It is no surprise that two of my selections for profiles of coaches with great artistic matches (See Artists in Coaching I and II) are in the finals once again. Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers have at least one more masterpiece to finish.
Last night during a raucus and very insightful Live Blogging Event (Celtics v. Lakers NBA Finals Preview with Guest Bloggers, With Malice, Celtics Town & Purple and Gold) with guest bloggers Jay (Celtic Town), Ezra (Purple and Gold) and Don (With Malice)), the issue was raised regarding who has the coaching advantage in the 2010 NBA Championship series. The response by my man, Laker Blogger Don, was not totally unexpected but reflected some common impressions:
Don (WM): I like Pop better than Doc... probably one or two or three others too...I think Doc's been a good motivator.
Clearly Phil has the edge on paper given that he has won 10 finals to Doc's 1, but Doc's Celts did win its last Championship against Phil Jackson's team in 2008. Perhaps Don underestimates Doc Rivers who appears to be on par with Jackson in coaching abilities when it comes to developing a team of stars and making adjustments in playoff series. Doc is certainly as smart about the game as Jackson and has shown his ability to make winners out of players who weren't expected to be winners as he did with the Orlando Magic. Even this year's Celtics appeared destined for the stud farm and pension heaven as they limped through the regular season, but Doc had a master plan to get his oldies but goodies to the Finals.
Equally as impressive has been Docs ability to develop Rajon Rondo, who has turned into a bona fide leader and star somewhat reminiscent of the role played by Dennis Johnson when the team had Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale stalking the front line. It's been a long time since Knick fans have had a coach develop a player from the draft this well. (David Lee did his work despite the coaches who thought he would not fit).
Doc is known for being straight-forward and straight to the point.
Phil on the other hand is a master agitator-motivator but seems to have a more utilitarian approach to his players -- for some reason he doesn't seem to exude as much love and caring for his guys -- but if you believe that your players must play with some form of "love" in the lockerroom (as expressed by Wooden and Riley), then we must not be seeing the real Jackson. Phil knows how to extract the passion for the game from his players. He has helped Kobe become a man, a leader, despite their like-hate relationship. And his prepping of Lamar Odom and Ron Artest despite pissing them off is legend.
Both coaches, who have had great partners in former Lakers' consultant Tex Winter and soon-to-be-former Celtic defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau, are well equipped to deal with the vagaries of Championship ball. Championship series are determined by the ability of coaches and players to make the necessary adjustments in a timely fashion. In this regard, Phil and Doc may be evenly matched.
Other Articles You Might Dig:
The Artists of Coaching, Part I
The Artists of Coaching, Part II
Top 50 2010 NBA Free Agents
Knicks Management and 2010 Free Agents... Patrick Ewing and the 1990s Knicks Fell for Our Sins! (Part 2)
The Curious Case Against Lebron James