June 4, 2008

I Ain't Got Nothin' On My Mind, But Gettin' In Some Trouble

The firing of another coach reminds me just how short-sighted the NBA can be, but it also provides me an opportunity to look back upon one career defined by failure to get over the hump, and situations where-in coaching changes are actually warranted, even in successful environments.

And I suppose there will be 2pac lyrics, too.

"They call my name out and niggaz run / Best prepare for the outlaws, here we come"

We'll start with the firing of Flip, the league's best proponent of the motion offense. His style of coaching always seemed a bit more cerebral to me than most coaches (which explains why guys like Kandi would often look out of place). In so many words, Flip's offense moved the ball. The passing was paramount, and everyone on the floor needed to be able to identify and execute "shows" (my word, not Flip's, meaning someone popping out looking for a pass). Over the Wolves years, nobody ever did it better than KG, but there were other examples of players who seemed to play well within that system. The list is long - Marc Jackson, Oliver Miller, Big Swerve, Spree, Sam, Chauncey, Rasho, Fred Hoiberg, etc. These are all guys who passed well, and had good court intelligence when it came to moving the ball. To simplify this even more, they complete antithesis of this system is Stockton-Malone, or Wade-Shaq. Flip's style got all 5 guys playing different roles, moving the rock inside and out, and never passing up an open teammate. Most of the guys on that list above raised their games when they played for the Wolves... it seemed as though certain strengths that they had were accentuated by the Flipster. And, finally, it was within that system of offense that KG developed his game, one that is endlessly derided as being "unclutch" and "unselfish". He never learned to score in large numbers. Flip's system does not allow for that kind of thing.

"My homey slipped and now he paid the price, he did a drive-by"

As we all know, Flip went to the playoffs 7 straight years. And 7 of those times his team lost in the first round. Then Glen Failor and Deadzo walked ass backwards into the following set of circumstances:

1. Sam Cassell was absolutely hated in Milwaukee, both by fans and by his coach, who is overweight. They were ready to trade him for a Grainbelt T-shirt.

2. Latrell Sprewell was getting to be the epitome of "ghetto" in New York, and Terrell Brandon's huge contract was going to expire. Dumbo Dolan called McHale to initiate this one.

3. Fred Hoiberg decided he wanted to play basketball in an area that had good schools.

4. Mark Madsen wanted to sign with a team that would pay him to play basketball.

And so Owner and Mini-Owner found themselves a winner. We went hard into the Lakers in the West Finals, but Sam's back was broken and Shaq was quite fat, and we had to settle for being the 4th best team in the NBA that year.

The next year, Deadzo fired Flip because Sam and Spree stopped trying. It made perfect sense.

Flip caught on with Detroit and let them to 3 straight conference finals appearances, but no championships to show for it. He was shown the door by Joe Dumars yesterday, turning loose a man who accumulated a .715 winning percentage just because he couldn't win a championship.

"Some say the game is corrupted / Fucked in this shit"

Here's the thing about Flip... can you say that Flip is out-coached in games? I watched the great majority of his games coaching the Wolves (and ain't watched shit since) and never remember being embarrassed or frustrated with our coach. Sure, when he went up against guys like Phil or Don Nelson, you could sense a competitive edge. But Flip's guys always were ready to play, and his in-game adjustments seemed to help more than they hurt. Hell, at least he took timeouts at the right time (Doc Rivers, I'm looking at you here). Flip was a very good coach when he was here, elevating his team to the occasional surprise victory - (remember 2003 against the Lakers, game 3? GET SOME KID!) - but mostly just doing what he could with the players he was given. Was he great? Probably not. But he was solid, and sometimes, that's all you need. The name Gregg Popovich comes to mind.

Flip was fired by the Timberwolves because their management are idiots. He was fired by the Pistons because this is essentially the same team that won a championship in 2004 and went to game 7 in 2005, and Flip hasn't gotten them back there since.

I won't pretend to understand what Joe Dumars is thinking about when he fires Flip, and so the only thing I can do is put it in the context of other, similar coaching changes...

"But now that you're gone, I'm in the zone / Thinkin' I don't wanna die all alone"

The Tampa Bay Bucs fired Tony Dungy and the next season, they won the super bowl with Jon Gruden. Byron Scott was fired by the Nets after two consecutive Finals appearances. And these Detroit Pistons themselves fired Rick Carlisle after taking them to the conference finals, and replaced him with Larry Brown - y'all know the rest. I think the point here is that sometimes, sustained success isn't enough for some GMs. For whatever reason, they can see the potential there. Is Joe Dumars smart enough to see that? Does he look at this Detroit team - THIS TEAM - and think they could've won the NBA championship with a different coach? Is there someone else out there that represents a better chance at a championship both now and down the road? Apparently he thinks there is. Carlisle got them back into contention within 2 years, first to the playoffs then deep into them. He was fired and then the next year they won it all with Larry. Joe looks like a genius, not unlike Riley in Miami in 06. Nobody in Tampa even remembers Dungy.

But for every one of those moves, there are so many stupid moves made with regards to NBA coaches.

Flip's been on the stupid side of it. It remains to be seen if he'll end up on the smart side this time.

1 comment:

Dickfer said...

Detroit has a good team. Maybe they just need some new voice coaching them. Same with the T-wolves. HINT!