Dwight Howard has this legacy attached him. Apart from caring only about money. Apart from hating shooting guards. Apart from his mouth moving and not knowing if he is lying or if he is um…lying. Apart from his 1980’s game that hasn’t left the decade of Iran/Contra where big men parked in the lane and did not move. Apart from not being a winner. Dwight Howard it appears gets coaches fired. It sounds farfetched that one player who has not been an All-Star in four years has that kind of power but here is the evidence.
He tried to get Stan Van Gundy fired, something Van Gundy admitted to as he gathered in front of a press pool. It was eerie. Just after he confessed what Howard did here comes Dwight walking in and trying to pretend it wasn’t what it was. Awkward. No one was buying it.
Then in L.A., five games in, Mike Brown was fired. Then in Houston, in year three of Dwight Howard, Kevin McHale was fired the first month. His coach in Atlanta, Mike Budenholzer, who also had GM duties and was responsible for Howard being in Atlanta in the first place, had his GM duties stripped. And now his Charlotte coach Steve Clifford was fired.
Every coach Howard deals with, something happens to him. Howard is smiling but the coach is bitter and often unemployed. But is this just a coincidence, an overreaction or Dwight being basic?
We looked at the top 8 lottery picks of the 2004 draft and their coaching carousel to see if Dwight Howard is a way basic coach killer who was drafted number one.
Emeka Okafor was drafted number 2 by Charlotte. His coach Bernie Bickerstaff was fired and Sam Vincent was hired. Sam Vincent was fired and Larry Brown was hired. In New Orleans, he played for Byron Scott and Scott was fired and Monte Williams was hired. Coach Kills: 3
Ben Gordon was drafted 3rd by the Bulls, coached by Scott Skiles. Vinny Del Negro took over in 2008 after Skiles was fired. In Detroit, John Kuester was fired and replaced by Lawrence Frank. In Charlotte, Mike Dunlap was fired for Steve Clifford. In Orlando, Jacques Vaughn was fired. Gordon is so repping the Dwight Howard Index. Everywhere he has played a coach was fired. Coach Kills: 4
Shaun Livingston was the fourth pick drafted by the hard luck Clippers. Livingston had coaching stability his first few years. He was taught by Mike Dunleavy. Then the gruesome injury triggering a rehab journey where even Livingston wasn’t sure if he’d play again. His next stop after L.A. was the Heat coached by Erik Spoelstra. He played for Scott Brooks in OKC. He had a brief stint in Washington. In Charlotte, Larry Brown was fired and Paul Silas was the interim. Livingston played for Randy Wittman and Scott Skiles and Jason Kidd and Bryon Scott. But all his teams, all his two steps forward, three steps back, Livingston had coaching stability. Coach Kills: 1
Devin Harris was the fifth pick in a draft day trade where the Mavs traded up to get him. His first year he had a coaching change. Avery Johnson took over for Don Nelson. In New Jersey, Lawrence Frank was fired after the team started 0-16. That was the last time one of his current coaches was fired. He played for three other teams after New Jersey. Coach Kills: 2
Josh Childress was the sixth pick of the Hawks and had a disappointing career for someone 6-8 with scoring talent. With the Nets, Avery Johnson was fired, P.J. Carelisimo was hired. It hardly mattered to Childress. He was only there one season. Coach Kills: 1
Luol Deng the Duke forward was drafted by the Bulls. Scott Skiles was fired his fourth year for Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro was fired for Tom Thibedeau. Coach Kills: 2
Rafael Araujo was a wasted draft pick by the Raptors. He was a big man from Brazil that played 3 seasons, two with Toronto, one with Utah. Coach Kills: 0
Conclusion: It’s a small sample size for qualitative inference but Howard having a negative impact on every coach he played for makes him an outlier. Is it his fault? Not entirely. In Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak over shot his coverage. In Houston, Daryl Morey reacted to players unhappiness. In Charlotte, a new GM always means a coach they want to hire. But. Howard has played the second most games in his draft class. He has scored the most points, has the highest ppg, grabbed the most rebounds, has the highest field goal percentage, has the most Win Shares. With his talent, he is supposed to create stability, not chaos. If perception is reality, Howard is going to have to live with the mystery of always being on the wrong side of coaches being fired. He’s a big target, unlikeable and therefore responsible. It’s not fair but it’s the NBA Dwight Howard is familair with.