Following the leader to Titletown
The finals are over, your team has finally won an NBA title. The crowd is going crazy, players are jumping up and down. The stadium is deafeningly loud and everyone is looking at that shiny, new Larry O’Brien trophy. Yet, aside from the players, who obviously earned their title, there is another man amongst the crowd. That man is the head coach, who is almost always one of the most important components of a championship team.
When you look at the past NBA champions you can see some trends, one of which is that they had incredible coaches. This isn’t to say that those teams weren’t talented, because they obviously were, but coaches on championship teams typically have some of the game’s best coaches. Coaches that can motivate and bring a team together, while integrating a solid strategy for that specific team, tend to do extremely well.
In recent history, you’ll notice two names next to the majority of the NBA title winning teams–Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson. Both coaches have without a doubt had very talented teams, but there is a reason that they’ve won as many titles as they have. Both coaches are experts at bringing teams together.
On one of Popovich’s Spurs squads, the team had such great chemistry that Matt Bonner was able to get Stephen Jackson to go to a Coldplay concert. Yea, that Stephen Jackson. Phil on the other hand, was a master when it came to keeping egos in check. He managed to get Kobe and Shaq to work together for three straight titles. That’s no easy task, especially given how competitive both are. This was evidenced by the fact that the two didn’t talk for years after not being on the same team.
So it’s pretty apparent that having a top tier coach is a pretty important piece of a championship team. In fact, since 1996, 14 titles have been won by either a Popovich or Jackson squad. That’s 14 out of 19 chances. Having a great coach at the helm of a championship team is not a fluke, it’s a reality if you want to be a perennial powerhouse.
There are some exceptions to the rule of course. Eric Spoelstra wasn’t considered a great coach, but he managed to win two titles with the Heat. The caveat with that team is that they came in with the best player in the game, and two of his friends in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Having three elite players who have chemistry going into the situation is an inherent advantage for a coach. There are other similar examples (Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons), but having talent and elite coaching are the two foremost components for winning titles.
So where does this leave the Grizzlies? Is Dave Joerger an elite coach? I would have to so no, but he’s only going into his second season. He also doesn’t have a LeBron, Wade, and Bosh combo. That being said, this Grizzlies team will be extremely dangerous and could contend this upcoming season. If Joerger can unite the locker room and get consistent play out of this team, they have a chance to be one of the league’s best.
Coaching is clearly one of the most important components for a championship team both on and off the court. Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson are prime examples of this, but will another coach emerge to be similarly elite? There’s no way to know for sure, but the NBA is a crazy league and anything can happen.