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The Coaching Mystique Overcomes The Atlantic Division
Coaching Changes Make Things Tougher?
Wow, now you can add Chuck Daly to the coaches of the Atlantic Division. There's been a lot of turnover in the Atlantic in the past 2 years (no coach from the 1994-95 season remains with that team), and now we've got a plethora of coaching success roaming the Atlantic. Just to summarize:
What About The New Guys?
- Pat Riley, the elder statesman in the Atlantic, has been with the Miami Heat for two years. He has a few championship rings from his days with the LA Lakers.
- Jeff van Gundy took over for Don Nelson (who took over for Riley) in New York and have kept the Knicks at the top of the Atlantic after Riley left. He's been there 1-1/2 seasons.
- John Calipari has maybe the least pro pedigree, though he was successful as coach of the University of Massachusetts, making the Final Four once. However, his first year in New Jersey wasn't very successful.
- Bernie Bickerstaff took over the Bullets (now Wizards) midway through last season and guided them into the playoffs for the first time in 9 years. However, his history is spotty, career coaching record below .500, but he has had some success with underdogs in the post-season (see Seattle, Denver).
- Larry Brown now heads Philadelphia, has won an NCAA title, and has had only one sub-.500 season in the college or pro ranks - last season.
- Rick Pitino now heads Boston. He has an NCAA title to his credit, plus was successful with the Knicks prior to going to Kentucky. But Boston is not Kentucky.
- Chuck Daly now leads Orlando. He has two NBA titles, and has been successful at most of his stops in the college and pro ranks.
Those are a lot of high-profile leaders in the Atlantic Division. Luckily, the leader does not make the entire success of the team. Take the Celtics, for instance - please take them. In general, they don't have much in the way of talent. And even after the draft, they still won't have much (Antoine Walker is very good, and they might snare one in this year's draft). Whether Pitino can craft this bunch into a winning crew has yet to be seen.
Larry Brown is going to need some time to get Philly's house in order, but they have decent talent at some positions. I really don't like the idea of Chuck Daly leading the Magic, although they really need some good tweaks to their offense, especially in terms of shooters (as Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott failed them down the stretch). The Magic could be dangerous, if Daly still has his touch. And looking at the New Jersey Nets before his arrival, during his tenure, and after his departure leads me to believe that he still has the coaching touch.
Where Does It Leave The Wizards?
Good question, one for which I don't have a complete answer. But I like the way the Bullets/Wizards finished the season, and if they can maintain the momentum from that success, they will finish strongly next season, no matter how much aura and leadership is provided by these high-profile coaches in the Atlantic Division.
The Bullets have one commodity that a lot of teams in the Atlantic would love to have - talent. They are loaded with it. And if the young players continue to grow and mature, they will only become more dangerous. With Rod Strickland leading the point, and all of the talented youth starting and on the bench, this team is dangerous. Remember, Michael Jordan called the Wizards the team of the future. I believe they will live up to the hype. The road may just be a little tougher and more competitive.
Correction to Clifford Ray Story
I blew it on my summary of the Clifford Ray story. Clifford Ray was not fired; he only had a one-year contract last season. Rather, the Wizards chose to not renew his contract. It's a semantic error, but a serious one (in my opinion). My apologies for the error and the confusion it might have caused.
wtf 5 June 1997