Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Daly’

‘Free agent’ coaches seek work in ever-shifting job market

One by one, in something approximating inverse order of desirability, the names of NBA free agents have come off the proverbial big board. What began with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol has dwindled now to fellows such as Andray Blatche, Dante Cunningham and Ekpe Udoh.

This game of offseason musical chairs is played for even more blood among coaches. There are fewer jobs to be had in the first place (five or six per team vs. 15 player positions), and it’s not nearly the meritocracy that it is for players. Abilities, work ethic and results matter less than connections or change for its own sake.

There are a lot of coaching free agents still on the board, both former head coaches and notable assistants. Among the former, we have George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Skiles, Mike Woodson, Doug Collins, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Keith Smart, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Lawrence Frank and Maurice Cheeks.

The latter group, even bigger, includes Jack Sikma, Mario Elie, Terry Porter, T.R. Dunn, Igor Kokoskov, Scott Williams, Bill Peterson, Bernie Bickerstaff, Brian Hill, Bob Ociepka  and, hey, Rasheed Wallace. Actually, you could go dozens deep with solid coaching pros who once were in but now are out, the one place few of them want to be.

“There’s an old expression in the NBA, ‘Never get off the bus. Stay on the bus!’ ” said Jim Boylan, an NBA assistant for most of his 22 years in the league who survived a coaching change in Cleveland this offseason. “We all realize it too — it’s a privilege for us to be involved in the NBA and to coach athletes at this level.”

But it’s fleeting. Coaches face more scrutiny and grab more headlines when they’re fired, but their landings are often cushioned by seven-figure paychecks. Assistant coaches get flushed, and that six-figure salary — while comfy by most folks’ standards — doesn’t go quite so far when you account for the costs of multiple residences or constant moves.

Ociepka, who entered the league in the 1980s as a part-time volunteer scout after a storied career as a high school coach in the Chicago area, scrambled through five NBA teams in five years in the ’90s. Boylan and his wife, Jane, counted recently and realized they have owned or lived in 25 homes during his basketball career.

“It’s not a surprise when you’re an assistant coach in the NBA,” Sikma, the former Seattle and Milwaukee center, said recently. “You look at the number of staffs that have turned over in the last few years — it’s more of a constant than not. You know you’re probably going to have to bounce around a little bit.”

There are a multitude of factors for the turnover, most obvious the turnover at the top. When a coach gets fired, some or all of his staff typically gets shown the door with him. And there has been a LOT of turnover lately — nine new NBA coaches this summer, 13 such changes a year ago. Going back just five years, to the start of the 2009-10 season, only San Antonio (Gregg Popovich), Miami (Erik Spoelstra) and Dallas (Rick Carlisle) now have the same coaches. And both the Spurs’ and Mavericks’ staffs have changed considerably.

“Most people who are making the decisions probably have a narrow list going on, from relationships or what they’re looking for,” Sikma said. “It’s a transient line of work for sure. So you have to be quick on your feet.”

Here are glimpses of three assistant coaches whose dance cards are filled to varying degrees. Sikma would like very much to get back in after spending the past seven seasons working with now-retired Rick Adelman. Boylan beat the odds by surviving a coaching change in Cleveland, then beat them again when LeBron James’ yearning for home rocked the Cavaliers’ landscape. And Ociepka is at the point, after so many hirings and firings, where he might prefer more stable options. (more…)

Laying It On The Line: The Answers

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HANG TIME, Texas – On a recent hot summer day when Allen Iverson announced his retirement, what immediately came to mind was not one single spectacular shot that he made, but all of those fabulous, bone-jarring times he crashed to the floor.

And then got back up.

It wasn’t just his ability to lead the NBA scoring four times that made Iverson special. It was that warrior’s mentality, the trait that made him willing, against all odds, to out-scrap, out-hustle, out-compete everybody else on the court.

Through the history of the NBA, it’s usually been the big men — think Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Charles Oakley — who got the reputation for being strong and tough, but the truth is some of the fiercest players we’ve seen over the past 30 years have been guards.

