The firing of Kidd has opened a window for Joe Prunty, perhaps not a very large one, but a window nonetheless. Very few men are ever granted the chance to be the head coach an NBA team, and if you are one of the lucky few, you might only get one chance at it. This is Joe Prunty’s big break, he gets three months to showcase why he should be an NBA head coach. He has the resume of experience you’d want from a head coaching prospect, but you never know how they will perform until they get their chance. Prunty’s however comes on the heels of a firing that removed the head coach and three assistants, which raises a question of what does Prunty need to do to prove that he is different from Kidd. When Prunty was the assistant coach it was easy to lump Kidd’s faults onto Prunty and everyone else on the staff. Now Prunty gets the chance to show that he was just following orders and demonstrate how he would run the team differently.
The Bucks were 23-22 when Prunty was told he would be taking over, the 50 win dreams were basically dead. It would require a 27-10 finish to get to 50 wins, eight wins and two losses later it is down to a still unrealistic 19-8. So even if 50 wins is out of the question what is an attainable goal?
The Third Seed
The Bucks currently sit in the 5th spot in the East a mere 2 games back of the 3rd seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, with just the Wizards sitting in their way. Injury luck factors into the NBA season a bunch especially seeding and with John Wall & Kevin Love set to miss a month or more of action. The Cavaliers as a whole are just one slow moving car crash at this point, although their trade over haul could help pull this together. The East is as vulnerable as it has ever been in the last decade really leaving the window open for a team to move up in the standings before they figure it out. The third seed could allow the Bucks to avoid the Cavs and Celtics (widely viewed as two ECF favorites since the season tipped off) not only in the first round but also in the second round.
The third seed isn’t some be all end all of a successful season though, it would just be a start. If Prunty wants to shake the Kidd stink off his resume and really solidify his chances here in Milwaukee, he needs to become the first Bucks coach since 2001 to win a playoff series. Winning a playoff series would give Prunty a chance to pitch his ideas to ownership and really solidify his chances to get the job. For good measure Prunty should not get swept in round two, but I do not think falling short of the Eastern Conference Finals is a death knell for Prunty’s job hopes.
In the end I’d predict the Bucks will hire an outside candidate, Prunty will just struggle to wash the stink of Kidd out of the team and the front office group will choose a new leader for the first year in the new arena. I think they will do a wide search and attract several quality candidates. They might just for a popular pick like Ettore Messina, but my gut tells me it will be a guy most of us have never heard of. That might be for the best, most coaches seemingly come from nowhere and out of the current crop of NBA coaches Steve Kerr was probably the best player. Stevens and Spoelstra became household names in the NBA as coaches after not being known for their play at all. The Bucks are young and from most reports coachable, they will attract good candidates. I’d even wager that Prunty gets an interview, but the coach the night of the opener will be someone new, and that is in all likelihood for the best.