With apologies to former Boston Celtics coach, Rick Pitino: ”Bernie Bickerstaff is not coming through that door! Larry Brown is not going to be walking through that door! And Sam Vincent isn’t walking through that door!” Sam can’t walk through that door because he can’t figure out how the handle works, or if it’s a push or a pull. Actually, the only guy welcome to walk through any door at 333. East Trade is Paul Silas, and that’s because he’s actually still a member of the franchise, in some undefined role.
Paul Silas won’t be coaching the team again next season. As discussed at length, you can’t keep the CEO of Lehmann Brothers around after the great collapse of 2008 and you can’t keep the head coach of a team that went 7-59 around for another year. I appreciate what all those names above did for the team in their time. All, except of course, for Sam “Ham Biscuit” Vincent. Bernie got things rolling as head coach and general manager and actually never let the team finish in last place. He was integral to the roots of development that the franchise started out with. He was around for 4 years, but coached for 3 seasons. He wasn’t Michael Jordan’s guy, so his contract wasn’t renewed. He was sent on his way, given a very awkward “retirement” party after the final game of the ’06-’07 season. Awkward, because he didn’t retire. He went on to be an assistant coach with both Chicago under Vinny Del Negro and Portland under Nate McMillan and whoever the hell replaced Nate when he got the axe.
Jordan, in his first grand act of chronyism, hired his old pal and former teammate Sam Vincent. The team actually ended up locking Sam out of the locker room late in the season and generally hating his guts. We all did. He was the man who started Jeff McInnis at point guard, with Raymond Felton on the team. Brilliant basketball mind on that guy. He was quickly replaced at the end of his one horrible season by Larry Brown. Larry Brown used the trade machine on ESPN.com (if he actually understands the internet) more than many of the posters on the forums here. Larry couldn’t get past his desire to run his plays all the way through, no matter the outcome, to actually try and go for some wins. Although, with a Franken-roster that he molded, again, not looking past the end of the season, he did lead the Bobcats to their lone playoff appearance. Near constant kvetching and demands he was in no position to make, likely got him into a conversation with team owner Michael Jordan that ended with the legendary coach and the team parting ways. His entire staff left with him.
Larry Brown’s replacement is the man we mentioned with the most horrible season in NBA history: Paul Silas. Coach Silas was a great replacement after the beating-down that Larry Brown put into the young Bobcats. Silas was smooth, a players coach in that he gave guys who weren’t allowed to shoot previously, the glorious green light. He ran few set plays, which might have been part of the downfall, and opened things up. There was a great run of games and wins from Christmas when Silas was hired and the trade deadline when the Bobcats flipped the switch on the tear-down. The Bobcats limped, under Silas and his staff which included Charles Oakley, literally to the end of the season. Tyrus Thomas was hurt, Stephen Jackson couldn’t stay on the court, it was just a myriad of injuries, I can’t remember them all, and the Bobcats missed out on a return trip to the playoffs by a “few” games as I remember and it wasn’t all that bad.
Then the off season came, with trades and no free agent signings to speak of and the horrible lockout. The draft was interesting. Trading away Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston for Corey Maggette and another lottery pick was a stroke of genius, but no one knew what this team would look like. The assistants had a shake up as well, with Oakley out and Rob Werrdann in, it was a very questionable time. Silas was the constant, and he might not have been the rock that the Bobcats needed to build on. He started letting his son Stephen run games, at first getting tossed a couple times and then sort of switching positions, letting the younger Silas be head coach and sticking around as an assistant. It was obvious after the long runs of losses, Silas hemming and hawing about lack of talent and inability to pull through that he wouldn’t be around long. Maybe as a further stop-gap but not the answer. Rumors trickled out that there were meetings when owner Michael Jordan basically said that he wasn’t going to hold Silas responsible for the horrible season. Everyone knew Paul was only signed for one more season after his interim stint, but it wasn’t certain that he would be bounced. He was developing talent, which is what was needed, but winning games is what sells tickets. So, the season ends, they announce that Silas wouldn’t return as coach. He wasn’t fired, he didn’t quit, his contract was up but they would bring his back in some consultant role, since he lives in the area, loves Charlotte and knows the team and the roster better than almost anyone.
Thus ends your history lesson. I had to paint the picture of how fluid the coaching position has been for the team. 4 coaches in 8 seasons. That’s incredible. You could basically call everyone but Sam Vincent a journeyman, solid if unproven, veteran head coach. Veteran is probably a bit “nice.” These guys are all old, except for Sam Vincent. Likely, all 3 of the old guy coaches, made the Bobcats their last stop as an NBA head coach. Bernie is still an assistant, even got an interview for the Timberwolves opening, but he’s an assistant. Larry Brown was unemployed for about a year and a half, but he was hired recently as head coach at SMU, U as in University, which is another word for college, as in not NBA. He’s following Isaiah Thomas’s footsteps more than he probably realizes. If his wife and kids wouldn’t move to Charlotte after 2 and a half seasons for an NBA job, who knows what he can accomplish at SMU splitting time between Philadelphia and Dallas. Sam Vincent got a job as a D-League coach and I think, he was an assistant in Dallas for a period, who knows. And of course, Paul Silas is done, he’s said as much and he’s got a job in the Bobcats organization.
So, old guys, proven, not horrible, and North Carolina ties. Bernie hired Jeff Capel, out of Fayetteville and assorted stops around North Carolina, but Bernie was involved with the Wizards/Bullets and original owner Bob Johnson was a Washington guy. Sam Vincent was a Jordan teammate and was a roll of the dice, one that didn’t pay. Larry had the Jordan/Carolina connection and a whole lot of his family live in Charlotte. Silas was just up the road at Lake Norman and was jumping at the chance to get involved with the local basketball team. So there was a lot drawing these guys to the team: nepotism, cronyism, location and being up Jordan’s ass.
I tell you all that to tell you this: the Charlotte Bobcats next head coach should have none of the same traits as any of these guys, except, maybe for Sam Vincent. The new coach shouldn’t be old, shouldn’t be a Jordan guy, shouldn’t have ties to the area, shouldn’t be the logical, no-nonsense choice. Every single guy, except Vincent has been a stop-gap. Someone to get the team to a certain level and then leave. Everyone on the former head coaches’ list also hired a family member as an assistant, you know…except for Sam Vincent. i think the Bobcats are probably done with the “connection” thing pulling guys to the franchise. When Jordan hired every guy he’d shared a hotel room with when he was a player, I think it burned a lot of us.
So, conclusion: The Bobcats should go with something completely different. Quality over comfort, even if it means Jordan has to be sold on a guy. Stephen Silas, my friends, doesn’t fit this mold, or lack of mold. You can’t fire his dad and keep him around, I’m sorry. Nate McMillan, doesn’t fit either. North Carolina connections “proven,” all that is not going to get you hired if you ask me. I don’t know the answer, and obviously, despite starting early and talking to lots of people, the Bobcats are taking their time in the coaching search, but I hope, I hope I’m right.
Upcoming: I’m going to take a look at some of the candidates. Obvious first, then less obvious.