I wanted to wait until the second round but I just can't with what happened in the last couple days in the coaching world of hoops.
First lets talk about NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer. Was he the right choice? I believe the answer is yes, although you could sprinkle in a little Brad Stevens and I would be okay with it. Yes I do have a coaching man crush on Stevens, but its deserved. Look at that roster where they have no one, they finished 7th, and if you watched that game last night against the Cavs, they showed up, they fought, and were within 2 with a few minutes to go in the game. They played harder than anyone in the league, and have been doing so all year. If they had any kind of offense at all they would be a threat in the series. And that is not Steven's fault, they have no talent, no size, no strength. But they have toughness and will and coaching.
Ok back to Budenholzer. He took the lowly Hawks from the 8 seed last year to the 1 seed this year. And if we remember, they had Indiana on the ropes last year up 3-1 then lost at home and at that point I knew it was over. They haven't added any new big signings, any new draft picks, they just added team. And team wins. They move the ball, they defend, they play for each other, and they win. They play very Spurs like which is the point because he came from the Spurs organization. And a lot of casual fans might not even know who Budenholzer is because the Hawks aren't real exciting to watch and don't get many nationally televised games. Case in point, as I'm writing this, they are playing on NBA TV in game 2 of their series with the Nets. NBA TV! How many #1 seeds have we ever seen buried over there during the playoffs. I can't think of any. So now we bring Steve Kerr into the equation. And this is where I could go for hours and may on some other post. Steve Kerr is a nice coach. He smiles a lot and I have said before the rest of the coaches in the league must hate him. Why? Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau haven't had their voices since the season started and that happens every year, while Kerr laughs and smiles and watches his guys go nuts. I am not saying he is not a good coach, I am saying that he walked into a great situation and just had to tweak things a bit to help a great team realize its full potential. For instance, if Kerr had taken the Knicks job and won 20 games would he be coach of the year? No. Would people even think he is a good coach? Probably not. Just like I don't think Derek Fisher is a good coach. But again that is another conversation about talent vs. coaching and whatnot. But at the end of the day Kerr did a really nice job with the Warriors and I think they will win the championship. And he will be on stage grinning going this isn't that tough. And then Klay will leave, and Bogut will get hurt, and Dramond will get a max deal somewhere else and Iguodala will continue getting old and David Lee will be somewhere else and we will see how good of a coach Steve Kerr really is.
I got a little long winded there but now on to me getting to say "I told you so," which I understand is the most annoying thing ever. But I did. I told you YEARS ago that Scott Brooks wasn't a good coach and that he didn't know how to maximize his ridiculously talented team, and now here we are and he is finally fired. If I remember correctly he took over as interim coach for P.J. Carlesimo and the team did better. Then, with a bunch of rising stars, did better almost every year and so he looked like a genius. Except he wasn't, and he isn't. Everyone says that he is a great guy and I am sure he is, but he is not a good coach. Winning games does not mean your a good coach and losing games doesn't meant your a bad coach. The way to elevate yourself to the highest level is to get the absolute maximum out of every single player on your team. Going back to Brad Stevens, he has gotten every inch out of his Celtics this year. He took Butler to back to back National Championship games. Does anyone understand how hard that is. With the entire BIG 10 swarming Indiana for basketball talent this guy took teams that were nice to look at to back to back title games. Its a ridiculous accomplishment for a big time school let alone Butler, especially after the first one when he loses some guys to the NBA including Gordon Hayward who was the best player on the team. Then with a clearly weaker team he takes them back again. If you compare those rosters to the Gonzaga rosters the past couple years you would take Gonzaga every time. And Gonzaga hasn't made it past the Sweet 16.
Back to Scott Brooks. One could make a case that when the Thunder had James Harden that they had the most talented roster in the NBA. They had good bigs, they had shooters, they had guys who could defend, and they had 3 guys that could not be stopped. Most teams hope for a big 3 as the recipe for a championship. They had that big three. And in all those years of having those stars, they made it to the NBA championship once. And lost. And even after trading James Harden they did get back Kevin Martin who was a really good player at that time, so they still did have a pretty good big three and Serge Ibaka was emerging with more offense to add to his great defense so there was no excuse for that team to beat them. So then you have to look at who beat them. And the thing is there wasn't one team that was just so much better they couldn't get by them. It was a different team every year. And everyone will immediately think of the Spurs. But the Spurs was only the past two years when Duncan was 36 and 37, Ginobli's bald spot looks like the eye of a tornado, Boris Diaw is athletic enough to dunk, and Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are still basically role players. And Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka and most of the rest are all in their primes. But they were severely out-coached at every moment.
