Posts Tagged ‘David Fizdale’

Six Sensible Picks For Coaching Success



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Raise your hand, you twisted souls, if you’re ready for another episode of the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy show.

Even Hawks fans, a group starved for both star power on the roster and stability with the coaching staff, are wary of the potential pairing of these former Orlando Magic stalwarts in the ATL. Their deteriorating relationship marred their final season together in a situation that was anything but magic in Orlando.

But when the coaching carousel kicks up this time of year, and a half-dozen or so different teams are picking over the same small pool of elite coaching candidates, all things are possible.

Van Gundy, and his brother, Jeff Van Gundy, are going to be on short lists everywhere, along with Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Larry Brown and whoever the assistant coach(es) du jour might be.

What looks good on paper and sounds sweet in theory, however, doesn’t always hold up in reality. Multiple reports of Stan Van Gundy being pursued by the Hawks, who have announced that they will explore all options in determining who replaces Larry Drew (if they replace him), make perfect sense. Hawks GM Danny Ferry is in the process of rebuilding his roster and needs a coach on board before the Draft.

“I have great appreciation and respect for Larry and how he led our team this season,” Ferry told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. “At the same time, it is my responsibility and in the best interests of the Hawks organization to consider all of our options, and talk with other potential head coaches before making a decision about who will lead our basketball team. Larry and I have had open communication about this approach. If Larry and I continue to work together, we ultimately will be a stronger organization because of our discussions and this thorough process.”

That’s an eloquent way of stating the obvious: that the Hawks plan on moving on from the past nine years (Drew was an assistant under current Knicks Mike Woodson during his six seasons with Atlanta before Drew spent the last three season its coach). And it’s understandable. No one will blame Ferry for making a clean break from the Hawks’ recent past, provided he upgrades the coaching situation and the roster with all of that $33 million in cap space and the four Draft picks the Hawks will be armed with this summer.

The burning question remains, then, is Stan Van a legitimate upgrade?

He did take the Magic to The Finals in 2009, the Miami Heat to the Eastern Conference finals (2005) and did the same with Orlando (2010). But he was shown the door in both places after his star players grew tired of his grinding ways. Weighing the pros and cons of Stan Van being the face and voice of your franchise heading into a huge free-agent summer is a risky proposition for the Hawks, one that Ferry is surely aware of as he continues to sort through the process of finding the right coach.

There are five other current openings around the league, with another one (Los Angeles Clippers … ?) still looming. With a bevy of candidates, we take a look at who fits best where and why …

Atlanta Hawks: Mike Malone, assistant coach Golden State Warriors

In a realm where it’s often who you know as well as what you know, Malone can check those boxes with the Hawks. He’s done stellar work with the Warriors, helping guide them into a prime time position this postseason under Mark Jackson. He also worked under Mike Brown in Cleveland when Ferry ran that franchise. Malone is a nuts-and-bolts coach who won’t come with the baggage of some of the more recognizable candidates for the job. He’s universally respected and will likely be on the interview list for every opening out there.

Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Van Gundy, ABC/ESPN analyst

No available coach has a better handle on the rigors of guiding a team in the New York area. Van Gundy’s Knicks history, along with his work on ABC and ESPN broadcasts, has kept him in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. He’s got the coaching chops required to manage a complex and talented roster that clearly needs a guiding force to reach its potential. His former partner in the booth, Mark Jackson, has done wonders in his first coaching stint in Golden State. Van Gundy could work similar magic with a Nets team that underachieved this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: Larry Drew, coach Atlanta Hawks

Drew worked alongside Bobcats owner Michael Jordan when they were both in Washington, so there is plenty of familiarity there. He also impressed many around the league with the work he did in an impossible situation in Atlanta the past three seasons. Even with constant changes on the roster and in the front office, Drew coached the Hawks to three straight playoff appearances. He would walk into a situation in Charlotte that looks a lot like the one he walked into with the Hawks nine years ago. That blueprint for thriving in the face of adversity could come in handy for the Bobcats.

