. The following year, on January 22, 2016, the Cavaliers fired Blatt. Although the team held the best record in their conference (30–11), general manager David Griffin cited "a lack of fit with our personnel and our vision" as the reason for the decision. Blatt was replaced by his lead assistant Tyronn Lue, who guided the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship that season. Even though Blatt only coached the first half of the championship season, the Cavaliers' officials sent him a 2016 NBA Championship ring. At first he declined their offer but later changed his mind and accepted it.
NBA Finals Appearance: 2005, Lost
Fired: July 19, 2005
Brown's Pistons stunned the Lakers to win the 2004 NBA championship and would return to the Finals in 2005 before ultimately losing to the Spurs. In those Finals, Brown was a bit of a distraction as he was openly flirting with various jobs with the Knicks and Cavaliers despite being under contract with Detroit. He also delayed a surgery he needed until after the All-Star break, causing more disruption. The Pistons grew tired of his antics and after the season, they bought out the remaining years of his contract, ending a successful two-year run in Detroit.
- Photo: flickr / CC0
NBA Finals Appearance: 2003, Lost
Fired: January 26, 2004
In 2000, Scott took over a struggling New Jersey Nets team. His team performed poorly in his first year, but that changed in the 2001–02 season with the arrival of Jason Kidd as the Nets raced to a franchise record of 52 wins. In the process, they won their first Atlantic Division crown and appeared in their first NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite losing the championship series to the Lakers, Scott came back to coach the team through another successful season during the 2002–03 campaign, once again taking the team to the NBA Finals, but losing once again—this time to the San Antonio Spurs. New Jersey was up by double figures in game six, but the Spurs tightened up their defense, which won the game and the championship. Scott was fired during the 2003–04 season, as New Jersey had a disappointing 22–20 record coming into the All-Star break, even though they were leading their division at the time of his dismissal. Rumors of a rift between Scott and Kidd circulated media outlets, with sources allegedly claiming that Kidd wanted Scott out of Jersey. All the parties, including then Nets GM Rod Thorn, denied the reports. Scott claimed that he was "very surprised" by the report and that he and Kidd “always got along.”