In addition to Iverson, here’s another handful of the backcourt backbreakers we’ll call The Answers. They’re indomitable. They breathe fire. They don’t ever quit. They would chew off a leg to escape from a steel trap. They’re the ones you want playing in a single game with your life on the line:

Isiah Thomas It was never wise to be fooled by the cherubic face and angelic smile. The truth is that while Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn got most of the notoriety for their bruising style and often dirty tricks, Thomas was the real heart and cold-blooded soul of the Detroit “Bad Boys.” Part of what made him the best “little man” ever to play the game was an inner fire that never burned out. He competed ferociously and refused to ever show a sign of weakness. Hobbling on a badly sprained ankle in Game 6 against the Lakers in the 1988 Finals, he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter — a Finals record — and nearly pulled out a win that would have given the Pistons their first championship a year earlier. Then there was the night of Dec. 14, 1991 when on a drive down the lane in the first quarter in Salt Lake City, Thomas took an elbow to the face from Karl Malone that opened a huge gash over his left eye. After receiving 40 stitches, Thomas returned to play in the fourth quarter.

Michael Jordan Sure, he had the leaping ability, the defensive desire, the post game, clutch jumper and late-game instincts. But Jordan the All-Star would never have become Jordan the legend and icon without his roaring, brash nature, downright mean streak and readiness to do anything it took to pull out a win. He could barely control his competitive urges, whether it was challenging Bulls teammates in practice, occasionally punching one of them out, or rising up in a game situation to respond to any kind of challenge — real or imagined — that might have been tossed out. There was virtually nothing that could stop Jordan from leaving every ounce of himself in any game that he ever played. The so-called “Flu Game” in the 1997 Finals is frequently cited. He spent the night before Game 5 at Utah suffering from severe stomach distress and was a questionable starter. Dehydrated, struggling to breathe, he hit 13 of 27 shots for 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 win. Just as telling was a story from the training camp of the 1992 USA Dream Team in Monte Carlo. After beating Jordan in a golf match one afternoon, coach Chuck Daly was awakened very early the next morning by a banging on his hotel room door. When he opened the door, Daly found a grim-faced, primed-for-revenge Jordan standing there, dressed for the golf course. “Let’s go,” he said.

Kobe Bryant – You can call him a shameless gunner who never ever met a shot he didn’t like or wouldn’t take. Shaq did. You can call him a difficult and unpleasant teammate who would make a guy leave an extra contract year and $20 million on the table to walk away from the Lakers. Dwight Howard certainly did. But after 17 NBA seasons, you can’t call Bryant anything less than the most single-minded, driven competitor in the game today. He won’t just trash-talk opponents, but will ride his own teammates to get them to try to match his level of intensity. (They can’t.) He plays hurt, aching, sick, bruised, broken and he is usually still the best player and hardest worker on the floor. He played half of the 2007-08 season with a fractured finger on his shooting hand and still won the MVP Award and led the Lakers to The Finals. At 34 last season, he averaged the second-most minutes per game in the league last season — trailing only rookie Damian Lillard — until tearing an Achilles tendon on April 12. So then he just took to Twitter from his sickbed to critique his teammates. It’s supposed to take nine months to a year to come back from Achilles surgery, but Bryant plans to tear up the calendar.

John Stockton Another one of those with a choirboy face who might have kept a pair of brass knuckles under his robe. Trying to get him to change his expression was as fruitless as banging your head against a brick wall. His Jazz teammate, The Mailman, had all those big, bulging muscles. But Stockton was equally as strong in competing with the stubbornness and dependability of a mule. Durability is a mark of greatness and in 19 seasons Stockton missed only 22 of a possible 1526 games due to injury. He never drew attention to himself by dribbling behind his back or through his legs, mostly throwing bounce passes that led to layups that were mind-numbingly effective and oh-so-deadly. He was also widely known throughout the NBA for using his 6-foot-1 body — OK, and occasionally his elbows — to set picks on opposing big men. Stockton never went looking for trouble or fights and rarely was involved in trouble, but night in night out he had the strong jaws and voracious appetite of a pit bull.

