Tags Posts tagged with "Coach"

Coach

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Phil Jackson, Coach
Phil Jackson is an retired professional basketball former player. Photo: shutterstock
I’m at home in MN today and I had the television on for the Jim Rome show and they were talking about Alonzo Mourning’s comments regarding Phil Jackson as a coach. Now it’s possible that Alonzo’s quotes were taken out of context. Everyone around the NBA knows Alonzo is a class act and so maybe either he was kidding, or maybe he was joking around, or then again, maybe he was expressing on an honest opinion. Regardless, I thought that as one who played for Phil Jackson for three years, I would go ahead and chime in on my thoughts on Phil Jackson as a coach:

First of all, here is Alonzo’s quote:

“To tell you the truth, Phil doesn’t have to do anything but call time outs,” said Mourning, the former NBA star who helped lead the Miami Heat to the 2006 championship and twice was the league’s defensive player of the year. “Kobe is the facilitator. He is the one driving the mission of this particular team right now,” Mourning said. “The communication level he has with his teammates out there, you can just see it. I think Phil is just showing up, to tell you the truth, and Kobe is doing all the work to make this team successful.”

So, first of all, I do agree with Alonzo’s view that Kobe is the facilitator and that Kobe definitely pushes his teammates to higher levels of play than they could do on their own. I can tell you that there were times when Kobe coached me on where to be in the triangle offense and things I could do to help the team. Kobe helped everyone’s level of play immensely in addition to getting a lot of teammates wide open layups and dunks.

But when it comes to Phil Jackson I have to say that Phil is an amazing coach. Let me give a few reasons.

TRIANGLE OFFENSE: First, the triangle offense allows every single person on the court to constantly be touching the ball. I once asked Phil’s trusted assistant for 15 years, Frank Hamblen (whose specialty is defense), why Frank liked the triangle. He said to me simply, “There is always someone in the triangle in position to get back on defense.” Simple, but incredibly important in preventing easy baskets. Phil was a great role player for the Knicks and when he coached he wanted everyone touching that basketball a lot so that when the time came to attack, they were in some kind of rhythm rather than not touching the ball for 5 minutes in a game which happens sometimes. In the triangle offense there is a counter for every single thing a defense can do. Believe it or not, there are a lot of NBA sets with no automatic counters. Phil has taken everyone on that LA team, in Hollywood, and made them buy into the Triangle which is essentially a team offense. That in itself is no easy feat! But even when I was there, he got everyone to buy into the triangle. And if you tinkered with the Triangle or abused it, Phil would pull you out of the game and give you some bench time–and not just for a few minutes….try a few weeks sometimes!

MENTAL COMPONENT: Phil kind of had a way of knowing how to motivate people. When the we lost games in Los Angeles, Phil would come in the next day and be upset. Not all NBA coaches are like that! One time he came in and told some guys that they were nice good guys….the types of guys that a girl would want to take home to their parents. Then he said something like “I need some guys that are going to be mean on the court.” Needless to say, our team got meaner the next game.

TRUST IN PLAYERS: This kind of goes with the triangle offense, but the way Phil coaches he allows the players on the court tremendous freedom to basically do anything they want, AS LONG AS IT WAS WITHIN THE TRIANGLE. One of the first rules of the triangle offense is that if you have a direct line to the basket, you immediately take it. (In other words, going on your own and being aggressive and even shooting an unexpected shot is part of running the triangle effectively) It sounds so basic, but some coaches run plays like a football play with a specific end in mind. So the result is that with the basketball coaches that coach like football, some players end up being “robots,” which is the worst thing you can say to any basketball player.

PR–This is an interesting one. When we played against the 76ers in the NBA finals in 2001, there was a lot of talk about Shaq swinging his elbows and hitting Dikembe and other 76er players in the face/head. During one of our team meetings, Phil told all of us that when we addressed the media later that day that we should emphasize the fact that “Shaq deserves the right to ‘pivot’ when going into a post move.” It was kind of funny, because it was a great counter-argument to the media storm and other teams public complaints about Shaq’s physical play. And we went on to win that series never losing another game.

