The Blazers organization has been one of the most stable over the last few NBA seasons. They had young building blocks in place (LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy), a great GM (Kevin Pritchard) and stability at the head coaching position (Nate McMillan). But now chaos is starting to reign supreme in Portland.
During the season, the Blazers fired Tom Penn who was Pritchard’s right hand man in the front office, and now word is that Pritchard may also be on his way out of town. In addition to the front office troubles, the Blazers’ coaching staff is also in a bit of turmoil. Monty Williams recently left to take the Hornets head coaching job, rumors are flying that Dean Demopoulos may be on his way out, and according to Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger, Joe Prunty appears on his way to New Jersey to join Avery Johnson.
Having said all that, Joe Prunty – a Blazers assistant the last few years — is probably a lock as Avery’s top guy, because they are best friends – have been since ’96.
Here’s how close they are: Prunty, a personnel guy in those days, was literally on his way to the Spurs’ victory parade in 2005, when he got a voice message on his cell phone. It was from the new Dallas coach, and it said, “It’s Avery. Look, I want you to know I talked to Pop this morning, and I want to get you up here with me. Now enjoy your parade.”
About two days later, the Mavs threw a pile of money at Prunty and Popovich had to let him go, because this was Joe’s chance to be a bench coach. And even though Del Harris was considered Avery’s top aide, Prunty was his sounding board, his conscience, his basketball soul mate.”
All of this turmoil on the bench is not good for the still young Blazer team. Stability has been a big reason why they have succeeded so nicely the last few years, and all this change could do damage to the on-court production. With McMillan’s job seemingly safe, here are some guys he should think about adding to his staff for next season:
People have been saying that Bickerstaff may be headed to Portland, and I think it is a move that makes sense for both sides. Bickerstaff is a veteran coach who has seen it all, and worked for almost every organization in the League it seems. He has extensive knowledge of the game and the way it should be played, and for a young team like Portland that is trying to get over the hump, a veteran presence on the bench can be a strong stabilizing and guiding voice. Plus, he brings head coaching experience which Nate McMillan likes, as Jason Quick of The Oregonian notes:
I want to add more experience on the sidelines with me. I’m really happy with my group (of assistants) but we don’t have much with head coaching experience. Bernie is that type of guy I’d be looking for. He would be a guy I would consider.
Frank presided over the Nets’ historically bad start this past season before being fired, but that shouldn’t be held against him. He coached the Nets for six-plus seasons, and he is one of the most tireless workers in the League; his players respect him for that, and he never complains about his players. He is a great X and O coach, who brings head coaching experience which McMillan wants. Frank also has a tendency to get the most out of his players, and did a good job two years ago bringing along young players like Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Chris Douglas-Roberts, which is a valuable skill to have for this Blazers team.
Another guy with head coaching experience, Mitchell helped rebuild the Raptors after they parted ways with Vince Carter. A former Coach of the Year award winner who was known for his hard-nosed style as a player, could be a good mentor for Greg Oden. Mitchell was a great rebounder and solid interior defender, which are also Oden’s strengths. And with Mitchell’s disciplinarian approach, he could get Oden into the shape he needs to be in.
While Walton has had back issues that have prevented him from being an announcer the past few years, and is unlikely to be able to travel with the team, Portland should bring him on in some role. He was the first face of the franchise and is one of the best players – if not the best – in franchise history. With Oden’s career teetering on the edge of bust-status, Walton’s presence and guidance for the third-year center could be invaluable. Walton can assume a role with the Blazers that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has with the Lakers where he focuses solely on developing one player. The Blazers need Oden to become at least semi-productive in the next two years because Marcus Camby can’t last forever, and the Blazers are also desperate for him not to be Sam Bowie 2.0. Walton can help prevent that from occurring.
Drexler, like Walton, is one of the best players in Blazer history. While his only other coaching experience is coaching his alma mater (University of Houston) to a 19-37 record in two seasons, being an assistant coach is different. He can specialize in helping Brandon Roy develop into a truly top-tier talent, and him and Roy have some strikingly similar qualities: they both love to run and are incredibly athletic, and are also soft-spoken leaders on-and-off the court. As an assistant he could take Roy to the next level, help Jerryd Bayless continue to develop, and help bring the city of Portland a championship that they so badly deserve.
While Jackson has no ties to the organization, and has shown reluctance to leave his analyst gig with ESPN/ABC, this may be an attractive opening for him. It seems like Jackson won’t be hired as a head coach until he has at least some type of coaching experience, and joining McMillan’s staff is a win-win. Jackson would be in a situation where Portland has great young guards in Roy and Bayless that he can work with, and he would also be in a winning organization. If Portland succeeded while Jackson was there, he will be hired in no time as a head coach. Also, if you look at the organizations he has strong ties with, it is unlikely he would latch on to any of those staffs. The Knicks shunned him for their head coaching position in 2008, the Pacers have no point guard to speak of, and the Clippers have no head coach at the moment. So Portland makes a lot of sense for him as a career move.
If Avery Johnson decides not to retain Rogers on his staff, then Portland should seriously consider hiring him. Brook Lopez is a huge fan of his, and Rogers has helped Lopez develop into one of the top centers in the game in only two seasons. Rogers could go to Portland and try to impart the same wisdom upon Oden that he did on Lopez, because as mentioned above, Oden is the most important player to the Blazers next year. If he becomes an above-average center, it will help Portland immensely. Because with an injury-prone and aging Camby, Oden needs to not only stay healthy and be productive.
Perkins played with McMillan in Seattle and is well-respected around the League. He currently serves in the Pacers front office working for Larry Bird, but if McMillan called with the opportunity to work together and help save Oden’s career, then Perkins may just have to answer the phone.
What do you think? Who should the Blazers add to their staff?
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