Clyde Drexler Oh, how nicknames can be deceiving. Clyde the Glide practically slides across the tongue like ice cream on a hot summer day. But it’s a lot like calling the fat kid in the crowd “Slim” or the tall guy “Shorty.” Maybe it was the fact that from the time he was a star in on the University of Houston’s Phi Slama Jama team all the way through his 15-year NBA career in Portland and Houston, the TV screens were filled with images of him floating effortlessly to the basket. In reality, he was as sharp and cutting as razor wire. He went down onto the floor for loose balls and into the crowds of tall trees to come away with the toughest rebounds. He would slice through the narrowest opening to get to the hoop for a critical bucket. He would use arms, legs, elbows — any means possible — at the defensive end, all the while with a smile on his face that belied how much he wanted to destroy you. The defending champion Rockets were down 3-1 in the 1995 conference semifinals, facing elimination and when his teammates entered the locker room, Drexler was stretched out on a table connected to IV bottles. He had the flu and nobody thought he would play. But Drexler dragged himself out onto the court and, though he could not manage a single field goal in the game, played 32 hard and inspirational minutes to spark a Rockets win that started a comeback to their second straight title.

Coaches Honor Fitch With Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Fitch

In the 1980s, Bill Fitch led Boston to an NBA title.
(Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO – These days Bill Fitch gets a special kick out of tuning into postgame news conferences and hearing players say they won’t really know what happened in the game they just played until they look at the video.

That’s because Fitch was sometimes mockingly called “Captain Video” in the early part of his 25-year NBA coaching career for using videotape to analyze opponents and scout talent.

But what was once a joke became a standard and integral part of the game, making Fitch a pioneer. That, along with his 944 career wins and penchant for turning bad teams around, has earned him the 2013 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Basketball Coaches Association. He received the award Tuesday in a presentation prior to Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

“To be honest, I never really thought being known as Capt. Video was a bad deal,” Fitch said. “Other people could laugh and tease all they wanted. The truth is I was glad to that nobody else was doing it, because I thought it always gave our teams a big advantage.

“If you could see my closet today, it’s crammed full from floor to ceiling with old tapes and now with DVDs and I’m still doing film for different people. I still love the competition and the strategy.”

Fitch ranks eighth on the all-time win list and his 2,050 games coached is third. He is a two-time Coach of the Year winner (Cleveland in 1976 and Boston in 1980), led the Celtics to the NBA championship in 1981 and, after moving to Houston, took the Rockets to The Finals in 1986. He was also named one of the NBA’s top 10 coaches of all-time in 1996-97.

The NBCA Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award commemorates the memory of the Hall of Fame coach who won a pair of championships with the Pistons in 1989 and 1990 and led the 1992 USA Dream Team to the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics.

“I’ve always said that being a coach made me able to live a life where I never, ever felt like I had a job,” Fitch said. “Honest, it wasn’t about the money. It was about the feeling that I was never working, because I was doing something that I loved. It was about the competition all those relationships that were built.

“I guess what this means is that I’m 81 and going the wrong way. But seriously, anytime you get an honor from your peers it means a lot more. I’m humbled by it. It’s always great to be recognized by the guys you worked with or against. Coaching is the biggest fraternity there is and I’ve always felt like I’ve had more brothers than I could count.

“Chuck especially was a great friend and to get an award named after him makes me immediately think of all the experiences and stories we shared, some of them that could even be printed.” (more…)

Carlisle Seeks Win No. 500 Tonight At OKC

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle probably never imagined it would take 47 games this season for his team to get 20 wins.

So, naturally, it’s taken a little longer for him to join the exclusive 500-win club. It’s been that type of a hard-coaching season for Carlisle, who will become just the fifth active coach to reach 500 career wins with the Mavs’ next victory. It could happen tonight, although it won’t be easy as Dallas is in Oklahoma City (8 p.m. ET, League Pass) to take on a Thunder team in a bit of a lull after finishing up seven of eight games on the road.

Carlisle has amassed a 499-352 (.586) record in 11 seasons with Detroit, Indiana and Dallas, where he has won 218 games in now his fifth season, the longest tenure of his career. The only active coaches with 500 wins are Gregg Popovich (1,295), George Karl (1,104), Rick Adelman (989) and Doc Rivers (570). Carlisle is one of just four active coaches, along with Popovich, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra and Rivers, to win a championship.

Carlisle will become the 28th coach in NBA history to achieve 500 wins. Only seven coaches have reached 1,000. One is Larry Brown (No. 6 all-time with 1,098 wins), the man who replaced Carlisle a decade ago in Detroit after he led the Pistons to the Eastern Conference finals in just his second season. Brown and the Pistons won the title the next season. Brown now coaches just up the road at SMU.

