Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coaching Carousel Roundup: What Is Iavaroni Thinking?

Just wanted to offer a few thoughts on some of the coaching moves that have transpired in the NBA this offseason.

My first thought is this: Marc Iavaroni, what are you thinking??? Iavaroni was considered by many to be the brightest coaching prospect in the ranks of assistant coaches, so it seemed like he'd have the ability to be patient and wait for the right job.

That's why I'm somewhat shocked that he agreed to be the coach of the Grizzlies, which has to be considered the worst head coaching job in the league right now, doesn't it? While their 22-60 record was somewhat of a function of Pau Gasol's injury, they are still going to be working their way up from the bottom of the Western Conference. Utterly tough sledding which is about to get tougher as two of their bottom-feeder friends in Portland and Seattle are about to add potential young superstars.

If you're going to take on a rebuilding job right now, wouldn't you want it to be in the East? I know that this is not all Iavaroni's choice - two potential locations dried up quickly as Toronto kept Mitchell and Charlotte chose Sam Vincent. There were reports that Orlando wanted to interview him, though, but Iavaroni took the Memphis job before throwing his hat in the ring to potentially replicate the great work that he's done in developing Amare Stoudemire on D. Howard.

What's worse for Iavaroni is that the Memphis organization appears to be in dreadful shape, just bleeding money. This piece from the NY Sun spells out the carnage. Here's an excerpt:
    With limited resources, [Grizzlies owner Michael] Heisley cannot afford the cost of additional assistant coaches, public relations and sales representatives, and other personnel that might bolster the business aspect of the franchise. And the lack of a profitable television market that generates revenue to cover increased operating costs means the business will likely continue to suffer.

    Heisley's Grizzlies actually fail on two of three prerequisites for a healthy franchise: Television revenue slim, and Memphis doesn't offer much in the way of corporate support, since there are not many Fortune 500 companies operating in the city.
This is a not a team that's going to be able to spend to get back into contention.

And now they've added Chris Wallace -- a man who executed some horrific trades and draft picks in Boston -- as GM. Easy for me to say, but I think Iavaroni should have passed this "opportunity" up -- I don't think anyone can succeed coaching this franchise in the near future.
There are two things that I have been wishing for, from a stylistic standpoint, in the NBA:
1. I've wanted Cleveland to get a point guard who can push the pace, and turn into a fast-breaking team. How many players have *ever* been more unstoppable in the open floor than LeBron? How does this not make sense? And it would be breathtaking to watch.
2. I've wanted Houston to hire a coach who could unleash Yao's innate passing ability, as I really believe it could be a beautiful, Waltonesque thing.

That's why I'm absolutely giddy that Rick Adelman is the new coach of the Rockets. Given Adelman's many playoff collapses, I'm not sure that this is a championship recipe for the Rockets, but I do have high hopes that Houston can be the new standard-bearer for beautiful half-court basketball in time, with a Kings-style passing game from the big guys -- specifically from *the* big guy.

As someone who's been desperate to see the Rockets send *just one* cutter through the lane when Yao was double-teamed, I'm thrilled and can't wait to watch this team develop.

I don't know if there's any coach about whom I have more conflicted feelings.

I think he's an excellent coach in general, and I always respected the overachievement he got out of the Knicks in the '90s... yet I despised him for helping usher in an era of truly brutal basketball along with Pat Riley... yet on the other hand, he and Riles (along with the Bad Boy Pistons and the Jordan Bulls) brought significantly better defense on a consistent basis into the game, which I think has been the single biggest improvement in the league over the last generation - there's much more effort on a nightly basis than there was 20 years ago, because of the spread of defense across the league.

Now, this season with the Rockets, I picked him as my coach of the year... yet I hated him for turning what should be one of the most beautiful teams in the league into one of the ugliest, and for trying to turn Yao into Ewing instead of into Walton, as he should be... and I also got tired of his act as the most miserable guy in the league... and then he goes and turns himself back into a truly engaging TV analyst, perhaps a bit overexcitable at times, but with a Hubie-level ability to dig into X-and-O analysis. I hope he settles back in on TV for a while - I think he could take the torch from Hubie if he wanted to... wait a minute, I thought I hated the guy!....

This is more of a commentary about Michael Jordan, actually. As a man who was roundly criticized throughout his career for not being active or vocal in social or political causes related to the black community, he has very consistently been one of most progressive executives in terms of hiring minorities in management positions, even if his record of on-court success is dubious.

In Washington, two of his three coaching hires (Leonard Hamilton and Darrell Walker (interim)) were black, and now he's hired Vincent to lead the Bobcats. What's more is that Jordan has brought cronies Fred Whitfield and Rod Higgins, both African-American, to the front office, where minorities are seen less often than on the sidelines -- both guys have joined MJ in the ranks of senior management in Washington and now in Charlotte.

Dwane Casey appears to still be in the running to be the Sonics' head coach, though it appears that P.J. Carlesimo is the front-runner.

Still, what I want to know is this: what did Dwane Casey do to not be more well-regarded??? Is there some sort of backstory that we're missing? Because it seems like Casey should be a candidate for openings around the league, and he hasn't been.

Of course, he was mysteriously fired this season after leading Minnesota to an overachieving 20-20 record (Randy Wittman was given an extension after bringing the team home at an inspired 12-30 clip).

But also remember that, during Nate McMillan's tenure in Seattle, Casey was close to a co-coach, holding the title of Associate Head Coach, and was instrumental in the 52-30 2004-05 season which McMillan parlayed into his lucrative gig with the Blazers.

In fact, before the Supes hired Nate in 2000, Nate recommended that management give the job to Casey, while Casey recommended that they give it to Nate.

The Sonics have had a tremendous start to the offseason with their lottery luck and the hiring of Sam Presti, but I think they'll be much better off continuing that stretch by opting for Casey over P.J.

I saw a report that Kurt Rambis was one of the interviewees for the Kings job - funny how the ball bounces sometimes. In the late 90s, Rambis was thought to be Lakers head coach in waiting, so he turned down the opportunity to be the Kings coach.

It made perfect sense at the time - Sacramento hadn't been to the playoffs since it moved from KC in the early 80s... but of course, they were just about to turn the corner and amass the talent that would have given Rambis a great opportunity to succeed.

Then, Rambis was thrust into the Lakers head job too soon, in the tumultuous lockout season of 1999, when Dennis Rodman brought his circus to town. Kobe was still too young, and Shaq didn't respect Rambis as the head man. It ended in a ugly sweep at the hands of the Spurs, which led to Rambis being pushed aside for Phil Jackson.

And now Rambis is still waiting for the right opportunity to make an impact as a head man. Can't blame him b/c no one in his right mind would have thought he was better off taking the Kings job and bypassing a chance to being the heir to the Lakers' throne. So, who knows, maybe I'm way off base about Iavaroni....


At 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Progressive...or racist?

Are the other organizations and executives traditional...or racist?

Words. Words. Words.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

adelman is a very underrated coach. he is a much better fit for the rockets than van gundy, especially with those two great players on offense. houston will finally live up to their potential in 07-08.

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Nate said...

Couldn't agree more on Yao and his passing. We haven't heard or seen anything from Yao's passing since his rookie year when Rudy T was still running the show. Should be a beautiful thing to watch.

At 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Casey might be reluctant to join the Sonics right now because of the uncertainty around that team. McMillan has talked before about bringing him back as an assistant, which would allow him to get back in the game and then see what jobs are available in a year or two.

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