Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
How much difference can a good coach really make? It’s the players, right?
Steve Aschburner: The advanced-stats crews can probably decipher that a coach is worth somewhere between 3.6 and 11.2 victories per season, depending on their weighting of factors such as Xs & Os, offensive/defensive ratio, interpersonal skills and wardrobe. I think it’s more intangible, yet huge. A coach sets a team’s tone, and more important, establishes its edge and demeanor on and off the court. It’s like my old pal Al McGuire used to say, “A team reflects its coach’s personality — my team is obnoxious.” I believe that certain coaches are builders, others are closers, and you’d better have them matched up correctly with the right rosters. Yes, it is a players’ league. Yes, some coaches are accidental winners thanks to the talent around them. But fitting the right coach to the roster, to management and to the market is vital. Relatively rare, too.
Fran Blinebury: You’re kidding, right? There really is more to it than unlocking the doors to the gym and rolling the balls onto the court. Philosophy, system, organization, motivation. Ask anyone who every played for, oh, Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, John Wooden. If anyone could do it, I’d be firing wisecracks at Craig Sager during timeouts like Pop did instead of typing answers.
Jeff Caplan: I think a lot. Look at Rick Carlisle in Dallas, for example. So much of coaching is relating to players, running schemes that put them in position to succeed and allowing them to be who they are. Coaches who figure this out are very successful with different personnel groups. I think Rick Adelman is another. Look how he kept Houston competitive through all those Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady injuries and what he’s done with the banged-up Timberwolves.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Coaches make a difference, more than a lot of people realize. Sometimes it has to do with Xs and Os, sometimes it has to do with communication and motivation. Bad coaches can squeeze the life out of a locker room and fail to get players to execute. Good, or great coaches, can make the difference between a lottery team and a playoff team or even a playoff team and a championship team. It’s not just a roll-the-balls-out world.
John Schuhmann: It depends on the situation, because some teams need more coaching than others. Ultimately, talent is more important, but a coach can make the most of whatever talent is on the roster. Tom Thibodeau, with how he’s kept the Bulls afloat without Derrick Rose, is a clear example of how important coaching can be. But there are also certain kinds of players — a point guard like Jason Kidd in his prime or a defensive anchor like Kevin Garnett — that can make the same kind of impact on the floor.
Sekou Smith: A decent coach can make a huge difference, depending on the talent on his roster. But it’s not necessarily about a “good” coach but more about the “right” coach. We all know Doug Collins was and is a good coach. He just wasn’t the right coach for those Chicago teams that Phil Jackson led to six titles. Good coaching is one thing. Great coaching is another.