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[ESPN Insider] Midseason coaching changes never work

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by DarkHorse, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. DarkHorse

    DarkHorse Contributing Member

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    http://espn.go.com/nba/insider/stor...-rockets-firing-kevin-mchale-usually-work-nba


    It's a classic sports narrative. A slumping team changes coaches then rallies around the replacement to get to the playoffs. That's precisely what the Houston Rockets are hoping for after firing coach Kevin McHale on Wednesday morning in the wake of a disappointing 4-7 start to a season they expected to spend contending in the Western Conference.

    But do those midseason coaching changes actually work? The numbers suggest otherwise.

    Poor start costs McHale

    Having reached the Western Conference finals last June and added Ty Lawson in a trade that didn't cost them any rotation members, the Rockets were widely pegged as one of the league's top teams entering this season. Their preseason line of 56 wins at the Westgate SuperBook Las Vegas was sixth-highest in the NBA, and Houston was even a trendy contrarian pick to finish with the West's best record during the regular season.

    Even going simply by wins and losses, Houston has underperformed its preseason line by 3.5 wins, the second-largest discrepancy this season behind the injury-battered New Orleans Pelicans. That makes the Rockets one of the largest underachievers relative to preseason line through 11 games in the past decade.

    Biggest Underachievers Through 11 Games
    TEAM SEASON WINS EXP. WINS DIFF.
    CHI 2007-08 2 6.8 -4.8
    NOP 2015-16 2 6.2 -4.2
    OKC 2014-15 3 7.2 -4.2
    HOU 2005-06 3 7.1 -4.1
    BKN 2013-14 3 7.0 -4.0
    MIA 2007-08 2 6.0 -4.0
    WAS 2008-09 1 5.0 -4.0
    LAC 2010-11 1 5.0 -4.0
    NJN 2009-10 0 3.8 -3.8
    WAS 2012-13 0 3.8 -3.8
    NYK 2013-14 3 6.6 -3.6
    HOU 2015-16 4 7.5 -3.5
    CHI 2006-07 3 6.5 -3.5
    History of midseason coaching changes

    Over the past decade, not counting the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, there have been eight midseason coaching changes that roughly corresponded to Houston's firing of McHale. Specifically, those eight previous teams all had preseason lines that called for at least 41 wins -- meaning the playoffs were a realistic expectation -- and changed coaches in the first half of the season.

    On average, those teams won 40.2 percent of their games before the change and 51.6 percent thereafter.

    Midseason Coaching Change Results
    TEAM YEAR WIN% BEFORE WIN% AFTER CHANGE
    L.A. Lakers 2012-13 .200 .571 .371
    Philadelphia 2008-09 .391 .542 .151
    Miami 2005-06 .524 .672 .148
    Brooklyn 2012-13 .500 .648 .148
    New Orleans 2009-10 .333 .466 .132
    Chicago 2007-08 .360 .421 .061
    Seattle 2005-06 .433 .423 -.010
    Toronto 2008-09 .471 .385 -.086
    Average .402 .516 .115
    Of the eight teams, just two failed to improve their winning percentage. So, there you have it, proof that changing coaches gets results.

    There's only one problem: These teams almost certainly would have played better without any coaching change. Remember, the whole reason their coaches got fired was because -- like this year's Rockets -- they performed worse than expected early in the season.

    As it turns out, early in the season a team's expected win percentage (based on preseason lines) predicts how it will perform the rest of the year better than its performance to date. It takes about 20-25 games for this season's performance to become a better predictor than preseason lines, and even then the preseason expectations still hold some predictive value.

    The best way to predict a team's record the rest of the season is a combination of preseason line and point differential so far (wins and losses don't improve the prediction once differential has been included), weighted so that the preseason line always counts the same as 20 games. And when we compare the performance of teams that changed coaches midseason to this expectation, their improvement suddenly disappears.

    Midseason Coaching Changes Vs. Expected Record
    TEAM YEAR EXPECTED WIN% WIN% AFTER DIFF
    Brooklyn 2012-13 .528 .648 .120
    Miami 2005-06 .636 .672 .036
    Philadelphia 2008-09 .511 .542 .031
    Seattle 2005-06 .428 .423 -.005
    New Orleans 2009-10 .494 .466 -.028
    Chicago 2007-08 .464 .421 -.043
    L.A. Lakers 2012-13 .667 .571 -.096
    Toronto 2008-09 .484 .385 -.099
    Average .527 .516 -.011

    In fact, as a group these eight teams won less than expected based on their point differential and preseason lines the remainder of the season. That's not to say midseason coaching changes can never work. Under P.J. Carlesimo, the 2012-13 Nets played much better in the second half of the season, and the 2005-06 Heat will understandably point to the championship they won after Pat Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy rather than the team's record. Still, midseason coaching changes are hardly the slam dunk they might appear because teams tend to play up to their preseason expectations.

