Being an NBA coach is apparently one of the most thankless jobs for which you can be paid millions of dollars. Jeff Van Gundy was fired by the Rockets yesterday. The firing took place after a season in which the Rockets went 52-30 and played 7 playoff games against the Utah Jazz before losing to the now Western Conference finalists. Seems tough to me, but it's pretty much the status quo considering only 2 of the 30 NBA teams have a head coach who has been around for at least 5 years.
So how do you keep from getting fired? Well, unless you're Jerry Sloan you win a championship. Every coach from the last 15 NBA champions is either still on the job or left their gig on their terms.
The problem is that expecting your coach to win an NBA championship to keep his job is a pretty ridiculous standard. In fact, if your coach doesn't have Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, or Tim Duncan then he has very slim odds indeed. Only Larry Brown (in 2004 with the Pistons) has won an NBA championship in the last 15 years without one of those guys.
On the plus side, Jordan and Olajuwon are long gone and Shaq looks almost finished. So the question is who will be there to take up the mantle of most dominant player as Duncan ages? If you're an NBA coach who wants to keep your job, you better find him.
(Added note: From '80 to '90 things weren't much different. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played on 8 of the 11 champions. The Pistons won two and the 76er's with Moses Malone won the other.)