In game 3, Phil ran the same triangle play 3 times in a row in the fourth quarter. He cut Lamar off of Pau and then Kobe and Pau played the two man game on the elbow. Phil knows when it’s time to get the ball to his best players.

And finally, I must say that when I end my NBA career and transition into coaching, one of my first stops will be to visit some of my old coaches to pick their brains. My visit with Phil will be very interesting because I already know which questions I want to ask him. I want to ask him what his substitution philosophy is and how he does it. It seemed to work for us in the 2000-2003 years, but I want to know why he does it the way he does. I am also going to ask him for advice on using the media to get points across to players. Sometimes he talks to players individually when there is a problem and sometimes he used the media. I want to know what factors influenced his decision to go with either way. I’m not sure what is going to happen in this Championship series, but I can say definitively that Phil Jackson is a Hall of Fame coach.

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Kevin McHale, Coach, Head Coach, Glen Taylor, NBA, Go Green
Kevin McHale is a former American professional basketball player. Photo: shutterstock.com
Kevin McHale Returning to coach? I sure hope he comes back as the head coach next season! But this question has been the question of the past few weeks from media members, fans, and even amongst ourselves in the locker room. This is one case where it’s possible that even Mac doesn’t know what he’s going to do! Glen Taylor has publicly said that if Mac wants the job then he’ll be the coach next year. I’ve known Mac for the past 6 years and from what I’ve observed and the brief conversations we’ve had, I think that he truly is not sure yet what he’s going to do. I know it’s going to be a family decision because the Kevin McHale is a family man first. Here is one of the reasons why I want Kevin McHale to return as the head coach of the Timberwolves:

About a week ago, the NBA allowed all of us players to take part in a “Go Green” campaign to help promote great issues like environmental awareness, recycling, and other types of “green thinking” issues. Of course it’s a great opportunity and every team around the NBA wore warm-ups for one week with a big recycling logo on the front. Undoubtedly we have to take care of the environment in many many different ways.

Well, the first game we wore these special warm-up tops was against the Utah Jazz in Utah. After we had our 1-2-3- “Win” chant which was an event in itself that night, McHale held everybody up for one more minute and said something along the lines of,

“Hey fellas….I just want you to know about this global warming thing…..25 years ago it was Global Cooling and they were telling us we were going to freeze to death….so when they tell you all about global warming don’t worry about it too much…….”

It’s just nice when the head coach can crack a joke to loosen guys up. The guys on the team loved it and everyone was laughing so hard and it kind of took away the tension of a tough part of the season. We went out that night and took it to the Utah Jazz and won the game with a shorthanded roster.

Then a week later I walked into a breakfast meeting before it got started in San Francisco when we were playing the warriors and the first thing I hear is Kevin McHale explaining to a couple of guys on the team, “Yeah…the ice cap off of Greenland is receding but the ice caps off Antarctica are actually expanding….” It was good natured and fun and sometimes you need some fun on a long road trip.

Of course Mac loves the environment, but he’s also not afraid to mess with players and other coaches and just get guys thinking about things in a new way. McHale speaks his mind and you have to respect that. In the same way he’s not worried about saying something politically uncorrect, he’s also not going to worry about hurting a players feelings if he has to get on that player. The player will get over it.

But it does help that he jokes around with us and makes guys laugh. So in practice and at games when he does get on us or really challenges a player, you know that he’s on your side. It’s just been a lot of fun playing for him, and before a rash of injuries our record spoke for itself especially in the month of January. I think the most important thing about McHale as a coach is that he knows the game like no other. Especially when we were rolling in January (before all the injuries), he just had a great feel for what our defensive schemes would be as well as how we would attack other teams.

The biggest issue is that Kevin McHale doesn’t need to coach….he could do a lot of different things within the world of sports, or in business or in public service. Rumor has it that he’s up at the family cabin in Hibbing for some time to reflect and rejuvenate a little bit. But even today at our exit physicals, one of my teammates and I were talking about it and both of us were not sure what would happen. I guess time will tell, but I hope he’s back next season as the head coach!