Detroit Pistons: Jerry Sloan, former coach Utah Jazz

The Pistons have a roster filled with talented young players in need of guidance and direction. That’s the idea fit for a disciplinarian like Sloan, who could work wonders with bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in particular. Sloan’s Jazz teams were known for being the model of consistency. He won with superstar talent (Karl Malone and John Stockton) and kept on winning after they retired. The Pistons have had their greatest success in recent years under another veteran coach, Larry Brown, and could return to relevance under Sloan.

Milwaukee Bucks: David Fizdale, assistant coach Miami Heat

With the Big 3 in Miami, most of the attention has been strictly on the players. But Erik Spoelstra‘s key hire since taking over as coach in Miami was luring Fizdale away from the Hawks. He’s considered one of the brightest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the league and has done fantastic work with the continued development of both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Luring him away from a championship situation in Miami won’t be easy for the Bucks or anyone else. But Fizdale has designs on running his own team and working with Bucks GM John Hammond would be a good place to get that first shot.

Philadelphia 76ers: Stan Van Gundy, former coach Orlando Magic

After the emotional roller coaster that was the Doug Collins experience, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the Sixers’ young core need a savvy veteran to deal with, not a first-time coach who would have to transition to a new gig in a city known for chewing up the strongest of personalities.  Stan Van gives the Sixers a bold personality to lead the way and an absolute technician of the game to help push the right buttons for a team that needs the sort of stewardship he tried to provide in Orlando.

Spoelstra’s Share Of Miami’s Success Easier To See Than Quantify

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Through the use of NBA.com’s Advanced Stats machinery, in conjunction with the finest analytical tools both currently in use throughout the league and yet to be conjured in the eventual big brain of Daryl Morey’s someday great-grandchild we can say unequivocally that coach Erik Spoelstra contributed 5.279 victories to the Miami Heat’s recent, remarkable 27-game winning streak.

If only.

There’s no reliable way to know precisely what Spoelstra’s contribution was to the streak, the second-longest in NBA history. In that way, it’s not unlike the Heat’s championship last June or their consecutive trips to The Finals. Considering LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hardly needed a general manager to pull off their SuperFriends scheme, it’s tempting for people to presume they might not need much of a head coach, either.

How hard can it be? Miami’s roster boasts the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, certain to be validated again this spring with his fourth Maurice Podoloff trophy. It has, in All-Stars Wade and Bosh, another top 10 and top 20 player. And the Heat have become a recruit-yourself destination for quality veterans such as Shane Battier and Ray Allen eager to win rings.

But consider how far Spoelstra has come from the death watch of two seasons ago, when a five-game losing streak, a 9-8 start and a timeout bump on the court with James had everyone predicting his demise in days, if not hours. Even a year ago – on the heels of a two-year, $6 million contract extension through 2013-14 – speculation simmered that anything short of a championship might bring a change.

And now? None of that. Quite the opposite, in fact, to the point that Spoelstra – with a 250-133 mark and, counting this season, with five trips to the playoffs – would be well within his rights to blow cigar smoke at his critics like Red Auerbach or give that self-satisfied Phil Jackson/Cheshire Cat smile while pointing above to various scoreboards.

Instead, he grinds like the video coordinator he once was. He plugs along. And he proves to be of no help whatsoever in attributing his share of the credit for what Miami is doing. Invariably he’ll lapse into his preferred brand of group speak. “I think the untold story about this group was the willingness of professional athletes to sacrifice for something greater,” Spoelstra said the other night in Chicago. “Virtually everybody on our roster had to sacrifice something financially and, in today’s day and age, you just don’t see that very often. … And save for LeBron, virtually everybody else on our roster in a perfect world would have a bigger role. But they sacrificed to make this thing happen – sacrificing to less minutes, less opportunities, less shots, whatever – and I think that’s pretty remarkable.”

Doesn’t scratch the Spoelstra surface, though. For that, you’re better off seeking exhibits and deposing witnesses. Such as Zach Lowe‘s recent splendid read on the Heat’s evolution into the Swiss watch-slash-monster-truck of NBA offenses:

These Heat look almost nothing like the 2010-11 version that melted away against Dallas in the Finals, and they don’t even look much like the team that took the floor for the bulk of their championship campaign last season. The Heat, more than anything else, are a story of slow and fitful evolution — a reaffirmation that the regular season really does matter, and that true basketball chemistry is a fragile thing that almost always requires patience, time, sacrifice, and deep knowledge of teammates.1

The Heat have almost totally reinvented their offense over those three seasons, and in the process they’ve done something very rare: taken a good offense and transformed it into something almost historically great.

