Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How about Villanova's guidance counselor coming to the Mavs?

I wish I could claim it as an original idea because it's so brilliant. Actually the idea sprang from my brilliant son during our regular nightly discussion about the NBA in general and the Dallas Mavericks in particular.

This particular conversation revolved around the future, or lack of same, of coach Avery Johnson with the Mavs. Both of us see owner Mark Cuban making a coaching change during the upcoming off-season. Why? It's no secret that Johnson was severely out-coached by Pat Riley two years ago when the Mavs had what looks to be their only shot at an NBA title during the Nowitzki era. What's even worse, in Cuban's eyes, was that Johnson was severely out-coached again by Cuban's arch-enemy Don Nelson in last year's playoffs. Then there is Johnson's questionable handling of Jason Kidd (especially troublesome is why Kidd becomes a non-factor most of the time in the Mavs' half-court offense) and Johnson's recent public blowout with the owner. But the biggest reason is the Mavs' slide in the Western Conference standings from last season to this one. Some of that slide can be attributed to the fact that other Western Conference teams have improved, but this Mavericks roster is far superior to the one that played the Heat in the finals two seasons ago and better than the one what finished last season with the best regular season won-loss record in the NBA. So what has happened? I am hearing the players don't like Johnson and thus are no longer responding to him. If the Mavericks don't make the playoffs this season (and I think they will finish in a three-way tie with Golden State and Denver and advance with Denver based on their conference records), you can take it to the bank that Johnson won't be back next year. Even if the Mavs get the No. 7 or No. 8 and final seed, Johnson's tenure might not extend into next season, simply based on pre- and post-Jason-Kidd-trade expectations for this season.

So as conversations like this are wont to go, we began discussing who should be the next Mavericks head coach. We tossed around a bunch of names (I even brought up the possibility of North Carolina's Roy Williams, poised to win his second NCAA title), when my son dropped the "Of course" on me: Larry Brown. He is still the only coach in basketball to win both an NCAA and an NBA title. He is the only coach to lead seven different teams to the NBA playoffs. This guy took the Los Angeles Godforsaken Clippers to the playoffs not once, but twice. Although he is often criticized for not staying in one place for very long (a real-life Maverick) and not playing rookies (probably not an issue with the Mavericks), he is recognized as a great teacher and the best in the business when it comes rebuilding teams.

Where is he now? I have heard he's been providing plays, motivation and other guidance to Villanova's basketball team, a No. 12 seed that made it to the Sweet 16 in this year's NCAA tournament. I also understand he's been providing some support on basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. I have no idea whether he would want to return to coaching, but I have heard he's the No. 1 choice of the Memphis Grizzlies if Marc Iavaroni goes, and the Atlanta Hawks would also be interested in having him head up a staff that includes his brother Herb as an assistant. However, the prospect of him coaching the Mavs brings a big smile to my face.

No comments: