Coaches beware

FRANK ZICARELLI

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

The end is near for the NBA's lottery-bound teams that won't be appearing in the post-season.

For teams such as the Clippers, Wizards, Knicks and Raptors, despite their recent run, the misery will soon end.

And with it will arrive the inevitable end for a few head coaches.

It has become the annual rite of spring, the yearly purging of coaches, who were either given a bad hand or were dealt with flat-out bad luck.

No one can anticipate what changes loom at a time when no one could have predicted the litany of coaching upheavals that have dotted the NBA landscape.

There is plenty of room on the hot seat and just as many candidates willing to step into the fire.

Sam Mitchell, for example, hasn't coached since a Dec. 2 road game in Denver.

Mitchell is too smart to say anything for public consumption, or at least express an opinion of any substance, but getting fired was the best thing that happened to him.

He was, in the final analysis, a bad fit for these jump-shot happy Raptors.

When the rug was pulled from under Mitchell's feet, the Raptors were 8-9, raising all kinds of red flags as to why the club exercised so little patience.

In hindsight, it's easy to figure out why Mitchell was relieved.

Andrea Bargnani needed to gain confidence, which could only be attained by allowing the former first overall pick to heave as many shots, regardless of selection or time remaining in the shot clock.

Mitchell was a self-made player who gave everything he had, the embodiment of professionalism who grew as a coach.

His tough-love approach just doesn't cut it on a soft team.

When Mitchell does return to the coaching fraternity, likely destinations include Minnesota which has long been mentioned as a possible suitor given Mitchell's ties with the Timberwolves.

Mitchell's name has also been linked with the Washington Wizards.

Whatever happens and whichever team decides to go in a different direction, there is no shortage of viable coaching candidates.

Eddie Jordan, Flip Saunders, Avery Johnson, Maurice Cheeks, like Mitchell, were sacked.

Talk is that talking heads such as Mike Fratello and Mark Jackson are keen on a coaching gig.

Assistants who are likely to get consideration include Boston's Tom Thibodeau, at one point a Raptor candidate when the club went with Kevin O'Neill, and Orlando's Patrick Ewing, to name a few.

In Toronto, the Raptors have to decide whether to remove the interim label from Jay Triano or go in a different direction.

No one is saying anything, but privately there have been whispers that Triano is in line for a three-year deal.

No Raptor assistant is under contract beyond this season, which opens the possibility for all kinds of scenarios.

The most popular theory, which assumes Triano will be made the team's full-time head coach, has Marc Iavaroni, fired earlier this season in Memphis, joining Toronto as lead assistant.

Iavaroni was in town recently for what the Raptors called "observing.''

Both Triano and Iavaroni share GM Bryan Colangelo's philosophy on how the game should be played, especially on offence.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.COM


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