We’re less than a week away from the NBA draft and we still don’t have a head coach. And if anything, each day we go without someone at the helm that bitter taste in my mouth only gets a little stronger.
What the hell were we thinking. How are we supposed to draft for the direction of our team, select the right players in free agency or ensteel any sense of trust between the coaching staff and players without an identity.
I know we won’t be the “grit-and-grind” Grizzlies with George Karl at the helm.
We already know Joerger could be an interesting candidate. He’s seen success elsewhere and he’s revered as a defensive mind, or at least kind of. But it’s a major transition from assistant to head coach. Tom Thibodeau and Frank Vogel are the exceptions, not the rule. Because success in a complementary role doesn’t always translate well to a role in the spotlight.
And speaking of that identity, more often than not, it’s formed around the team’s head coach. Or at least that’s true of the two teams that actually made it to the Finals. I don’t find it coincidental that two of the three longest tenured coaches in the league made it there. The longest being Pop with 17 years, second being Rivers with nine years (which may or may not be coming to an end) and Spoelstra with five. All of these coaches have won an NBA championship and have more than one Finals appearance to their name. Why? Patience.
Patience is obviously a funny thing. It’s hard to tip-toe that line between being patient and doing nothing. Most of which has to do with carefully surrounding your key players with the correct assets, and giving them time to develop. Need I remind you that Tony Parker was not a third of the player he is today when he came into the league. And that the reason he looked like the best point guard in the NBA this postseason is because his franchise exercised patience and gave him the opportunity to grow.
Did the Grizzlies do that with Rudy Gay? No. O.J. Mayo? No. Marreese Speights? No. And I won’t even get started on their draft habits.
But the one’s that were given time for growing pains? Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr., are now the faces of the team. Gasol as reigning Defensive Player of the Year and Conley as one of the league’s premiere young point guards.
Patience goes a long way. And I suppose, more than anything, that’s my problem with the Grizzlies front office and their fixation with analytics. More often than not, I feel that they try to cheat the system. They try to cheat the process. Attempting to uncover hidden gems with heaps of data instead of giving what’s in front of them the opportunity to run it’s course.
Because PER and efficiency ratings in sample sizes do not account for experience. They do not account for desire. They do not account for intangibles. I guarantee you the Grizzlies would not have kept Tiago Splitter. But he’s now an integral part of the league’s second best team. To the point that Popovich would sub him in with only seconds remaining in a Finals game to set a game-deciding. That is trust, and it is built over time.
In short, I do not like where we are headed. Western Conference Finals or not, this team has some deep-seated and internal issues. And at this point, the only remedy I’m seeing is to let things fall as they may in hopes that one day the front office will start respecting the process.
Until then, actually hiring a head coach would be a good start.