Blogtable: Does A Coach Really Matter?

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.


Blogtable Week 3: The new-look Lakers | Does a coach matter? | Are the Clips legit?


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.

36 Comments

  1. MeMo says:

    Disrespectful question!!!

  2. Romas says:

    Coach is a final ingredient in a talented team to win some games. Without talent you can’t win a game without talented coach – championship.

    • Phi Slamma Jamma par duex says:

      OKC & Heat had great talent in Finals but very ave coaches who I wouldnt even rank in the Top 10, so there’s an argument that players trump coaches. If those teams had Pop v Doc, 2 elite coaches for example, then maybe the Finals would have played out differently, atleast more exciting and competative.

      Coaches like Thibs, Collins and Karl have proven they can transform talent and team culture into success, even Hollins has done a great job working Griz up the ladder the last few yrs. Clippers have taken it to the nxt level too but mostly thru talent, Del Negro will never get them to the Finals.

      • Berdugo says:

        It’s evident come playoffs.
        When every contending team knows how an opposing player reacts or plays on court, it’ll be the coach’s decision that’ll make the difference. A coach is not often regarded as a game-changer, but technically, they are.

        It could be that Spo had more cards to play than Brooks. But before that, Doc can challenge what Spo had on the floor. By that time, the superstar in LeBron or Wade shows up when the need arises.

  3. Berdugo says:

    Does a coach really matter? If there was a sport or team that did not need a coach and still won it all, then this question would make more sense.

    Coaches can see everything. They don’t only focus on the team, but also the competition. They observe behaviors, rules, talent, and opportunities. Can a player function as good without the guidance of a coach? No. The coach is there to tell you what’s wrong, what’s good, and how it should work better. The players that we see now are ultimately influenced by the coach.

  4. Any1 can coach put me as Detroit or Washington coach then they will be a playoff team

  5. JBeA says:

    Just look at Danny Green when Pop became his coach.

  6. Raptors Fan says:

    LOL players are more important I have to say

    Give Bobcats to Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich if they make it to the playoff I will agree the coach is important

  7. Spurs says:

    It’s definitely the coaching. You can’t just slap a talented roster together and call it a team, they need a mindset. L.A doesnt have that right now, that’s why they’re losing. When Ginobili and Duncan started getting older, Pop started making the roster deeper. He rested them. He inserted Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and rotated them when necessary. That’s why Duncan is averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds, but he’s only playing 30 minutes a game. He made a humble mindset so he doesn’t deal with a players ego. Pop can take any team and take them to the playoffs. Coaching matters

  8. karolisjachimavicius says:

    Coaching is leadership off the court. You can’t see it, you can only feel it when you’re inside the team circle. Coach gives advices. Players can win without a coach, but a coach, seeing things from a side, can help them a lot. Coach is the creator of team spirit. It’s the moments you can’t put to words that makes a coach good. It’s never a system, it’s about adjusting the system on the go. Coach is the player who can’t play.

  9. Game Time says:

    Coaches are needed to win big. Look at the US Olympic team in 2000 and 2004. The coaching and chemistry wasn’t great. We just threw together the best and thought it would pan out.

  10. Hey You says:

    I agree that a coach is the most important piece in any sports team. Perfect example is Mike Dunlap, he already has the Bobcats reaching half the win totlal that they had last season. And i guarntee D’Antoni will take the Lakers to the Western Conferance Finals if he has the full support of Ownership and Management

  11. Andrew says:

    Really depends on the player.

    A lot of players will seamlessly integrate into teams [professional players] (Duncan,Rodman,Pippen) whereas some players can be cancerous (Amare, Bynum, Wade. Kobe).

    I think you could put together a few teams that would coach themselves if you chose the right players.

  12. Me says:

    I hope Phil coach Detroit

  13. John Doe says:

    Imagine the Lakers right now playing for pop, doc rivers or George Karl. I wouldn’t want to be any other team in the league.

    • Finally someone who understands says:

      what it is to pair a great coach with a greatly talented bunch of players. With Po, Doc or Coach Karl in LaLa Land, they’d be Championship material straight away.

