This is not to start a rumor, or imply there is a controversy. But in pro team sports, when an owner buys a team, there usually is a housecleaning.
It could involve everyone from the ticket manager to the general manager, from the promotions director to the scouting director. A new owner normally wants to put their stamp on the franchise to show they know how to do it right.
New Golden State Warriors CEO and co-owner Joe Lacob said as much last month when he told the San Jose Mercury-News’ Tim Kawakami that everybody in the franchise will be evaluated after the season.
Here’s one request for Lacob: Make all the changes you want, but keep Coach Keith Smart.
You can guess that the Warriors are not having as good a season as Lacob would have hoped when he bought them last year. They were 26-56 last season and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season. They may not be headed to the playoffs again, but at the All-Star break the Warriors have matched last season’s win total (26-29) and stand four games out of the eighth playoff spot.
The Warriors, who have won seven of their last nine games, have a good shot at 41 victories and a lot of that credit should go to Smart, who is on a two-year contract with a club option for next season. He has given Golden State calm despite coaching upheaval, untimely injuries and inconsistent play from some of the team’s key players.
Last month Lacob criticized Smart for lacking consistent rotations. On the contrary, it seems he has done very good job juggling rotations considering where he has to find talent to fill in. Smart has very little quality depth behind Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, David Lee and Dorell Wright.
Just look at the team’s big men. Center Andris Beidrins’ numbers have been declining for the past few seasons and he missed 10 games because of injury this season. And Louis Amundson, who was signed to bolster the bench, has played but 23 games.
Meanwhile, Smart’s staff has found unexpected help in Wright and Epke Udoh. Wright, a former bench player for the Miami Heat, is averaging 16.5 points a game and has cracked the starting lineup. Udoh, a rookie from Baylor, has averaged 3.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game in 17.8 minutes this month.
The Warriors’ sixth-ranked offense (102.9 points a game) is a testament to what Smart has done. Their 26th-ranked defense (105.5 points a game) shows where the team and the coach can grow.
A good example of Smart’s influence was displayed two weeks ago during the Warriors’ 116-114 victory over the Nuggets.
Smart didn’t call a timeout during the final two minutes. That’s because the flow of the game didn’t call for it. He let the players dictate the game, which was keen in this back-and-forth contest.
Smart has proven he has learned a lot since going 9-31 as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ interim coach in 2003. The former Warriors assistant has proven that his style is better for these players than Don Nelson’s was.
His hiring was a head-scratcher, but Smart has proven he has the potential to be a very good NBA head coach. And he has proven he deserves to keep this job, at least for next season.
Copyright 2011/ Bill Bradley
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