While reaching the NBA playoffs is a nice accomplishment, teams generally are not satisfied with a trip to the postseason alone.
Unfortunately, early exits from the playoffs are simply a part of the game. Context matters, sure—roster changes, injuries, lopsided matchups, all that stuff—but some coaches have not enjoyed much postseason success.
Dating back to the 2013-14 season, six coaches have made at least two playoff appearances but hold a winning percentage below .350.
Play-in tournament games are not included.
Two coaches who narrowly avoided the list are former Portland Trail Blazers boss Terry Stotts (22-40; .355) and Dwane Casey (21-34; .382), previously of the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.
On the bright side, Nate McMillan has overseen six playoff teams in the past decade. He guided the Indiana Pacers to the postseason from 2017-20 and the Atlanta Hawks in 2021 and 2022.
But he doesn't have much to show for it.
Indiana lost in the opening round all four times, including three sweeps. Atlanta made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 but bowed out in the first round the following year.
McMillan, who the Hawks unceremoniously fired in February 2023, has a 14-28 postseason record in the past 10 seasons.
Rick Carlisle is best recognized as the coach who helped the Dallas Mavericks win the 2011 NBA Finals. Since that championship, though, his playoff success has dwindled.
During the 2014-16 seasons, the Mavs failed to advance out of the first round as Dirk Nowitzki's career reached its end.
After missing the playoffs in the next three years, Dallas returned to the postseason thanks to Luka Dončić. But, again, the Mavericks could not navigate the opening-round series in either 2020 or 2021.
Now the coach of the Pacers, Carlisle holds a 10-20 playoff mark and—like McMillan—a .333 winning percentage in our time frame.
For his sake, hopefully Chris Finch is around the beginning of his postseason days. He's coached the Minnesota Timberwolves for two full seasons and made the playoffs in both years.
The downside is Minnesota has a 3-8 record (.273) in those two trips.
After falling to the Memphis Grizzles in a six-game series during the 2022 postseason, the Wolves bowed out to the Denver Nuggets in five games—a gentleman's sweep—in 2023.
Finch is a prime example of why context matters; the franchise hadn't earned consecutive playoff berths in nearly two decades prior to his appointment as head coach. Still, he and the Timberwolves will be eyeing greater success in future years.
Steve Clifford has coached the Charlotte Bobcats, Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic in the playoffs since 2014. I'd consider that a neat piece of trivia for the longtime coach.
He probably won't appreciate the next facts much, though.
In 2014, the Miami Heat swept the Bobcats. Two years later, the Heat recovered from a 3-2 deficit to bounce the Hornets in seven games. Then, in both 2019 and 2020, Clifford-led Orlando squads fell to the Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks in five-game series.
Overall, he's mustered a 5-16 record—just a .238 winning clip—in those four brief postseason runs.
The final two coaches have the smallest sample sizes. Interestingly enough, both J.B. Bickerstaff and Jacque Vaughn made their postseason debuts after a midseason firing.
Only 11 games into the 2015-16 season, the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale and promoted Bickerstaff. While he helped the Rockets sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors beat Houston in five games.
Fast-forward seven years, and Bickerstaff is now manning the helm of the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, they quickly fell to the underdog New York Knicks in a surprising five-game series.
Bickerstaff has reason for optimism with Cleveland in future years, but he'll carry a 2-8 playoff record (.200) into the 2023-24 season.
Can we please get Jacque Vaughn a win? Just one?
Days before the 2019-20 season's pause, the Brooklyn Nets fired Kenny Atkinson and promoted Vaughn. In the playoff bubble, the short-handed Nets dropped four straight games to the Raptors.
Vaughn returned to his assistant role in the following season, serving on Steve Nash's staff. But after a 2-5 start in 2022-23, Brooklyn canned Nash and again turned to Vaughn. He coached a dysfunctional roster—one the organization blew up at the trade deadline—making the playoffs but exiting in a sweep at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Context can hardly get unfriendlier. Vaughn, nevertheless, is still seeking his first postseason win after going 0-8 in his first two trips.