  14. W/E says:

    Lakers are nowhere near the 100% of their true talent cause of age and injuries,…Dwight is no where near 100%, Nash is finished, Gasol no where near his 2009 form, at least Kobe can still score the ball,i dont care what coach u put on any team, talent is more important than coaches and thats why their paid a bilion money while coaches take so little especially compared to star players,obviously the job of the coach is critical but if u dont have good talent to work with ur going nowhere.

    • Celt21 says:

      Wow just so much is wrong with this comment. Do I start with you referencing this tema is not 100% like Gasol in 09 and a younger Nash. Guess what? Time only works one way so their new 100% is not their old 100%. Let’s gloss over “thats why their paid a bilion money” and the various typos, incorrect word choices and poor grammer contained in those 7 words.

    • Celt 71 says:

      I think D12 play only 60.47% of his full potential.
      Gasol is just about 33.27%
      Kobe is 89.77% already…..

      Hahaha

  15. ForRealThough says:

    Phil, Pop, Doc. Nuff said.

  16. Imthatguy says:

    A coach that knows when to call time-outs and when to pull out a player that isn’t performing, little things like that make big differences in games, when the other team goes on a scoring run the coach has to make a decision to let his guys play or call timeouts and tell his squad to get it together, thats what coaching is about

  17. charles says:

    Right on guys. Wait to stand for the coaches. It’s not just about talent. There are plenty of talented NBA teams that didn’t win the championship. The champion of every season wasn’t necessary the most talented team of that season. The difference is the system. How the coach was able to add all the talent and squeeze something more – synergy! Which NBA champion had a coach that was not celebrated? I mean Miami’s coach was personally mentored by Riley! You got Carlisle (who probably deserves some credit for Detroit’s NBA championship after he was fired), you got Popovich, You got jackson, you got amazing players. But it’s not just about the head coach. It’s about all the coaches working together and havign a great system when in court for a game and a system for making sure the right welcoming, competitive and yet collaborative culture mix is developed to maximize the most out of the team.

  18. ddd says:

    i think coach really matters

  19. SPEEDY CEVICHE says:

    Yeah right, put Howard, Kobe and Gasol or Nash playing together and you will see, hahahahahha. Dont compare Pop or Jackson with the rest of coaches. Thats why they are REAL coaches.

  20. Spurs01 says:

    I strongly disagree! I think a coach and his players compliment each other, You need the right coach to mold and shape a teams abilities and improve where it is lacking. You can have a band of highly trained musicians but if the Drum Major has sub par skills it will show. Same with coaching any team!

  21. W/E says:

    Players are alot more important than coaches…the coachs job is to set up his team right,motivate them to win and force them to play good team bball..but players are so much more important than any coach,put Jackson or Popovich to coach the Pistons or the wizards and they still wont even make the playoffs,put Kobe and D12 in any of those teams and they instantly become playoff teams..

    • zgillet says:

      That’s probably not the best example at the moment.

    • Nick says:

      I totally disagree. Coaches are just as important as the players. Why then haven’t the Lakers won every game? Look at their talent. Instead, they’ve nearly lost every game. They couldn’t even win in the pre-season! There are numerous other examples in the past: The Lakers bringing back Phil, Chicago falling by the wayside once Phil left, Pat Riley taking over as coach of Miami, and many more examples of teams doing dramatically better – or worse – with only a coaching change.

      • TT says:

        total agree with this comment, the Heat players have been coaching themsleves. I have yet seen Erik draw a play that save the Heat, it has always been the Heat players that save themselves. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.

    • thebalckbradpitt says:

      Are you really sure about that? Look at the Lakers… what a talented bunch, but still playing awful, unmotivated ball… And you gotta be kidding about Jackson or Pop. You would be amazed to see what Pop would do on the Pistons squad, just look at the Spurs, their rooster, except for the core changed so much over the last 15 years, yet they remain the top seed every season.

    • a says:

      That wasn’t the question.