The Charlotte Bobcats have announced that they’ve narrowed their coaching search down to three candidates, American Idol-style. The difference is that on American Idol, the prize is actually something desirable; this is more like a contest to see who wins a severed head. Anyway, of the final three coaches, one of them is really old (Jerry Sloan) and the other two have never been NBA coaches before (Brian Shaw and Quin Snyder). Any columnist who has a strong opinion about anyone in this bunch is talking out of his ass. Enter Tom Sorensen, who is convinced that Brian Shaw is the right choice for the Bobcats, which he backed up with—well, I’m not sure what he backed this up with; that’s the problem. The easiest thing to do would be to examine his arguments more closely. Unfortunately, this is also the most painful thing to do, but with the regular season over, I need to come up with new ways of torturing myself, so here goes…
Argument #1 – It’s not because Jerry Sloan is old
Sorensen’s doing the old eliminate-the-competing-arguments-first thing: Brian Shaw is the right guy, but it’s not because Jerry Sloan is old. “I like Sloan,” writes Sorensen, “I liked him as a player and I don’t care that he’s 70.” Presumably, there are other, better reasons that Sorensen is going to dazzle us with shortly. The problem with this tactic is two-fold. First, we’re already four paragraphs in at this point, so can we get on with it already, T-Sor? Second, and far more problematic, is that Sorensen later wonders, “How patient, at 70, will Sloan be? The disadvantage to being 70: urgency. Don’t you want to win now?” Isn’t this basically saying that it IS because Sloan is old? Let’s move on, because now I’m feeling old.
Argument #2 – It’s not because Quin Snyder is unfriendly or because he went to Duke
We’re still eliminating bogus arguments here, the second of which no one of any intelligence believes anyway. The first one is that Snyder is a great guy, which therefore doesn’t disqualify him from the running, in Sorensen’s mind. Wonderful, glad we established that. As for that second one, Sorensen is hear to tell us that the fact that Snyder went to Duke will also NOT be frowned upon by team owner and UNC alum Michael Jordan. So if you thought that was the reason Sorensen was going for, you were wrong. If you thought that Sorensen brought up the Duke-Carolina rivalry only because it’s something that unimaginative local columnists do at every possible chance, you were right. Please, columnists, if there ever was validity to that argument, it vanished 3 years ago when Jordan selected the extremely Duke-associated Gerald Henderson with the first pick in the draft. Could we finally retire that angle? (Answer: no)
Argument #3 – Quin Snyder reminds Sorensen of Sam Vincent
What? This one might be the biggest head-scratcher of them all. Sorensen first asks, “Snyder might be a fine head coach, but how would anybody know?” Well for starters, because he’s BEEN a fine head coach with Mizzou—he made them respectable and a regular at the NCAA tournament after decades of futility. Undeterred, Sorensen plows ahead: “The last time the Bobcats attempted the unconventional they hired Sam Vincent. The Vincent era, which lasted a season, was not successful.” What in the world makes Snyder more “unconventional” than Shaw? They’re both former assistant Lakers coaches. Does Snyder have webbed feet or a third nipple or something? I mean, seriously, what the hell?
Argument #4 – Snyder has got quite the bucket list
More than halfway in, Sorensen finally gets to the reason the Bobcats actually should hire Shaw, as opposed to why they shouldn’t hire someone else:
- Shaw played 15 seasons in the NBA and Europe.
- Shaw played four seasons for Phil Jackson and coached seven seasons under Jackson.
- All together, Shaw won three championships as a Lakers player and two as a Lakers’ assistant.
- Shaw was championed by Kobe Bryant to take over for Jackson after Jackson stepped down.
- Shaw was an assistant last year with Frank Vogel on the Pacers, who by all accounts had a good team.
And…that’s it. And I’m actually stretching the first two bullets out to make a third bullet. Unfortunately, this list pales in comparison to what Jerry Sloan has done as either a player or a coach, so I’m not even going to bother with that comparison. But even when you compare it to Snyder’s body of work, it’s only a marginal improvement at best. Both Snyder and Shaw were assistants last year for teams that got to the second round of the playoffs, so that last bullet is more or less canceled out. Yes, Shaw’s got that long playing career, but that has no correlation whatsoever with coaching success. Besides, Snyder spent his post collegiate career getting several advanced degrees and learning at the knee of Coach K, so it’s not like he was strung out on heroine while Shaw was killing it for Ill Messaggero Roma. And as I said earlier, Snyder’s actually been a head coach before with Mizzou, while Shaw hasn’t been the head coach of anything. Maybe I’m undervaluing the fact that Shaw has been touched by the hand of the Almighty Phil Jackson and his proximity to all of those championships. But Shaw’s role in any of that winning was far closer to Adam Morrison’s than it was to Kobe’s or Phil’s—that dynasty was the Phil & Kobe Show, along with the GMs and the owner’s wallet; everyone else was practically an accidental bystander. And I’d bet anything that Bryant wanted Shaw to replace Jackson mostly because he knew Shaw would get out of his way. That’s the only reason Bryant would endorse a person for anything, which doesn’t make it worth much; it’s like receiving an endorsement to be President from Vladimir Putin.
Look, Shaw might be the best candidate out there, but there’s no solid evidence of this—nor is there for either of the other two guys. Sorensen is just pulling a Skip Bayless with his ridiculous certitude. It’s not the first time he’s done this, either. Sorensen recently advocated for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be the Bobcats’ draft pick out of a muddled pool of candidates using similar non-evidence. And in March he endorsed—this is great—Justin Blackmon for the Panthers’ first pick, which was moronic even before Blackmon was pulled over by the Oklahoma cops and blew a John Belushi on the breathalizer. Sorensen often clearly has no idea what he’s talking about; if only he’d often admit it…