There have been three OUTSTANDING coaches that I have had the pleasure of watching in my lifetime (and many more throughout history) in three different sports. Joe Torre (baseball), Bill Belichick (football), & Phil Jackson (basketball); when examined have many common traits. Later I will get to coach D'Antoni.You coach to your talent. You coach the team you have, not the team you had. I like Mike D'Antoni, and his best teams have been a lot of fun to watch. But ultimately the job of an NBA coach is to create double-teams, not be constantly victimized by them. So they can still swing the ball around on the outside the way they did before, but their best chance to create double-teams is to pound the ball in to Anthony and Stoudemire a lot closer to the basket.
Put it another way: Nobody gutted the team so that Toney Douglas could get more time and more shots.
The Knicks, despite the way they are playing, still should be better off with Anthony than without him. He is one of the best scorers in his sport, up there with anybody you care to mention, and didn't suddenly forget how to score the ball. But the Knicks are no longer built to shoot fast. They're just not. With the talent they have on the court now, they are getting killed in transition when the shots stop falling.
There is still time to figure this out, despite all the excuses we keep hearing. Good grief, suddenly, in all of pro basketball, it's only the Knicks who are tired and having to grind their way through March. And guess what? If Stoudemire has tired legs, it's not like he was putting himself out there for too many minutes earlier in the season.
So as to not provide a biography I will be as susinct as possible. Joe Torre, a man thought as "clueless Joe", took over the recently rebuilt Yanks in 1996. He was a career middle of the road, mediocre coach, but had ties with the tri-state area. The team he took over made the playoffs the year before, but then fired their coach Buck Showalter and moved in a different direction. After 12 seasons with Torre, the Yanks won 4 World Series, went to 6, and restored the franchise to again be known as the GREATEST EVER.
Bill Belichick aka the Evil Genius began his career as an assistant in the 1970'S. He is more known for being a defensive coordinator with the NYGiants in the 80's & 90's, when they won 2 SuperBowls with a relentless defense. He is the only had coach in NFL history to win 3 SB's in four years, and this was in an era of free agency and many contractual implicating circumstances that rarely kept the same personel.
Finally Phil Jackson, a former NBA champion with the New York Knicks and head coach with 11 titles under his belt. This includes 3 seperate 3peats, something never done before, even within the storied Laker franchise. He is one of the best to ever do it.
Let's take a look at some similarities between these great minds. Obviously the results speak for themselves, but there are some interesting similarties...
1. All are known for being calm cool and collected. Phil is seen wearing flip-flops at practice, Joe torre's temper seems non-existent as he drinks Bigalow Green tea during interviews, and Belichick has been known to lull reporters to sleep. Yet all get the best out of their players. They say the attitude of he team is a reflection of the coach; well these master minds were poker faced assassins. You could never tell exactly what they were thinking, but come game day, it was all business.
2. Dealing with "super-stars". We know the knock on Phil and Joe; they're accomplishments were tried to be deminished due to the star power they coached. Not every coach has the make up to deal with these alpha males and the egos they bring. These athletes were conditioned to believe the world was their oyster. Yet these coaches, Belichick included, had a way of humbling their players, and having them buy into the team concept. That no one was bigger than the team. Sure we all knew MJ was the best, the catalyst, but damn if the back up wasn't made to feel his job wasn't just as important. Its psychological, and the mark of a genius. From humble pie t-shirts, to trading who some thought were vital cogs to success, these coaches made sure to instill a team concept, no matter who they coached, and all had arguably the best.
3. Finding Diamonds in the Rough. Another similar feature with these genius leaders was the ability to not only get the most out of their players, but each had the ability to take players thought to be weak (either skill wise or age) and have them flourish under them. Not every player under Jackson was an MJ, quite the opposite, yet when these coaches acquired these players from the scrap heap, all of a sudden they didn't look so bad and limited. Belichick & Torres teams were full of late career castoffs, thought to have nothing left and be too expensive. Yet under these coaches not only did they flourish, they took less money to have a limited role... all with a smile on their faces.
4. Systems... Between Phil & Belichick who's sports are more system based, they both emplored proven systems, and NEVER neglected defense. In Torres case, his winning teams were bolstured by pitching and defense. It wasn't until the franchise went away with this approach and more towards offense that they began to lose more often; but best believe those championships were won with DEFENSE, as was the case with Phil and Belichick.
These great coaches didn't reinvent the game. They took what they knew and improved on it. When the concepts of winning in the old days were combined with the player salaries and business side of the sport, more coaches like these emerged, because an effective psychological approach was needed. No more were players together for years on end providing an opportunity to learn and grow. No longer were players getting jobs in the offseason to suppliment income. No, the modern day athletes were becoming bigger than the game. If you want to say any coac could win with those casts, think about it... how easy is it to coach a player who makes more than the coach, and more than everyone on the team? Its alienating and polarizing to say the least. How hard is it to get players to accept that they are equal, some more than others? When the star gets preferential treatment, club house amenaties, extra media attention, etc... how difficult can it be to get them all to play together as a cohesive unit? Not easy at all, or it would've happened more often.