“I think it’s the only team I ever took over with a winning record and I said immediately when I got the job that the values that he has are no different than the values that I have,” Brown said. “It was an easy transition for me because they were taught the right way. He knows that, we talk about it all the time. I inherited a team that was fundamentally sound, that knew how to play, they cared about their teammates, they guarded every single night, played hard every single night. I coined the phrase, ‘Played the right way,’ and he started that.”

Carlisle emerged as one of the game’s truly gifted coaches with his deft handling of a veteran Mavs team that rolled up the Trail Blazers, Lakers, Thunder and finally the Heat in winning the 2010-11 championship, the franchise’s first.

And who knows how much more quickly Carlisle might have reached 500 if late Pistons owner Bill Davidson had not jumped at the chance to hire the legendary Brown; and then later at Indiana if the “Malice in the Palace” brawl in Detroit had not thrown the franchise into chaos. Still, Carlisle managed to guide that injury- and suspension-riddled 2004-05 Pacers team to the playoffs and a first-round upset of Boston.

He spent one more season at Indiana before taking a year off working as an analyst at ESPN. Then, Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban brought him to Dallas to coach Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

So far this season Dallas is 0-2 against the Thunder. Yet, who would have figured both games would go to overtime?

Perhaps Carlisle has something special up his sleeve to nail down No. 500.

Re-Living The Dream Team Is Pure Gold

Dirk Nowitzki of Germany and Tony Parker of France have been named MVPs of the NBA Finals. Yao Ming of China and Andrea Bargnani of Italy have been the No. 1 pick in the draft. Manu Ginobili of Argentina and Pau Gasol of Spain are perennial All-Stars.

None of it would have been possible without The Dream Team.

They not only won the gold medal as the marquee attraction at the Barcelona Olympics, but also lifted basketball to a place of prominence globally and opened the gates for today’s flood of international stars.

That is the message delivered by the 90-minute documentary debuting Wednesday night on NBA TV (9 p.m. ET) that chronicles the tale of the 11 Hall of Famers – led by Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan – who took the basketball world by storm in 1992.

Along, of course, with confirmation that Charles Barkley is one pretty entertaining fellow.

The film follows the Dream Team from the spark of its origin inside the competitive spirit of Magic, who sold the notion to Bird and a reluctant Jordan, all the way through the poignant victory ceremony following the gold medal clincher over Croatia.

(more…)

Would Bad Boys Make Pistons Good?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Nothing warms the cockles of a Piston fan’s heart more than the memory of an Isiah Thomas jump-shot dagger or a Bill Laimbeer cheap-shot forearm to the back of a head.

Perhaps nothing would rekindle interest in the team and put fans back into the seats at The Palace than a return to the Bad Boys’ attitude as new owner Tom Gores plans to make the first significant hire of his regime. But how long would the Bad Boys II really go to resurrecting the once-proud franchise?

It’s an interesting debate that’s currently taking place in the Motor City and it has a pair of long-time, well-respected columnists from The Detroit News on opposite sides of the fence.

Terry Foster is in favor if rekindling the old spark with the likes of Isiah or Laimbeer:

This Pistons job will be a tough one because a lot of buffoonery is left behind and can no longer be tolerated. New owner Tom Gores talked about being tougher, and that starts in the dressing room.

Players were allowed to run roughshod over John Kuester. They could do as they pleased and say what they wanted. They didn’t seem to care.

(more…)

Heat Good, But They’re No Bad Boys

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s a knee-jerk response. Every time a great defensive team rears its head, so many are quick to jump up and compare them to the Bad Boys of Detroit who ruled the Earth two decades ago.

Such is the case now with the Heat as they’ve limited the Mavericks to just 41.15 percent shooting and 88.3 points a game through the first three games of The Finals.

But seriously, when did you last see Miami’s Joel Anthony trip a player trying to drive down the lane ala Bill Laimbeer and then sneer? When have you seen Udonis Haslem pull the old rocking chair out from under his man and then chuckle like Rick Mahorn when he falls to the floor? When have you seen LeBron James or Dwayne Wade demonstrate even an ounce or two of the seething defensive defiance that Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman took out onto the court with them for every game.

