By Jeffrey Newholm
Kids love to go around and around in revolving doors. But whatever they’d like to do in the building, they eventually must be ushered back through to the real world. Well in major sports, it seems head coaches always spin around from team to team. All but the very best can only bounce around for so long until they, too, are thrown out into the cold. Monday it was Milwaukee, who had failed to live up to preseason expectations of a top four seed, who rudely showed Jason Kidd this door. But are the Bucks stampeding in the right direction, or is it open season again on a floundering franchise?
Nothing makes sense out of context, and it’s important to remember the Bucks’ lack of success pre-Kidd. For decades the team was irrelevant under ownership of longtime US Senator Herb Kohl. In 2014 things were especially bleak, with the team only winning 15 games. Thankfully for Milwaukee, hedge fund billionaires swung in to purchase the team. Soon after, a tireless get-out-the-vote campaign won public funding for a new arena. Kidd, all too eager to abandon the sinking Nets, came to reverse the Bucks’ fortunes. Improvement came overnight, but increased expectations quickly followed.
After two quick playoff outs in Kidd’s first three years, many Wisconsinites expected the Bucks to be contenders in a top-heavy East. But Kidd didn’t make the same adjustments as other coaches. While Houston and Toronto copied Golden State’s three point wizardry to great effect, the Bucks stuck by a 2000’s clog-the-paint game. Even Giannis Antetokounmpo, suddenly a very exciting player, made almost all his impact in the restricted circle. Milwaukee decided to pull the trigger before the target was too far away.
As Cavs fans found out the hard way, nothing’s guaranteed in pro sports, and Bucks fans should hold off on celebration. The franchise won’t announce a long-term plan until Friday, but it’s not a given that things will improve. The Suns, Kings, and Nuggets suffered severe downturns after firing a coach. A replacement-level coach could be much worse, or the Bucks could fail to respect Kidd’s successor. By now, every team except Golden State and San Antonio should have learned that the coaching carousel, for a losing team, can seem all too much like Russian Roulette.