Will the Loss to the Nets Impact Jeff Bower?

Published: April 5, 2010

((First, let me get out this disclaimer:  This piece is entirely speculation.  I don’t have any special source with the Hornets that lends any special credence to what I’m about to write. It’s purely my thoughts, based on how I’ve seen the team act in the past, and on what I think that means for Jeff Bower’s future.))

I’m a pretty conservative guy.  After the crushing losses in the playoffs last season, I finally decided that Byron Scott needed to go, but even then I still wasn’t entirely sold on the idea.  In hindsight, I should have been begging for him to go.

Last night the loss to the Nets left the same taste in my mouth the drubbing against Denver did.  Sure, it wasn’t a 58-point loss at home, but it was nearly as ridiculous.  The Hornets lost by 28 to a team that averages losing by 10 every game.  The Hornets even had their superstar on the court, and they were never even really in the game.  I always try not to read too much into individual games, but hell, how do you just ignore that?

Now, yes, there are mitigating circumstances, as there have been all season. At some point, though, the mitigation will no longer balance the scales and George Shinn is going to act. 

Make no mistake, the scales were already shaky for GM Jeff Bower.  Yes, the firing of Byron Scott early in the season had an large element of “Scott’s too damn stubborn and needs to go” in it.  Deservedly so.  However there was another element, one even more important for this discussion:  George Shinn was telling Jeff Bower, “You made this team, you go coach it.  Money where your mouth is.

It’s exactly what had happened to Kevin McHale up in Minnesota two seasons ago, and really, I support that kind of decision.  General Managers are too often able to avoid accountability, shifting blame to coaching staff and players, and forcing them to the bench usually puts the blame on the correct shoulders.  In fact, perhaps the most surprising part of this whole season was that it seemed like Bower could actually pull it off and make his flawed team work.  The Hornets went 12-5 in January and were fighting for a six seed, remember?  Then, of course, Paul and Peja went down and things crashed, ensuring that nothing good would be added to the scales for Bower.

So if I were Bower I’d be ready to pack my belongings after the season is over.  George Shinn is a complex man, but one thing you can count on with him: he’s willing to make the hard decisions to shake things up, even if the situation isn’t as clear cut as you’d like it to be.  Does he always make the best decision?  Not necessarily, but you have to understand his motivations:  this team is his one and only source of revenue, and if its not working and its expensive?  He’s not going to hope it gets better, he’ll try and fix it.  He can’t afford not to.

Since Shinn has returned from his bout with cancer, he’s stated that he’s going to wait until the off-season, and then evaluate the state of the team, but I doubt he’s going to be able to avoid paying attention to this last stretch of games.   Was the team giving up against doormats?  Check.  Were free agents Bower acquired showing little to justify their salaries?  Check.  Is it a losing record with or without Bower on the bench?  Check.  Are people refusing to renew season tickets?  Check. (We’ve already had evidence of that from our own commentators)

Even the side stories about the team seem to be pointing to this being the end of Jeff Bower’s tenure.  This is clearly pure speculation, but part of me was left wondering when Tim Floyd took the head coaching job at UTEP.  I just can’t shake a sneaking suspicion that if things were still going well in New Orleans, he’d still be sitting next to Jeff Bower as the heir apparent to the head coaching position.  The fact Floyd’s not still there makes me think he’d already seen the writing on the wall.  The guy is a survivor, and his career has proven he knows when to get out while the getting is still good.

So, in the end, I think this will probably be it for Jeff Bower.  It’s a shame in a lot of ways.  I like Jeff Bower.  He orchestrated the best team the Hornets ever had.  Like any GM he’s had bad moves mixed in with good ones.  I think he’s done a remarkable job this year in fixing a lot of the problems and setting the team up for moves next year.  Unfortunately, I also think those fixes may be too little too late, and that the previous two years of bad decisions will be coming home to roost.

What do you think?  Has Jeff Bower’s scales tipped too far?  Will he be back next season?

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