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News » Street credibility critical to NBA coach's success

Street credibility critical to NBA coach's success

Street credibility critical to NBA coach's success
What's more important when hiring an NBA coach -- overall head coaching experience or credibility with the players they'll be in charge of leading?

By credibility, of course we're not talking about a belief that the potential hire is competent. Surely if you get a look for an NBA coaching gig, that much can be assumed about you.

Rather we're talking about a kind of NBA street credibility. Or that shoe-leather respect around the NBA that screams to an NBA player that "this person has something that can bring out the best aspects of my game."

While most first-time head coaches come from the NBA assistant ranks, that credential alone doesn't translate into instant rapport.

A few weeks ago we examined the idea of the retread NBA coach. It was lamentation of the idea that certain guys always seemed to find their way into interviews just because they'd previously held head coaching jobs (no matter how bad they might have done in them).

Tonight the Magic will host a Washington Wizards team that even with interim coach Ed Tapscott (right) in place will probably be searching for a new full-time coach this summer.

Ordinarily, the expectation would be to see the retread train lining up for the next stop.

But having listened to Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy recently explain why one-time video coordinator and Miami first-year Coach Erik Spoelstra was doing so well as a sideline rookie, there might be a new notion to chew on.

It's that at least some NBA general managers might be ready to hire head coaches that just haven't played pickup games with James Naismith. They might start betting on ones that have proven player credibility.

"You've got to know what you're doing," Van Gundy said. "I think players know. Especially guys that have been around veteran guys. They know when you know what you're talking about and when you can help them."

Van Gundy said Spoelstra developed that credibility by getting his face time doing just about every job on the Heat's assistant staff before being tapped for the top job.

"The returning guys there all knew that Erik knew his stuff," Van Gundy said. "Because the new guys are there to tell the rookies, 'Hey, he knows what he's doing.' He's earned his credibility over a number of years in that organization."

The same could be said about guys like New Jersey's Lawrence Frank, another active former assistant who also has been described as a coach with good player interaction skills.

It was one of the things Nets team president Rod Thorn pointed out about Frank when he gave him the job after firing Byron Scott.

"Sometimes your team needs a new voice," Thorn said at the time. "Your message just isn't received and taken on the court."

Frank had been an assistant for three years under Scott and Brian Hill for three years before that for the Vancouver Grizzlies.

Frank also was a team manager for Bob Knight once upon a time.

All of Knight's antics might not be in the coaching handbook, but there are plenty of people who've coached under him -- including ultimate motivator Mike Krzyzewski -- who trained under him.

In a way, Van Gundy is also a coach in the same workhorse model as Spoelstra. Van Gundy also spent meaningful time in a Miami organization that featured a respected NBA entity in Pat Riley that has previous experience nurturing stars.

For a guy like Riley to be your vocal resum? it means a lot.

It's a point that the Magic's Dwight Howard made in the preseason when talking about Van Gundy and speaks to just how far player-coach rapport can be.

"You have to believe in your coach, without that it's hard to see results," Howard said in the preseason. "I feel like we have that."

Just words, maybe. But they go a long way.

Numbers game 15

Number of NBA games played on Jan. 2, marking the first time in NBA history that 30 teams played on the same night.


Career wins reached by Denver Coach George Karl when the Nuggets beat Toronto 114-107 last week. Karl is 10th on the NBA career wins list, having won his first NBA game as a coach in 1984.


Where Pau Gasol's NBA career points total stood after he scored 21 points in the L.A. Lakers' 113-100 win over Utah last week. He became the seventh European-born player to reach the 10,000-point milestone in the NBA.

Top five

The NBA released its third all-star balloting returns last week. Here are the overall top five vote-getters:

*Dwight Howard (Magic) 1,709,088

*Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 1,534,020

*LeBron James (Cavs) 1,521,272

*Dwyane Wade (Heat) 1,473,225

*Yao Ming (Rockets) 1,396,126

Line of the week

16 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds

LeBron James (below) posted his first triple-double of the season and 18th of his career in Cleveland's 117-92 victory over Chicago.

Who's got next

*Miami at Denver, 9 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN). Buzz: Rookies Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley take on Carmelo Anthony and Co.

*Boston at Cleveland, 8 p.m. Friday (ESPN). Buzz: Both teams are sitting comfortably in their respective divisions.

*Dallas at Phoenix, 10:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN). Buzz: Western Conference rivals meet for the second time this season.

Closing thought

After seeing the buzzer-beating excitement of Jan. 2's NBA-record 15 games in one day, don't be surprised if Commissioner David Stern brings it back down the road.

NBA power poll

1. Lakers: Winners of five straight entering the week.

2. Cavaliers: Zydrunas Ilgauskas out for a month.

3. Celtics: Everybody loses, but come on, to the Knicks?

4. Pistons: Have won NBA-best seven straight entering the week.

5. Spurs: Were 7-3 over last 10 entering the week.

26. Timberwolves: Don't let the two-game win streak fool you.

27. Wizards: Get credit for beating the Cavs, but not that much.

28. Clippers: Losers of seven straight entering the week.

29. Kings: Were 19.5 games back of Lakers entering the week.

30. Thunder: The honeymoon is officially over.


*Dallas' Josh Howard is still talking. And it seems that after getting unflattering headlines following his radio admission that he smoked marijuana and a reckless driving arrest in the offseason, he feels the media is the culprit. Once an accessible guy to reporters, he now has become somewhat of a recluse. Asked by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about his New Year's resolution, he coyly said, "Don't repeat 2008." And when hit with the follow-up about how to do it? "Avoiding the media," he replied.

*According to Indiana Pacers team president Larry Bird, embattled point guard Jamaal Tinsley is still on the market. Bird admitted to the Indianapolis Star, however, that it's getting harder to find him a new home. The trade deadline (Feb. 19) is fast approaching and nobody seems to be inquiring about Tinsley's services. And Bird says they won't buy out what is left in his $21.5 million contract. "We're going to try to do something," Bird said. "We've talked to just about every team in the league. There were a lot of teams that were interested in him. You never know, they can say that all they want, but until something happens you never know if something is really going to happen."

Magic beat Biker buddies?

They didn't exactly look like twins, but Magic General Manager Otis Smith and F Tony Battie were sporting matching T-shirts after a shootaround last week.

The shirts of choice were from the 2008 Daytona Beach "Biketoberfest."

Smith apparently distributed shirts from his trip there during a recent Magic road trip. Smith, a budding motorcycle aficionado, also recently became a Harley-Davidson owner.

"Hey, it was cold this morning," Battie said after emerging from the locker room and revealing the fashion faux pas. "I just looked at it and put it on."

Doublemint Challenge

The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., makers of Doublemint gum, announced it will partner with Dwight Howard in the second annual "Doublemint Gum Double-Double Challenge."

The challenge is a charitable program that benefits Prevent Child Abuse (PCA), a national nonprofit organization and long-time NBA Cares community partner. The campaign runs throughout the regular season to raise money for PCA and will donate $250 each time Howard records a double-double.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: January 8, 2009


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