The Sixth Man: Recycled Stotts gets another chance in Portland
By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Hiring a new head coach can accomplish a number of things for a franchise.
The end game is always the NBA championship but selecting a new mentor is a chance for what is usually a downtrodden organization to excite its fan base.
It's the first of what is hopefully a number of steps that gets you to the promised land, like putting a fresh coat of paint on a fixer-upper or getting the old jalopy started again with some new spark plugs. There's still work to be done but that first bold move sends a message about what you are trying to accomplish.
The Portland Trail Blazers and new general manager Neil Olshey took their sweet time before finally naming Terry Stotts as their new head coach earlier this week, not exactly the sexiest route they could have taken.
To casual observers who remember Stotts' ill-fated tenures as the head man in Atlanta and Milwaukee, his ascension to the throne in the Pacific Northwest was met with a shrug.
Just another recycled coach from the old boy's club.
But that's not entirely fair. Since flaming out in Brew City, Stotts and his 6-foot-8 frame landed softly in North Texas, helping run one of the best offenses in all of basketball under Rick Carlisle with the Dallas Mavericks.
By 2011 the Mavs were on their way to the franchise's first championship, disposing of the heavily-favored Miami Heat in six games.
Carlisle and superstar Dirk Nowitzki received most of the accolades after Dallas dismissed LeBron and Company and deservedly so, but Stotts was also a key component, designing an offense which Nowitzki swears by.
That recommendation was enough for Olshey.
"Terry is one of the elite offensive minds in the NBA, has extensive experience with multiple organizations and was instrumental in the Dallas Mavericks winning the 2011 NBA Championship," the Blazers basketball chief said. "He understands the vision for the future of the franchise, appreciates the process involved and will create an environment on the court that will produce championship habits."
Stotts' philosophy is all about keeping his players happy and making sure they are having fun in a structured system which trusts his key components to make the right decision. In fact, "trust" describes the system better than anything else.
"Part of my offensive philosophy, and we did this with Dallas when we won the championship, is trusting the players to make good decisions," Stotts said at his introductory press conference in Portland. "Giving them a freedom to play within a structure and to make basketball plays."
"I'm a big believer in trusting the pass," the Iowa native continued. "I want to push it up -- not for crazy shots -- but I want to push it up, if we've got a good one (shot), take it. If not, move the ball around."
Of course that's a great philosophy when Nowitzki, one of the great pure shooters of all-time, is pulling the trigger. Accomplishing the same kind of things in Rip City will be a process but Stotts believes he has the pieces in place to play the same kind of up-tempo, frenetic pace which defined Nowitzki and Jason Terry in Big D.
"I'm a big believer in three-point shooting, to space the court," said Stotts. "Between Nic [Batum], Wes [Matthews] and Luke [Babbitt], the young players improving their three-point shooting, I'm excited about that. I do want to play at a pace."
It's always a crap shoot when a highly-regarded assistant is elevated in the NBA.
Most thought Tom Thibodeau was ready for the big chair after spending 20 years on the bench helping coaches like Bill Musselman, Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers, and they were right. Of course, John Kuester has been labeled as an offensive genius after sitting under the learning tree of Larry Brown for so long and he was an abject failure as a head coach in Detroit.
It's not just about X's and O's in the NBA. It's also about managing personalities and getting highly-paid, often immature young men to buy into your system.
Olshey is betting on the fact that Stotts learned some valuable lessons from his failed tenures in Atlanta and Milwaukee.
If he's wrong, "recycled" will quickly morph into regret.
08/09 11:05:18 ET