That at least starts with Spoelstra, young enough yet wise enough to know what he doesn’t know. So says David Fizdale, the Heat assistant who’s an expert witness because he’s been at Spoelstra’s side all five seasons in Miami after working previously for Atlanta and Golden State.

“Every year he’s gotten better since I’ve been with him,” Fizdale said. “He challenges himself to get better. He’s never satisfied with where he is as a coach. He rarely gets credit. And the best part about him is, he doesn’t want any of the credit. You can’t say that about a lot of coaches in this league. He is one guy who really would prefer to coach and no one know who he was.”

Fizdale admitted that Spoelstra did savor the Heat’s title beyond the moments on court or in the trophy presentation. “He finally relaxed and got to sit back and smile and enjoy the fruits of his labor,” the assistant said. “Now, he’s not the type who’s going to sit there for a long. Probably a couple weeks after that, he was meeting with Billy Donovan or [John] Calipari or Chip Kelly [now of the NFL Eagles] or one of these guys. He’s always seeking knowledge and ways he can apply it to this team.”

Any time squeezed in there for, y’know, gloating? Spoelstra certainly earned the right.

“No. No way. Never ever,” Fizdale said. “He’ll never take the credit, he’ll never throw things in people’s faces because that’s not who he is. He’s competitive as hell. Wants to win everything. But not the type of person who, after he beats you, will gloat about it.”

Battier scoffs at any suggestion Spoelstra has it easier because of the Heat’s star power. “I’d beg to differ,” he said. “At this level, not only do you have to worry about the X’s & O’s, you have to balance egos. And the egos in this locker room are big. Global icons. It takes a person with a strong personality.”

Battier and Fizdale see the Pat Riley influences in Spoelstra, both in the gym and as a motivator. Then there’s a little Stan Van Gundy in there, and bits and pieces gleaned from those other coaches, maybe even from other sports.

In particular, Fizdale talked of Spoelstra’s ability, even his drive, to adapt and innovate to personnel and to various roster tweaks. “He understood these guys were a different monster,” Fizdale said. “And every year a team is a little different. He has always adjusted his tactics and his personality to that.

“You got to make talent mesh. Individually, those guys are going to the Hall of Fame. But they’re guys who were used to getting the ball 100 percent of the time. Now that’s been chopped into pieces.

“With the way he’s built our offense, he’s also developed those Hall of Famers in some way. Where you see them doing a lot more cutting, a lot more posting, more reading and reacting. It says something that these guys are having career years from a field-goal percentage standpoint. It’s not just that they went to the gym and started shooting 1,000 shots. It’s the structure that he’s put out there and the quality of shots they’re getting. The fact that they’re probably getting more easy baskets than they’ve ever gotten in their careers.”

Divvying up the percentages of credit for that interests Miami less than seeing that it continues into June.

Wade Working To Fix His Shot

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The difference between winning a title and being a champion is what you do in between opportunities to win another one.

No one will argue that Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade belongs in the realm of champions. A two-time NBA champion, Wade has spent his summer recuperating from injury, promoting his new book and as always, tinkering with the finer points of his game.

That a player with arguably the most devastating mid-range game of his generation has been hard at work this summer refining that shot should surprise no one. The fact that Wade was hunting for a shooting coach this summer, though, did raise a few eyebrows … and inspire a few phone calls from prospective coaches eager to work with one of the world’s best.

But as Wade explained to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, he needed more than just a shooting coach:

In the wake of a season where he felt his jumper got away from him, Wade said upon further review it was not as much about how he was shooting the ball as how he was going through that motion.

Now, with training camp three weeks away, he believes he has a grasp on the situation.

“I have one of the best mid-range shots in the league,” he said. “But, obviously, when you have different injuries, it makes you change a little bit. So it’s just about getting back to that comfort of it and finding out where you are now.

“My midrange game is very important to me. The biggest thing is coming out of my pull-up without losing the ball and just making sure it comes through my hand the right way. When it comes to my shot exactly, I don’t have a bad shot. There’s other reasons why I come up short a lot. So it’s just trying to work the kinks out.”

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