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Mike Montgomery, Coach, Indiana basketball job, Minnesota, Stanford
Mike Montgomery is excellent candidate for the Indiana basketball job. Photo: Gajus

If there is a coach out there who would be an excellent candidate for the Indiana basketball job, it would be Mike Montgomery. Having played for “Monty” as everyone calls him, I can tell you that his knowledge of the game is vast and he knows how to run a team. When I was at Stanford, he kind of just put everyone in a position where they were going to be able to be as successful as possible. I haven’t talked to him yet about this vacancy and maybe he’ll get mad at me for putting his name out there like this, but even Dick Vitale was talking about it tonight on TV too. Monty’s wife actually has family ties in the Midwest (Minnesota) and with both of his kids grown and out of college, it might be a good fit for everyone.

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Glen Taylor, Player and Coach, Selfish, Mineapolis, NBA Timberwolves
I am personally quite disappointed. Every player, coach and front office staffer, up to owner Glen Taylor is very upset about the way this season has gone thus far. photo: shutterstock.com

As I write this the chances of us making the playoffs are pretty bleak. I can tell you that I am personally quite disappointed. Every player, coach and front office staffer, up to owner Glen Taylor is very upset about the way this season has gone thus far. Trying to put a finger on what exactly went wrong is hard to do. Unfortunately, we as players are responsible in the end for getting the job done on the court, and we didn’t. It cost a coach his job and it cost the fans and us a playoff appearance. I certainly can understand the frustration coming from our fans. So we are going to keep the hope alive, as we’re not out of it yet. The chances are slim, but we are going to fight and try to find a way to make it in. That’s what we’re still hoping for.

After our loss to Atlanta, Kevin McHale came in and really gave it to us. A coach has to be able to get on people at times, and we as players need to have thick skin and be responsive. Coach was upset that we weren’t passing the ball and we were playing selfish basketball. He told us two things about passing the ball and being unselfish that hit home. The first one came from the legendary University of Minnesota hockey coach Herb Brooks who told him, “Passes don’t come from the hands, they come from the heart.” Then he told us something his high school coach used to say, “If you have to think about passing the ball, then something is wrong.” He reminded us how we grew up playing the game—for fun and for pride in trying to kick someone’s tail every time you stepped onto the court. The thing about him is that he’s a basketball purist and when the effort and unselfishness isn’t there (on offense and defense) he’s very upset. I also think it legitimately hurts him to see the game played the wrong way. The truth is that everyone on the team can be unselfish and give great energy. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of that fact. I know we will bounce back in a decisive fashion.

Now that I can’t really work out as much, I have been doing a lot of walking around the lakes in Minneapolis and in the western suburbs. I am really trying to get out with friends and enjoy nature and take in the sun. Maybe get a little Vitamin D back into the system after a long winter. Minnesota is a great state, and particularly attractive if you enjoy the outdoors. Maybe this summer I will be lucky enough to get out on a boat and do some tubing. I have heard so many good things about Lake Minnetonka, maybe I will hang out there a little bit and soak up some rays and enjoy one of the 10,000 lakes.

Every once in a while when I’m walking around people will recognize me and say hello. They have all been very supportive. I had a few people come up during a recent walk and wish myself and the team the very best. They reached out on a personal note to ask me about my surgery and wish me well in the recovery process. They were hoping that I can recover on all levels and it was very much appreciated.

I am fortunate as part of this organization to be able to work with Dan Zeman, who is a local exercise physiologist. He used to work with Greg LeMond and has been talking to me about cardiovascular conditioning. When I combine his expertise and knowledge with that of Wolves’ strength coach Thomas McKinney, they offer up quite a source of knowledge. I hope to build on conditioning and hopefully be stronger when I return from my surgery. I look forward to writing again next week. Thanks, Mark.

Thanks, Mark