NBA Coaching Volatility Versus Jerry Sloan

When Jerry Sloan announced his retirement on February 10th, 2011 a lot of the talk focused on his unusually long (in NBA terms) tenure with the Utah Jazz. In a league where coaching changes are often the easiest way to shake things up, Jerry Sloan and the Jazz managed to maintain a historic and successful relationship. In honor of his retirement and in the interest of exploring how unique his situation was we put together a visualization examining coaching volatility and success through the duration of Sloan’s coaching tenure (1979 – 2010) and for all 30 teams.

The graph above is broken up by years. Each block represents one season. If a team had more than one coach then the block is broken up into slices. The intensity of the color maps to winning percentage with darker colors representing a higher win percentage. The black lines indicate a coaching change and the teams are ordered by number of coaches. Hover over the box to see the year/coach/record.

We’ve all heard the staggering numbers of coaches that have come and gone since Jerry Sloan began his tenure with the Utah Jazz. We wanted to to put something together that helped visualize just how impressive that run was. Only The Charlotte Bobcats have as few coaches as the Jazz over this time span, and they’ve only been in the league since 2004. The next fewest on the list doubles this amount with 6 different coaches (Houston and Miami).

One of the things we really enjoyed about putting this together is seeing other prominent coaches over the same span. Being able to compare the years and success of guys like Rudy Tomjanovich (Hou), Phil Jackson (Chi, Lal), Gregg Popovich (Sas), Chuck Daly (Det) and Pat Riley (Lal) is really cool. It’s also interesting to note the transitions in terms of a team slumping (or not) and the coach being replaced. It’s often said that teams experience a short term bump by bringing in a new face. We had expected to see this play out in the graph but it’s not as obvious as we had thought. One possible explanation is that these short terms bumps are just that, more like 5-10 games than a whole season.

Other interesting notes:

  • Los Angelas Clippers share the title of most coaching changes since ’79. Win percentage seems to reflect that.
  • Miami Heat Van Gundy / Pat Riley incident is pretty noticeable.
  • More than any other organization Phil Jackson stands head and shoulders above all other Bulls coaches (Thanks MJ).
  • For a young organization the Memphis Grizzles have had a substantial number of coaches. Is their record a reflection of that, or a result of?

What’s interesting to you?