D’Antoni Vs. Johnson… Who’s The Right Re-Tread Coach For Your NBA Team?

6 May

In most sports leagues, heck in most corporations, the head jobs are usually tough to crack.  Most sports teams out to hire a head coach go with someone who has done the job before.  The NBA is no exception.  It’s all about cutting down the risks when making a big hire. 

Whenever a vacancy is announced, it’s never long before the management looking to fill that opening is calling up guys who’ve done the job before.  You know, re-treads.  Never mind that often times the re-treads fail miserably on their second or third or fourth chances.  Sort of like most hollywood stars and marriage.

So, it’s always exciting when a new coaching re-tread becomes available to the NBA’s general managers.  For that reason, Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni is getting a lot of attention now that his boss GM Steve Kerr (remember his deadly 3 point shot?  He’s been a lot less accurate as a GM so far) is letting him talk to other teams.  Word is the Bulls and Knicks are interested.

My question is why?

First off, and I know it’s a surface thing, but there’s the bad mustache.  Memo to Mike D’Antoni.  1974’s come and gone.  Let go of the ‘stache.

Cheap shot?  Maybe, but do you think today’s young athletes are respecting someone with  ’70s porn facial hair? 

Whatever. 

Let’s move on.  The more important factor is what D’Antoni’s managed to do in Phoenix.  There’s no arguing with the regular season record. It’s pretty impressive.  Speaking of pretty, the style of play he advocates is fun to watch and play. Players and fans alike dig it.  (PS – I’m using 70s slang as a subtle tribute to the D’Antoni mustache)

Yup, you know the problem.  The nice regular season stats and the powerhouse offense has meant nothing come playoff time.  A team that has featured the now departed Sean Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash (and his bad hair), Shaq and Grant Hill among others has never made the finals.  Not once.  And if memory serves, they’ve never even made it to a game seven of a conference finals.

As his core ages, the post season woes have gotten worse.  Now, the Suns are making first round exits.

The trouble with D’Antoni is his teams don’t play defense pure and simple.

For my money, if I was a GM looking for rookie re-treads, I’d go with Avery Johnson.  Johnson’s regular season record holds up nicely to D’Antoni’s.  Johnson has coached a team to a finals appearance, even if Dirk and Co. did choke it away. 

Most, impressively, Johnson changed the culture in Big D.  Suddenly, they were focused on D.  Taking the reins from Don Nelson and getting a team to buy into defense is one big accomplishment.  For that, re-tread Johnson deserves a second shot way before Mike D’Antoni.

Pretty basketball be damned.  And besides Avery doesn’t have as cheesy a mustache…

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