Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Hiring a new head coach can accomplish a
number of things for a franchise.
The end game is always the NBA championship but selecting a new mentor is a
chance for what is usually a downtrodden organization to excite its fan base.
It's the first of what is hopefully a number of steps that gets you to the
promised land, like putting a fresh coat of paint on a fixer-upper or getting
the old jalopy started again with some new spark plugs. There's still work to
be done but that first bold move sends a message about what you are trying to
The Portland Trail Blazers and new general manager Neil Olshey took their
sweet time before finally naming Terry Stotts as their new head coach earlier
this week, not exactly the sexiest route they could have taken.
To casual observers who remember Stotts' ill-fated tenures as the head man in
Atlanta and Milwaukee, his ascension to the throne in the Pacific Northwest
was met with a shrug.
Just another recycled coach from the old boy's club.
But that's not entirely fair. Since flaming out in Brew City, Stotts and his
6-foot-8 frame landed softly in North Texas, helping run one of the best
offenses in all of basketball under Rick Carlisle with the Dallas Mavericks.
By 2011 the Mavs were on their way to the franchise's first championship,
disposing of the heavily-favored Miami Heat in six games.
Carlisle and superstar Dirk Nowitzki received most of the accolades after
Dallas dismissed LeBron and Company and deservedly so, but Stotts was also a
key component, designing an offense which Nowitzki swears by.
That recommendation was enough for Olshey.
"Terry is one of the elite offensive minds in the NBA, has extensive
experience with multiple organizations and was instrumental in the Dallas
Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA Championship," the Blazers basketball chief
said. "He understands the vision for the future of the franchise, appreciates
the process involved and will create an environment on the court that will
produce championship habits."
Stotts' philosophy is all about keeping his players happy and making sure they
are having fun in a structured system which trusts his key components to make
the right decision. In fact, "trust" describes the system better than anything
"Part of my offensive philosophy, and we did this with Dallas when we won the
championship, is trusting the players to make good decisions," Stotts said at
his introductory press conference in Portland. "Giving them a freedom to play
within a structure and to make basketball plays."
"I'm a big believer in trusting the pass," the Iowa native continued. "I want
to push it up -- not for crazy shots -- but I want to push it up, if we've got
a good one (shot), take it. If not, move the ball around."
Of course that's a great philosophy when Nowitzki, one of the great pure
shooters of all-time, is pulling the trigger. Accomplishing the same kind of
things in Rip City will be a process but Stotts believes he has the pieces in
place to play the same kind of up-tempo, frenetic pace which defined Nowitzki
and Jason Terry in Big D.
"I'm a big believer in three-point shooting, to space the court," said Stotts.
"Between Nic [Batum], Wes [Matthews] and Luke [Babbitt], the young players
improving their three-point shooting, I'm excited about that. I do want to
play at a pace."
It's always a crap shoot when a highly-regarded assistant is elevated in the
Most thought Tom Thibodeau was ready for the big chair after spending 20 years
on the bench helping coaches like Bill Musselman, Jeff Van Gundy and Doc
Rivers, and they were right. Of course, John Kuester has been labeled as an
offensive genius after sitting under the learning tree of Larry Brown for so
long and he was an abject failure as a head coach in Detroit.
It's not just about X's and O's in the NBA. It's also about managing
personalities and getting highly-paid, often immature young men to buy into
Olshey is betting on the fact that Stotts learned some valuable lessons from
his failed tenures in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
If he's wrong, "recycled" will quickly morph into regret.
The Sports Network