    Reasonable expectations for the Rockets

    Applying the same formula to this year's Rockets suggests they can be expected to win about 52 percent of their remaining games. That would leave Houston at 41-41, right on the playoff bubble in the Western Conference. That's slightly more optimistic than the 38 wins ESPN's Basketball Power Index predicts on average, with the Rockets reaching the playoffs in 45 percent of BPI simulations.

    There are reasons for optimism about a Houston turnaround. The Rockets rank 29th in the league in 3-point shooting (29.0 percent), which is particularly problematic for a team that attempts 37.2 percent of its shots beyond the arc, the league's highest mark. Outside shooting is one of the factors that was likely to regress to the mean no matter the coach.

    Houston's ultimate success will probably depend more on the defensive end of the court. Last year's 56-win Rockets team finished with the NBA's sixth-best defensive rating. With virtually the same personnel, Houston has plummeted to 29th this season. Effort has been a major culprit, and McHale's inability to get his team to play hard was surely a key factor in his demise. Simply getting players to buy in defensively will be the biggest task for interim replacement J.B. Bickerstaff.

    It's probably already too late for the Rockets to challenge for home-court advantage in the West. Even repeating last year's 56 wins would require Houston to go 52-19 the rest of the way, a 60-win pace over a full season that is better than was expected of the Rockets before their slow start. But there is plenty of time for Houston to get back in the playoff race, and that was true whether the Rockets changed coaches or not.
     
  2. Icehouse

    Icehouse Contributing Member

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    The 81/82 Lakers and 05/06 Heat say different.
     
  3. Raven

    Raven Member

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    It's not mid season. Still over 70 games left.
     
  4. YOLO

    YOLO Member

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    the good thing is it's not midseason so who cares :p
     
  5. ApuN

    ApuN Member

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    Who said this was midseason?

    OP cant count??
     
  6. jump shooter

    jump shooter Contributing Member

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    This. Two or three long wining streaks can erase a lot of this disastrous start IMO and if they can buy into Bickerstaff's defensive schemes while finding some way to integrate Lawson into the offense watch out.
     
  7. Ziggy

    Ziggy QUEEN ANON

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    We beat the Thunder and Clippers. It's actually the rest of the games that all feel like abnormal outliers. I don't care what historical references get cited, this case study is unique.
     
  8. Rio Rocket

    Rio Rocket Member

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    espn statisticians calculate nba teams on average win 50% of games
     
  9. rocketsballin

    rocketsballin Member

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    ok espn but its not midseason, and dwight is having a bad start cuz he's been injured and being eased into the season. haters
     
  10. xtruroyaltyx

    xtruroyaltyx Member

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    Not about Record.

    Rockets were not playing well at all.
     
  11. YallMean

    YallMean Member

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    this season is pretty much over. we need a long term coach. That's the priority.
     
  12. NotChandlerParsons

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    Although, the Heat were not playing as bad as the Rockets.
     
  13. dkoune

    dkoune Rookie

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    The people who are saying this season is pretty much over, is probably who the rockets contracted the quitters virus from. More than 70 games left in the season.:confused:
     
  14. SF3isBack!!

    SF3isBack!! Member

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    What a stupid article "Coaching changes always gets results". "They would have changed anyway" LMAO. Go home ESPN you're drunk.
     
  15. DieHard Rocket

    DieHard Rocket Contributing Member

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    Let's hope that this works out like it did for the '91-'92 Rockets. Don Cheney was fired with 30 games to go after underachieving all year and having an absolutely horrid month (eerily similar to this current month).

    They only finished the season 42-40, BUT the next year is when Hakeem took the giant leap to the hall of fame level that we all remember and two years later of course, the NBA title. I am praying that Harden matures like Dream did and the next coach helps make that happen (while getting these guys to play some freaking defense).
     
  16. el_locoteee

    el_locoteee Member

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    Pat Riley was always there, they didn't bring a new coach.

    Unless Morey start coaching this team 2005/06 Heat can't be used as reference.
     
  17. Pizza_Da_Hut

    Pizza_Da_Hut I put on pants for this?

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    Statistics tell you everything and nothing at the same time. While they are a great tool to try and predict, they are not laws. There are always exceptions. Is this team an exception? This is why we play the damn games.
     
  18. conundrum

    conundrum Rookie

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    Who wrote this, am really curious?
     
  19. Surfguy

    Surfguy Contributing Member

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    So, the players have this big heart-to-heart meeting on Tuesday and feel they worked a lot out. And, then they claim to have a great practice communicating well. And, before they even have a chance to play the next game, you fire McHale. The poll over at chron.com says 41% believe McHale should have been given more time as it was too early in the season and it could be turned around. I do believe this was a bit premature but Les was obviously upset not that we lost as much as the point differentials in how we lost. It's on the players for their lack of integrity early in the season. They admitted as much in their meeting Tuesday.
     

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