And here is why he isn't a good coach. 1. Their offense. Their offense has no structure, they run nothing. Westbrook or Durant or Harden would go one on one and if they got stopped they would kick out to a shooter and that is it. What was really bad was Durant would literally post up at the 3 point line at the top of the key and then if he got the ball he would just try and go one on one with that guy. And the thing is, he is so talented that they were really good with just that. And if Westbrook couldn't get him the ball then he would go one on one and as we have seen this year, he is so ridiculously good that that also worked. And the Thunder could beat teams with no structure and no offense. The problem would come in the playoffs when teams elevate their defense and play harder and you get less calls and all of those lanes that were open for them to get to the hoop get closed down a little bit quicker. And then you look at teams like the Spurs who do run offense and who move the ball from side to side and who make defenders help and kick to open shooters and make extra passes and more extras passes and have a winning strategy. And as a coach, I want the other team going one on one, because its easier to guard than a team who moves the ball a lot. 2. Their defense. The defense was atrocious. Besides for Ibaka they didn't guard. They let the other team score and then they tried to outscore them. You may not remember if you think right now because they have gotten better, but when they were an elite team, they were beating teams 120-117. And they would let us listen in to Scott Brooks in the huddle and he would be saying "We are a defensive team" and the score would be 62-60 in the second quarter and you could just see the players looking at him like no we aren't are you really lying to yourself and saying that. They wouldn't even pay attention because it was such a crock because all they wanted to do is outscore people. 3. He had no control over the team. I always said that which is why I believe they didn't run offense, but it has been so evident this year with Durant going down. Westbrook literally has done whatever he wants. Does Scott Brooks want him shooting 45 times a game? Because it happened. But Brooks doesn't have the ability to stop him from doing it, so he does it. Can you imagine someone on the Spurs shooting over 40 times in one game? I can't.
Finally, to address the excuse makers. "Guys were hurt, its not his fault." Guess what. No one cares. No other teams feel one iota of pity for a team with hurt players. They want to come in and kick your butt. Does Tom Thibodeau get to make excuses when he loses Derrick Rose every year? How bout losing Joakim Noah for half the year? How about when Kobe tears his Achilles? Or when Dwight Howard misses half the season. Or Blake Griffin has elbow surgery. Or Chandler Parsons is now out for the rest of the playoffs.The point is everyone has injuries and you show what kind of coach you are when you have guys who are hurt. Have you coached depth? Is the next man ready to step in seamlessly? On the Bulls that seems to be the case.
Ok one more thing. Who will they hire. Pleeeeeeeeeease don't hire Billy Donnovan, John Calipari, or Kevin Ollie. For the same reason I hate hiring coaches with no experience. They usually don't win. Will Steve Kerr be the first and only exception? Probably. But does that mean something. I say no. Think about how many coaches could take that team to the top. I think the answer is a lot. That is by far the most talented team top to bottom. And like I said, if he was coaching the Knicks, people would be thinking he is a bum. So back to the college guys. I think there is a learning curve there as well. Look at the past few coaches who have jumped from the college ranks to the NBA. John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Mike Montgomery and Brad Stevens all come to mind. So I looked it up. From 93-13 when this article came out, there have been 8. Adding Brad Stevens makes 9. Brad Stevens has an overall losing record as a head coach with the Celtics but I don't know what it is so I won't add it to their information. Those 8 head coaches coached 22 seasons (which means they averaged less than 3 seasons per person) and had an overall record of 559-900 which is good for .383 and have a 3-12 playoff record. It doesn't say if they are 3-12 in playoff series or if they have only played 15 games and only won 3. Regardless the track record is not good. Its a different game, you must treat that players differently, and I don't think a coach with little to no NBA experience will be able to make the Thunder any better than they are right now. I say try and steal away one of the great coaches already in the NBA. Rick Carlisle, Tom Thibodeau, Erik Spoelstra, even Phil Jackson would be great hires. If they want to win a championship.