The Coaching Change
From Baseline Contributer ‘ASChin’
Somebody get John Hollinger on the phone because we need some new coaching stats. Even though the ’08-’09 Charlotte Bobcats only managed to win 3 more games than last year the improvement in play was much, much greater than the relatively small nominal increase. Although these new Bobcats limped out of the gate (again wasting a front-loaded home heavy schedule) they eventually figured out which pieces fit and which didn’t and Charlotte basketball fans were treated to something they haven’t seen in a very long while. Good, solid NBA basketball.
The root cause of success? No question it was new head coach (and behind the scenes assistant GM) Larry Brown, a professional who took over after the Bobcats wasted an entire season under the guidance of amateur coach – or should I say “basketball enthusiast” – Sam Vincent*. Under Brown’s leadership the ‘Cats did things never before seen in their previous four seasons. For one, they ran actual plays. Some of them were questionable – like the famous Raymond Does Dallas play – but hey, they ran plays! And even though Gerald Wallace’s head almost exploded midway through the season, the team eventually grasped “playing the game the right way” and it was beautiful.
I’m not sure that we, as Charlotte pro basketball fans, really understand or appreciate what it is that we have in Coach Brown. Before I go any further, let me present you with the following list:
- Dick Harter (settle down class, no snickering)
- Gene Littles
- Allen Bristow
- Dave Cowens
- Paul Silas
- Bernie Bickerstaff
- Sam Vincent
This is a motley collection of what I call “Michael Redd Head Coaches,” meaning guys who would make (and in some cases have made) excellent assistant NBA coaches but for whatever reasons (budgetary, convenience) were thrust into the role of top dog.
Larry Brown does not fit on this list.
Consider the following:
- Phil Jackson
- Pat Riley
- Larry Brown
- Greg Popovich
- Jerry Sloan
Did you even blink when Coach Brown’s name showed up amongst the recent NBA coaching greats? Of course not. He belongs there; he’s one of them.
You see, as Charlotte NBA fans, we’ve been conditioned to accept 2nd rate, budget shelf head coaches because Hornets owner George Shinn and (for a while at least) Bob Johnson refused to pay for anybody worthy of a head coaching position. So we became conditioned to settling for the Allen Bristows of the world. Imagine dating nothing but trashy Myrtle Beach skanks your whole life and then one day finding yourself in a healthy relationship with Giada De Laurentiis. You’ve grown to expect that your skank wife will sit on her butt all day, watch soaps, eat Klondike Bars, have an open affair with the UPS guy, and forget to make Johnny & Sarah their lunch or pick them up from school. Now that Giada’s in town, you come home to a dinner of Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Green Papaya & Zesty Mango Salad, Johnny’s having his piano lesson and Sarah is studying business Mandarin. It’s that big of a jump. And I’m not sure that Charlotte NBA fans fully have a grasp of it yet.
Under Coach Brown, Gerald Wallace became a complete NBA player. He shot 80% from the free throw line this season. Again, so you know it’s not a typo, 80%. Once the Raja Bell/Boris Diaw trade happened in December, the Bobcats ranked in the top 5 in Defensive Efficiency. Larry Brown repeatedly called Emeka Okafor out publicly and y’know what, Emeka respects him enough that he will come back next season as the most improved Bobcat.
Coach Brown has brought hope to this franchise and they are only a year and a player or two away from becoming contenders in the East. Props to both Michael Jordan and to Bob Johnson for making the investment. The team is finally on the right path.
From Baseline Contributer ‘E’
There is no question that Larry Brown is the best coach in Charlotte NBA history. The idea of having an NBA coaching legend on the bench is a great one. But I did have some significant concerns going into the season. Some of them have been answered, one has not.
One concern was exactly how Brown would reshape the roster. We all know that Brown wants and gets a lot of input into the personnel matters of the teams he coaches, and that he’s a “grass is always greener” kind of guy. Combine that with the fact that the Bobcats roster was ripe for an overhaul, and it could have been a recipe for disaster (New York Knicks, anyone?). But it seems like Higgins and Jordan did a good job of keeping Larry’s whims in check; it’s hard to argue with any of the trades that were made. We’ll cover them in more detail in an upcoming post.
The next big concern was that Larry Brown’s coaching philosophy is a known, static commodity that had recently shown signs of being long in the tooth. Brown is not going to come in and adapt his philosophy and strategies to the core players or the times. He’s going to make them conform to him. He thinks he’s got basketball all figured out, and prior to the last 4-5 years, it looked like he did. But his last two jobs (with the 2004 Olympic team and the ’05-’06 Knicks) had resulted in major disappointments. You had to wonder if his “system” was still viable. But with the way the Bobcats performed after the trade for Diaw and Bell, I think this question has been answered. Coach Brown can still get it done.
My last concern hasn’t been answered yet. Another famous, and deserved, criticism of Brown is that he doesn’t put down roots anywhere. He rarely coaches for more than a few years in any spot and has left teams somewhat high and dry in the past. Combine that with Brown’s advancing age, and there’s a good chance he could be ready to leave at any time. This concern obviously bears watching…
From Baseline Contributer ‘Deesdale’
I have more expectations than concerns for Mr. Next Town Brown.
Charlotte does seem to be Coach Brown’s last stop and he has always been the guy who enjoys building the structure of a team (even though he inherited his championship team). Therefore, I would assume that each season of his four year contract would improve upon the previous. And by improve I don’t just mean win/loss percentage. I mean things like consistent game play; cultivating or acquiring a player that averages over 25 points a game; and getting to the second round of the playoffs.
However, the most important benchmark of his Bobcats tenure will be measured by the condition in which he leaves the franchise. Internally, he must create a culture where the owner doesn’t cheap-out when it comes to staffing an organization. Externally, the Bobcats need to become embedded into our city. Not just a sideshow to the Panthers or known as the reason for higher property taxes.
Charlotte needs to be Larry Brown’s last place to ‘root down’. Hopefully he doesn’t bail and leave expectations unfulfilled.