Our good friend Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel caught up with a guy who’s had an up-close view of both. Ron Rothstein, now on the Heat bench, was one of the architects of the Bad Boys along with the late great Chuck Daly in Detroit.

Those Detroit defenses Rothstein helped assemble for Chuck Daly’s “Bad Boys” Pistons in the ’80s were more about brawn and bulk, players such as Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer.

This Heat defense is about athleticism, the type of closing speed that can pack the paint and still chase 3-point shooters off their spots.

“We have some athletes on this team that are just off the charts,” Rothstein said. “The amount of ground that we cover, the amount of space that we can cover, getting back in transition and running people down is remarkable.”

This is not to diminish the Heat’s prowess, merely to distinguish it from the rest and give its just due. All of those open 3-point shots that the Mavs hit against the Thunder and Lakers — especially the Lakers — in the previous two rounds of the playoffs are no longer so readily available because the Heat are simply too fast, too quick to recover on defense. That is especially true of James and Wade, who get most of their accolades for the jaw-dropping stunts they perform on offense, but can be just as overwhelming at the other end of the floor. The ball movement and slick passing that is a Dallas trademark has not been able to get enough open looks at the basket for anyone but Dirk Nowitzki and that lack of scoring from the supporting case is what has the Mavs battling uphill.

Make no mistake. The Heat defense is as good as it gets in today’s game. But they’re not the Bad Boys. Not until some bodies hit the floor and we see some sneers.

Admit it, don’t you miss the Bad Boys?

Induction Day at the Hall

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Posted by Scott Howard-Cooper

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – I think Chuck Daly will be here tonight.

Not actually physically here as part of the Hall of Fame ceremonies, but he will definitely be present a little more than a year after his death, very much a part of the festivities as the original Dream Team he coached to the 1992 Olympic gold medal is inducted as one of the headliners of the Class of 2010.

Players and USA Basketball staff talked with fondness about the memory of a basketball legend when the first group of NBA players in the Summer Games was named a Hall finalist in February, so imagine the potential for bittersweet smiles and stories now that the team is being enshrined. They’ll make sure Daly is still part of the group when it gathers to receive the honor. Watch Magic Johnson or Charles Barkley or one of the other mega-stars bring him up without even being prompted.

A few other potential NBA-related highlights I’m anticipating at Symphony Hall, site of the ceremony a few blocks from the basketball museum itself:

*Karl Malone’s acceptance speech for his individual induction, on the night he also goes in as part of the Dream Team. Malone can be very emotional and speaks from the heart, the admirable quality that sometimes got him in trouble as a player. He has kept a surprisingly low profile since retiring. This is his time to reflect.

*Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson together on stage. Just because it’s Michael, Larry and Magic together. It doesn’t matter if they say anything.

*Everyone else – his wife, three kids, other family members and members of the basketball family that appreciated him like few others of his time – cherishing the moment for Dennis Johnson. Donna said her late husband would have basked in the honor and admitted she was having trouble holding back tears when word came in April that DJ had been elected to the Hall. If she speaks on his behalf tonight, with emotions swirling inside, it could be powerful.

Winter, Ramsay Share Daly Award

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Posted by Sekou Smith

LOS ANGELES – Triangle offense guru Tex Winter and legendary coach and basketball commentator Dr. Jack Ramsay shared the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, handed out before Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday night at Staples Center.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coaches Association, was on hand to deliver the award to the coaching giants. Tommy Heinsohn received the inaugural award named in of Daly, who won back-to-back championships with the Detroit Pistons and coached the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal during his Hall of Fame career. Daly died last year of pancreatic cancer.

“I’m honored to receive this award,” Ramsay said. “Chuck was a special guy in het way that he coached, the way that he dressed, the way that he got his teams to play the game that he wanted them to play, without an overbearing presence on the team. I think it’s very fitting that the coaches association has named an award in his honor. And I’m especially fortunate and honored to receive this award … and I’m honored to share this honor with Tex.”

Ramsay guided the Portland Trail Blazers to the NBA title in 1977 and remains one of the game’s global voices for his work as a coach and broadcaster. The offensive architect for nine title teams under Phil Jackson, six in Chicago and three with the Lakers, Winter received a 10th ring from the Lakers after they won the 2009 title (below).

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