When planning and writing this piece, the Wizards were bringing up the rear of the Eastern Conference standings. But now the team has won three games on the bounce, making the words written below ring (maybe somewhat) hollow. You be the judge.
Without evidence, we think someone tipped Scott Brooks to the contents of this article. And how did he respond? He colluded with the coaches for the Rockets, Celtics, and Nuggets, to let their squads race out to big leads before letting the Wizards notch heroic comeback wins.
Even last night, Brooks and Michael Malone agreed that Jamal Murray could hit a game-tying three if Malone directed one of his players to foul Bradley Beal so he could win the game at the free throw line. Conspiracy? Yes, that’s what this is!
Writers protect writers. Coaches protect coaches. It is what it is.
Two questions. Two writers. Two different answers.
Is it time for Scott Brooks to go? Why or why not? If yes, who should be the next coach?
Question One: Is it time to put Scott Brooks out to pasture?
Ron: Rewinding the clock five seasons, Scott Brooks inherited a team that could score points but did little to stop the other team from scoring. No worries, Scott was able to return the Wizards to the playoffs, defeat a solid Atlanta Hawks team in 6, and finished a game short of the right to be swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Fast-forwarding to the present, Scott is still at the helm of a team that still can score but still cannot stop the opposing team from outscoring his squad. Stagnation.
The N95 masks his facial expression but Scott’s brow reads that he’s had enough. A grinder who earned a living with his play on the defensive end — his per-36 steal numbers are second-team all-defense level! — the team he coaches seems to be regressing at that which he excelled. Though not too steep of a falloff: The team has only gone from 21st in opponent points per game and 20th in defensive rating during Scott’s first season to 29th in opponent points per game and 25th in drtg.
Whether it’s the brass pairing the wrong players or Scott having lost the crowd is a tricky chicken-or-egg situation. But what we do know is that we’ve seen this before. You know, when a talented offensive team that doesn't defend has reached its peak. Call it the Eddie Jordan-plateau.
If deciding whether coach gets the sack was done à la Gladiator, I’d have to give Scott a thumbs down. Scott was a great hire; sending him out to pasture hurts.
Kevin: One quibble: this team hasn’t scored well. So far this season, they’re 22nd in offensive rating, and 24th in effective field goal percentage. They’re middle of the pack offensively when Bradley Beal is on the court. They’re at the bottom when he sits.
I know a lot of fans would prefer Brooks be sent to the glue factory rather than the pasture. In no way am I going to argue Brooks has done a good job — he hasn’t. At the same time, I don’t think he’s cost the team as much many fans think. They run standard NBA sets (lots of horns and modified horns) and they have some good counters, fake actions, and after timeout plays. There are some original and creative ideas, but nothing out of line with NBA coaching norms.
His lineups and playing time decisions have left plenty to be desired. Rather than picking a rotation and sticking with it for a few games, he’s been guessing night to night which players might be effective. And he’s assembled them into lineup groupings that don’t seem designed to maximize anyone’s effectiveness. On the other hand, the roster is stocked with a bunch of guys whose performance level is in the “about the same” category. It’s a challenge to decide who plays when there isn’t much to differentiate them.
Brooks is kind of a standard issue — he’s about as good as his talent, like most NBA coaches. There’s no way to look at this roster as anything but deficient.
Question Two: Who should be the next coach?
KB: One of my pet theories is to stop chasing retreads and start looking to the minor leagues for energy and innovation. Coaches who won in the minors have tended to do well when they get their shot in the NBA — Phil Jackson, Flip Saunders, Dave Joerger, Quin Snyder, Nick Nurse, Nate Bjorkgren. I think they’re successful in the NBA because at the minor league level they’re forced to deal with constant roster churn, and the frequent loss of their best players.
They have to figure out how adapt their concepts to the talent that’s available, tweak it as players come on and off the roster, and teach it quickly with limited practice time. They have to somehow get buy-in to a team concept from guys who are at varying stages of disappointment about even being on the team. Every minor league player would rather be in the NBA. And, they have to figure out how to help their guys improve, because their job is to prepare them for the next level. Virtually everyone believes their ticket to the show is earned by scoring. A coach who can win in that environment likely has some transferrable traits.
So, I’d take a hard look at guys like Nate Reinking, who coached superb defenses with the Canton Charge, Stan Heath of the Lakeland Ants, Coby Karl of the South Bay Lakers, Martin Schiller of the Salt Lake City Stars and international leagues, or Chase Buford of the Wisconsin Herd. I wouldn’t limit my search to this group, but I’d strongly consider candidates who have a history of minor league success.
ROC: Tony ‘The Grindfather’ Allen. I know, on first blush Tony Allen probably conjured a “What the Fudge?” But it may make sense after considering these positives:
(1) He’s already a great player development coach. Having hung them up, The Grindfather currently develops players for the Memphis Grizzles G-League affiliate, The Memphis Hustle. As for results, Josh Jackson says Allen’s coaching is key to helping them improve as players. The league had given up on Jackson; Allen helped him bounce back, and now Jackson has carved out a role in Detroit.
Taylor Jenkins, the Grizzlies head coach, cosigns: “He knows the game. He loves the game,” Jenkins said. “He’d be a great teacher of the game, with the things that he does on his own, but to give back to the team that meant so much to him, is going to be awesome to have him in the fold.” He’d be a great teacher of the game...
(2) He can teach this group of players how to play modern NBA defense. Having all of his selections to the first/second-team defense occur in the 2010s, Allen knows how to disrupt great scorers in this era. The current squad seems not to have that skill. Maybe that’s because none of them has had the pleasure of being able to taunt an opponent by screaming “FIRST TEAM ALL DEFENSE.” Allen made saying that cool. Imagine Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, and Issac Bonga yelling that without opponents having giggle fits. Hmm, maybe that’s something they should add to their defensive repertoire.
Since cap space isn’t available, the Wizards may be stuck with this group of players until some contracts come off the books. That means the next coach must be able to squeeze something out of them. So let it be the defense.
The negative is he has NO experience. About that much I can't disagree. But isn’t that what assistants are for? Hire a young gun to do the offense; let the Grindfather handle the defensive side.
Call it Grind and Gun. Bullets Forever.