Although nothing is gaurenteed, even these coaches had mis-steps. They even lost a few. But I can attest that their squads were always prepared. That the issue was never the game plan, or motivation. Sure some things were done unorthodox, but it was quickly recognized when things worked and didn't.
When I see this team, this coach, how we approach the game, and how we win and or lose, I feel insulted when someone lables D'Antoni as a "genius". I feel insulted when I hear we need size and NO ONE REALIZES we had size, but didn't use it. Defense, we had. Options and picks, we had.
Everyone who states its the players etc... I wonder what they thought of things like taking 7 (missed) jump shots in a row after being down. Or the fact that although we won in MIA, we were down 16 to do so.
How many times have you heard this "defense is just an attitude, the players have to want to play it for it to work"? Or something to that effect? I've heard this 10,000 times since coach was here. It inferes we lack defensive motivation. How about this "you can't blame the coach for effort or lack thereof"? How many theories on why we aren't performing well and answers have you heard? Too many to count I bet. Well let me offer my take as to why it really is the coach.
1. If you assume we were a real threat or contender with our old squad (any since coach was here) you were mistaken. Musketeer illustrated in (what I consider a candidate for thread of the year) that to really be in that conversation, you have to have a top 10 defense. Blocks, steals, rebounds, opponent fg%, points given up per...
We were near last in this catagory BEFORE the trade(s), and remain so. Granted the expectations grew, but in reality we are right where we were. A short sighted observer would say, that's because we didn't "bring in defensive players", and that's true. But what's also true is even with better defensive players (historically in PHX and on the Knicks during coaches time) he hasn't been better than middle of the road (15th). So to assume our squad with Felt and co. would be better is false. The same issues we had, we still have, therefore we wouldn't be much different (just higher expectations). We weren't going far before, we ain't going far now.
But the real issue is why hasn't a D'Antoni team been better defensively? The easy answer is because they don't have top defensive players... but why? Wasn't Randolph a defensive presence? How about Darko, Brewer, the Matrix, Barbosa, Mozgov even had size (which is what many state- that size was the issue). How about Toney Douglas being all ACC DPOY? And how about the defensive system? The game plan, approach, how to defend the p&r, when to trap, to double, to push baseline, to use zone, to front in the post, the help etc... aren't those part of a coaches responsibility? If anything its coaches responsibility to play those players who can achieve these goals? Well of course, but again so why?
Simply because if a coach is enamered with offense, specifically European offense which the bigs take more mid-ranged jumpers, then what's more important? To be able to close out and apply defensive strategy and principles, or to be able to take a 18ft jumper? In Mike's case it's the latter. You don't think these players traded, coveted, or dnp-cd'd were decided based on their defense were they? Nope! Players like Randolph were dnp'd due to lack of European shooting abilities, players like Al Harrington were given the green light. This is the same approach that puts a 6'10 power forward with super athleticism at the free throw line extended 20 times a game, but no on ever questions why we can't rebound. Or encourages low % shot aftershot. Or why a power forward is camped out at the 3pt line, playing small forward. No one questioned this?smh
Remember when an expert would say "if a team is down, get to the line, or get quality shots and stops"? Remember when experts would say a rushed shot is only good when it goes in? To get the hot players the ball, and everyone get involved? That isn't D'Antoni's style, in fact it's the opposite. Its desinged to make mediocre players better by not focusing on an individual. But the game is dictated by the best individuals, and guess who the ball finds when the middle road players can't get it done? Guess who Phil Jackson or Belichick gets the ball to and designs specifically for?
To go further, who realizes Brandon Jennings and Brook Lopez could have been here instead of 6'10 jumpshooting Gallo and Jordan Hill whoever, who was quickly traded because he too couldn't play Euro ball (a waste of a multiple picks).
What makes these issues so upsetting is the fact that we had little to no margin for error. That every move, picks included, had to maximized to turn us around. We couldn't afford to miss on top ten draft picks, because they are so rare (the good ones). But Donnie being the supportive GM, got the players coach wanted, and watced as the players he (Donnie) knew had value be relegated to the bench or jettisoned. What was Donnie to do? His decisions were supportive and backed by an assumption influenced by coaches resume.
They say coach is proven. Ask any D'Antoni supporter and they'll recite 60 wins as gospel. And in a way, they're right. His approach, with those players got them far. His approach with these players not so much. To that I say, the approach worked limitedly, and with these players the mistakes of such approach are on full display. You see the issues we have, are really the same issue's PHX had, just more glaring, because the same approach is used. But to hear a supporter say it and you would think they lost in game 7 of the finals. They never made it. And IFthey had, there is no gaurantee they would've won it. But that's not how they spin it, is it?
That's the same as me saying, even with Jennings, Lopez, Randolph and Darko we still had no gaurantee to win it all...
But I can gaurantee we wouldn't be having this debate had we approached this rebuilding like those great coaches mentioned earlier. They had a system that started with a team 1st mentality. They sacrificed, worked harder than any other, but remained even keeled. They motivated and got players to but in. Everyone was accountable or gone, no matter what the name. Even the stars were known to take less $ to benefit the team.
This sounds "anti-D'Antoni" to me. Don't insult my intelligence by putting genius and D'Antoni in the same sentence.