SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - It is no coincidence the opposing head coaches in this year’s NBA Finals are among the longest serving in the game. In a job that offers little security, ongoing success on the court is one of the few ways to survive.
Since the regular season finished in mid-April, a dozen head coaches have been fired, a statistic that does not sit comfortably with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra or San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
“It’s really a shame for the profession of coaching that it’s been so volatile,” Spoelstra said in a conference call on Friday before the best-of-seven series, tied at 2-2, resumes Sunday in San Antonio.
“For true success in the NBA you must have consistency of culture. When you see that type of turnover over and over and over, it’s impossible to create any kind of sustainable consistent culture. And we don’t see it as a coincidence.”
The Heat franchise, appearing in their third consecutive NBA Finals, have been a rare model of consistency in a 30-team league that, for the most part, seems to have a short leash when it comes to the head coaching position.
Spoelstra, 42, is in his fifth season as head coach of the Heat after spending the previous 11 years in the organization as an assistant coach.
He believes the consistency of the Heat’s front office for the last 18 years is a large part of why the team’s competitive, defense‑minded and disciplined approach never changes.
The NBA’s most recent coaching change came Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd less than a month after the 10-time All-Star point guard retired.
Even the Memphis Grizzlies parted ways with Lionel Hollins this week even though he guided the team to a franchise-record 56-win season and a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Popovich, 64, one of only two head coaches with 900 wins with one team, has coached the Spurs since 1996. He said some owners are not as patient with the sometimes lengthy process of building a championship team
“When things don’t happen quickly, I think some owners become frustrated. Some even take it personally, I believe. Almost like a little bit of an embarrassment because they’ve been so successful in their own way and have a hard time understanding this business,” said Popovich.
“But the change, change, change, change, change thing doesn’t really work. You can see that in a lot of organizations.”
The Spurs and Heat will have combined to have won seven of the last 15 NBA championships following the conclusion of the 2013 Finals next week.
For Popovich, a two-time coach of the year who has won four titles in charge of the Spurs, stability is a key to getting toward a championship.
“Continuity breeds trust, it breeds camaraderie, it breeds a feeling of responsibility that each member holds towards the other. The ability to be excited for each other’s success, not to develop territory and walls, but to stay participatory,” said Popovich.
“Without continuity that’s pretty impossible, because all the immediate tendencies of instant success starts to take over and that just breeds failure.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue; editing by Julian Linden